I’ve come across some strange adaptations to structures I have visited over the years and the church at Ullard is certainly one of the more unusual. From the front this modification is not even visible, so imagine my surprise when I went into the church and looked out the window of the rear wall to see that the church also served as the back wall for an old handball alley! For international visitors to the site it should be explained that handball is one of the less well known/played of the Gaelic Sports, it has been in decline for years however at one point each tiny village would have housed its own handball alley, the country is now dotted with their crumbling remains.
The church at Ullard was built in the 12th century in a Romanesque style. The doorway is incredibly ornate and above the entrance is a sculpted panel showing the meeting of two people, one is said to represent St Moling, who founded the church, the other is thought to be St Fiacra. The church is built on a slope and the chancel has an inaccessible vault built underneath its floor, it seems like this was done to help support the entire structure from subsiding. The church was adapted during the 15th century with changes to the beautiful doorway, the chancel was also widened and a stairway was built into the wall at this time. As you walk around the back of the church the handball alley comes into full view, but not before passing by a 9th century High Cross! The High Cross is decorated with scenes representing the Crucifixion, the temptation of Isaac and Adam and Eve to name but a few.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ullard Church even if it was brief due to the advancing nightfall, there is something about the Romanesque style that particularly seems to appeal to my senses.
GPS: 52.58019, -6.93277