Wednesday, 13 June 2018
the South facing doorway
A couple of mysteries surround this site which lies tucked away in the Kilkenny countryside and which I can safely say was one of the most interesting places I've visited.
An early Christian monastery was founded here but by whom is unclear. The Church is dedicated to St Brendan of Birr so perhaps he may have been the originator. Little is known too of the origins of the round tower but it most certainly was part of the monastic site and could possibly date as far back as the 9th century. The original church was built here in the 12th century and consisted of the lower section of the present tower which was the chancel and also the nave which today all that remains are the foundations. You can still see the remnants of the roof by the triangular shape on the West facing wall. The residential section was added above a vaulted ceiling over the chancel in the 15th century.
I have to say I was very excited to find the open doorways in the South and West walls that led into the chancel and its amazing vaulted ceiling. There may be few cracks in it though as there were frequent droplets of water kissing the top of my head as I walked around. Another plus was the discovery of a steep stone stairs in the corner of the North wall. These led up to the floor above the vault which is now exposed to the elements. To the right at the top of the stairs is a passageway and then there area a couple more steps up into the once residential floor. This floor on a sunny day is a virtual suntrap the stone floor was hot to the touch. The area is dominated by a huge fireplace and a tall chimney giving an idea of how high the walls must have been. From a window in the West wall you can actually look down upon the adjacent round tower which in its time would have loomed over the church but is now diminished to less than 30 feet.The tower is unusual in the way that it sports two doorways, one at ground level and the other in a more usual fashion at approx 13 feet from the ground. The tower is also built unusually upon a stone plinth. Access through the ground level doorway is now possible as at one time it had been blocked up. It's fascinating to stand inside and look upwards through the tower innards to the sky.
This one of my favourite sites and is well worth a trip to seek it out. We were lucky with the weather a warm sunny day but I would imagine that these ruins could take on a much more ominous aspect on a darker cloudier day. Go soon you won't be disappointed.
To find the ruins take the M9 exit 10 and join the R699 heading West towards Callan. After approx. 850m you will reach a fork in the road. Take the left hand road which is the R701. Continue for approx. 1.2KM until you see a turn right signposted for Carrick On Suir. Turn right here and then immediately left down a narrow road. (you can clearly see the ruins now). You can park at the entrance gate quite safely.
P.S. I have recently added second visits to the following posts: Termonfeckin Castle, Great Connell Abbey & Church, Old Kilcullen Church & Tower, The Black Castle and Old Castlemacadam Church.
Friday, 1 June 2018
Jerpoint Abbey was founded c.1160AD probably by the Bishop of Ossory Donal MacGillapatrick.
The Cistercian order originally founded in France in 1098AD became its occupants in 1180AD.
By the time the great tower was added in the 15th century Jerpoint was thriving under its patrons the Butlers of Kilkenny. Although a victim of the dissolution in the mid 1500's the Butlers still maintained possession until the mid 1600's. In its heyday there was even a town at Jerpoint but later it would disappear leaving only a few foundations visible today. The abbey came into state care in 1880 and is managed today by the OPW who have strived to maintain the building from further decay.
When we visited the entrance in the North wall of the nave was inaccessible as works were in place but we had easy access through the East door leading to the impressive cloister.
The abbey is littered with interesting carvings, tombs and effigy's and it took us quite a while to take it all in. An exciting discovery was a stairs leading up onto the roof over the South transept which gives you a wonderful view of the nave and cloister below and indeed the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately another stairs giving access to the tower was at this time inaccessible.
In some of the rooms off the East of the cloister are many historical artefacts on display even a very impressive ogham stone.
The very austere practices of the early Cistercians or "White Monks" made it forbidden to construct a stone tower to the abbey. but this changed in the 15th century when the austerity waned and the Butler patronage was in place.The massive tower is supported by four huge piers and has very decorative vaulting.The top of the tower has a fortified appearance with its battlements designed in the Irish fashion.
The cloister had a little reconstruction work done in 1953 and this area is a most interesting section. Filled with carvings of Knights, Bishops and odd looking creatures all to be found in various nooks and crannies..
All in all we spent some very worthwhile time there and although there is an entrance fee it is really nominal at around €4-€5 This of course helps with the maintenance of the site. Do yourself a favour and try to make a visit when you can.
To find the ruins of Jerpoint head South on the M9 and take the junction 9 exit. At the top of the exit ramp take the first left turn off the roundabout onto the R713. Continue for approx 5KM until you reach Stoneyford. Drive through the village and as you exit you will find a fork in the road. Take the left hand fork onto the L4206 and continue for approx 4.5KM until you reach a staggered crossroads with the R448. Turn left here and continue for approx 700m. You will see the abbey on your right. There is a car park for visitors 50m past the abbey.