The area surrounding the church at Mainham, just outside Clane in county Kildare, indicates that it was an place of significance over at least the last one thousand years. Adjacent to the church itself is a Motte that is described as a relic of the first Anglo-Norman castle that was built there by John de Hereford. Separate sources state that the mound is the burial site of Queen Buan, legend states that there was a duel between Conall Cernach, Champion of Ulster and King Mes Gedra, King of Leinster, near a bullaun stone in Clane. Conall was victorious and beheaded Mes Gedra on the stone. Mes Gedra was buried in a mound at Clane and his wife who died upon seeing her husband’s severed head was buried at the Motte in Mainham. A ring ditch near the mound and other signs would suggest a village once was situated in the vicinity also.
Little is known about the early days of the church but it is believed to have been established by the Knights Hospitallers around the 13th century, its castle-like tower would give some evidence to support this however with it being so close to the ditch that surrounded ‘the Pale’ this may also explain its emphasis on defence. The church is described as being ruinous by the mid 1600s. There are many beautiful grave markings at Mainham and the graveyard has the distinction as being one of the only mixed graveyards in the country containing graves of member of the Greek Orthodox Faith.
In the field beside the church stands the Browne Mausoleum, some sources state that this mausoleum was built adjacent to the church due to the Penal Laws others state it was due to the financial demands of the then Protestant Rector of Clane, the Reverend John Daniel. When the mausoleum was in its design state Stephen Browne, of nearby Clongowes Castle, now Clongowes Wood College, had requested for it be situated in the church grounds but would not concede to the charge of 5 Guineas for the privilege of doing so, Browne refused to pay and an inscription above its entrance gives Browne’s side of the story.
“The within monument was prepared by the direction of Stephen Browne, Esq., the day it bears date, which he designed putting up in the opposite church, or adjoining to it, and said Browne applied several times to his parish minister, the Revd. John Daniel, for his consent, which he refused him unless said Browne would give him five guineas for so doing. A gentleman whose character is remarkably well known, as well as his behaviour on several occasions to said Browne, and the only clergyman in the diocese whose passion would prevent their church to be embellished or enlarged, and to deprive themselves and their successors from the burial fees; and he has been the occasion of obliging said Browne to erect said monument here on his own estate of inheritance, which said Browne thinks proper to insert here to show it was not by choice he did it. May the 1st 1743.”
The mausoleum is not open to the public but two fantastic memento mori can be made out if one peers into the tomb through the window. In my opinion the church, graveyard and tombs at Mainham make this a site of much interest and well worth a visit.
GPS: 53.31523, -6.69764
2 thoughts on “Mainham Church, Kildare, Ireland”
Fantastic, as all your posts are. I have a particular interest in this one, because I am compiling a study of the various Byrne armorials, and you have taken a good photograph of the one at Mainham. Lord Walter Fitzgerald described this monument at Mainham, saying: ‘By the side of the little trefoil-headed window of the chancel is a small circular mural table with the following inscription: Here lieth ye body of Margrate Dilon who deceased February ye 7th 1816 aged 68 years.
& also ye body of Danniall Byrn who deceased May ye 30 17[?]8 aged 77 years. Erected by Barnaby Byrn. A small coat-of-arms, of the O’Byrne family is cut in relief below the inscription…’
The year that ‘Danniall Byrn’ died is unclear but if the ‘Margrate Dilon’ who is buried with him, is his married daughter, as seems likely, then he may have died in the 1760s or later. The monument itself, however, must date to 1816 or soon after when it would have been commissioned by Barnaby Byrn, presumed son of Daniel Byrn and brother of Margaret Dillon (1748-1816).
The armorial design appears to depict a bordure and although it is difficult to make out, the mermaid could be holding a dart rather than a comb. If this is the case, it may be that this Daniel is a grandson of Daniel Byrne of Timogue (d.1684). The memorial shows some degree of artistic inventiveness as the mermaid crest has been placed on the field of the shield rather than above, although a helm is present. I would include to use your photo, if possible, in my work, with full acknowledgment.
Thank you for your kind words Daniel and I am very interested to hear the mammoth task you are undertaking! Thank you for your contribution and indeed I can send on the RAW copies of any image you need,