I side tracked to this interesting ruin while in the vicinity visiting Morett castle (see earlier post here). These are the remains of a medieval church constructed on the site of an early Christian monastery. The ruins after excavation and renovation in the early 1990’s revealed a construction of several phases the oldest part being of early Christian era with later extensions that included a Chancel in the Romanesque style and even later renovations constructed in the Gothic style. The church remained in use even after the dissolution. On February 2nd 1779 when it was then under the name of St Peter’s and serving the protestant community the thatched roof was set alight burning the church badly. A new and larger Church was built between 1782 and 1785 and subsequently the old church found itself utilized as a farm outbuilding. It was listed on the 1837 ordnance survey map as being in ruin at that time.
The ruins are situated in a very pastoral setting surrounded by meadows and access is easy enough by way of a small iron gate by the roadside. All of the walls and gables are extant and access to the interior is now possible whereas in the past the windows and doors had been blocked up. A clean up was done on the site but the overgrowth inside appears to be taking hold again. The structure consists of a chancel and nave and is quite long at 62 feet. It is approx. 22 feet in width. Entry point is the Romanesque door possibly dating to the 12th century that is positioned in the West facing gable. The once Romanesque dividing arch has only the original base extant but the arch has been restored for some unknown reason in the Gothic style. One interesting little remnant can be found on the interior of the North wall adjacent to the East gable. It is an early Christian cross slab which was removed from its original spot and placed securely on the wall during renovation
Coolbanagher was positioned on the road of the assemblies an important medieval route that stretched between the ancient provinces of Mide and Munster. St Aengus the renowned 9th century Bishop and scribe is said to have stopped at Coolbanagher during a journey and whilst there was inspired to write the Félire Óengusso a register of saints and their feast days.
As a small aside a few metres down the road from the church until recently stood the huge ruin of Coolbanagher Castle. A tall tower house, It was located in the grounds of a private residence but partially collapsed during a bad storm in 2014. It was subsequently demolished and all that unfortunately remains now is a large pile of stones.
To find the ruins head West on the M7 and take the junction 15 exit signposted for Mountmellick. At the top of the exit ramp take the right hand exit of the roundabout which crosses back over the M7. Go straight through the roundabout on the other side and at the subsequent roundabout turn left again following the sign for Mountmellick. Approx 250m on you will reach another roundabout which you go straight through. Continue for approx. 1.8KM and take the third right hand turn (this narrow road is at an angle to the main road). Drive down this road and after approx. 1KM you will reach a crossroads. Go straight across and drive another 600m until you reach a T-Junction. Turn right and approx. 200m on you will spot the ruin on your left. You can park at the verge at the entrance gate.