Castledermot Round Tower and High Crosses, Kildare, Ireland

The Round Tower at Castledermot is the centrepiece of a very unusual and diverse historical site situated on the site of a 9th century church/hermitage dedicated to St Diarmaid named Dísert Diarmada. The graveyard has two fine ninth century high crosses, two holed stones, one swearing stone, and most curiously a Scandinavian ‘hogback’ grave marker, the only known one in Ireland. The are of Castledermot has always had a rich ecclesiastical heritage and has been well populated for millennia due to the fertile landscape of the River Barrow. The hermitage was established in 812 AD but was plundered in 841 and 867 by Vikings who made their way up the River Barrow. The annals report that Castledermot was the scene of much violence throughout the 11th century as various rulers battled for control of the region.

The round tower is twenty metres in height and it earliest sections date from the 10th century. It has an atypical appearance as the crenellated cap and the upper windows date from the mid 16th century at which time the tower must have been reconstructed. It is connected the 19th century church by a vaulted corridor which is believed to be 15th century in origin. Some of the earlier church is integrated into the far later design and another striking feature of this graveyard is the reconstructed 12th century Romanesque doorway. The graveyard is also home to two 9th century High Crosses with beautiful Celtic knotwork and geometric designs, carvings depicting people, animals, biblical stories and even a harp. The graveyard also has the only example in Ireland of a Scandinavian hogback stone, dating from around the 10th century, it has lozenge motifs and a Latin cross inscribed. This type of stone seems to have derived from Scandinavians who were settled in north England and Scotland between the 10th and 12th century, this type of grave marking fell out of use in the early 11th century. There are also a number of very old grave slabs and holed-stones, one known as the ‘swearing stone’, dotting this peaceful and pleasant to visit site.

GPS: 52.91039, -6.83517

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