Killoughternane Church, Carlow, Ireland

This small church, known also as the ‘White Church’, is situated picturesquely at the foot of Mount Leinster. A monastery was founded here in the 5th century by St Fortchern. St Fortchern was a bishop and one of three smiths that were associated with St Patrick. Evidence shows that there was once a large monastic settlement in this area but all that remains of this is the small 10th century oratory measuring 5.5 metres by 3.5 metres. A stone baptismal font is situated in one corner of the church. A study in 2001 found traces of four monastic buildings under the roadway. A round tower also stood nearby but was destroyed when struck by lightning in the 13th century. Evidence of twenty five buildings were found at Killoughternane during excavations. Prior to the construction of the 10th century stone oratory there stood a timber framed church dating to the 8th century, this was the same length as the current oratory but considerably wider. The survey also revealed that there is a Neolithic burial site under the oratory.

Across the road there is a holy well and altar dedicated to St Fortchern, the well was said to cure many ailments and according to local history, “there was more than newspaper could hold of cures of people who came from county Wexford across the mountains“. In the 1800s a woman cleaning the well found a chalice and paten wrapped in linen. An inscription on the chalice states that it was made for Fr John Lucar in 1595 and it is likely that these items were secreted by the priest within he well to be used when saying mass at the penal altar nearby or in the woods at Knockscur hill. This chalice has since become known as the ‘Braganza Chalice’.

Killoughternane Church could almost be missed in the blink of an eye while driving on the road that runs beside it, but I’d highly recommend paying it a visit as the views of the surrounding countryside and the skill of the 10th century masons are a sight to behold.

GPS: 52.63383, -6.86338

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