Grangefertagh Round Tower & Church, Kilkenny, Ireland

Grangefertagh is situated in north Kilkenny and was established as a monastery in the 6th century by Saint Ciarán of Saigir, it is also known as Fearta-Cáerach (Sheep’s Tomb). The monastery was attacked by Vikings in 861 but they were repelled by Cerball Mac Dúnlainge, of Ossory, he is said to have taken ‘forty heads’. In 1156 the high king of Ireland Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn burned the tower with the lector inside. The round tower is believed to date to the 10th century and is one of the tallest in Ireland at 33 metres, 8 stories high. The monastery was unoccupied for some time after this but was reopened by the de Blancheville family who invited the Canons Regular of St Augustine to establish an abbey at Grangefertagh in the 13th century. However this abbey does not appear to have thrived for long and in 1421 it was described as in such a poor condition that its occupants could not ‘remain therein, but must wander about and beg their daily bread’. In 1455 it was rebuilt by Thady Megirird, a canon of Inchmacnerin. The monastery was dissolved in 1541 but the church remained in use until 1780, and was later adapted into a Gaelic handball alley, this happened at numerous ecclesiastical sites in Ireland. In the 19th century the west doorway and east window were taken down and moved to Johnstown Church of Ireland, and the baptismal font moved to the Catholic Church there. Alongside the fantastic round tower another fascinating artefact is the tomb of Seán Mac Giolla Phádraig, King of Ossory, which was carved by the renowned sculptor Rory O’Tunney sometime around 1540.

GPS: 52.77857, -7.54429

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