Monday, 24 October 2016
Old St Michael Church Co Kildare
These ancient ruins are of the Church of St Michael. It is believed to have been constructed before 1297 as attested on a plaque positioned on the South wall. It is also believed to have been commissioned by the De St Michael family notable Normans who were patrons of The Crouched Friars having built a monastery for them. This parish Church may have been built for the friars or perhaps the Dominicans who were also preaching in the area at the time although it would lean more towards the Crouched Friars in light of their patrons. It appears to have been in use until the new Church was built in the 1800’s but it was already in disrepair from the 1650’s onward.
You enter the graveyard in which the ruins lie from a roadside gate on the N78 on the East side of Athy. The older section of this graveyard even predates the Church as a place of burial and it is also thought that the dead of the Battle of Ardschull are buried here following the ransacking of Athy by Robert the Bruce in 1315.
The remains of the Church consist of the West Gable, a section of the Southern wall and a small section of the Northern wall. The East gable and remains of The North wall and South Wall have completely collapsed and only foundations or rubble remain. Indeed the rest of the ruins have now been deemed unstable and so some unsightly fencing has been erected around it blocking the still existing doorway in the South wall. The font of the Church is reputedly buried in a grave within the Church.
The ruins are in a very bad state and there is ivy encroaching on the West gable. An unsightly warning sign has been erected on the outside of the gable just adding to the general malaise of the place. This ancient Church is in need of some restoration soon or it may be lost forever. Even in its dilapidated state it has a commanding aspect especially when viewed from the lower graveyard under the West gable.
Throughout our visit we were observed intensely by the only other live occupant of the graveyard, a black & white cat who crouched by the ruins (a sentinel maybe! ) but other than that there was absolutely nobody else about.
To find the ruins take the junction 3 exit on the M9 and take the exit for the N78 heading West. Drive for approx. 8KM and you will reach a roundabout. Go straight through and continue on the N78 for approx. 900m and you will see the semi-circular entrance gate to St Michael’s cemetery on your right. There is no parking allowed anywhere close outside of the cemetery but there is room just inside the gate to fit one or two cars, so this is your best option.