Killea Church, Waterford, Ireland

The fortified church ruin at Killea, dedicated to St. Áed is neatly situated on a gentle south facing slope leading to the sea at Dunmore Bay. The origins of the church are uncertain, the ordnance surveyor and antiquarian John O’Donovan dated the structure to the 14th or 15th centuries, however the historian P.M Egan stated that he believed the church part of the structure may have predated the 14th century tower by a couple hundred years. The St. Áed to which the church is dedicated has been linked to several different saints and holymen from the South East of Ireland, starting with the 8th century St. Áedán, an abbot of Lismore, but also possible St Máedóc also of Lismore and even the 7th century St. Áedán of Ferns. The church of first mentioned in November 1203 when ‘Heverbrict of Dunmor was granted, with other lands, the church of St Eóth’ as documented by H.S Sweetman in the ‘Calendar of documents relating to Ireland, preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Office 1171-1251’. It appears the Anglo-Normans rededicated the church to the Holy Cross, after which the current church at Killea is also named but the designation Killea still persevered. The church is recorded in ecclesiastical taxation records of the 14th century and appeared to be valued much high than other churches in east Waterford at this time. Interestingly a silver groat minted in London pre-1350 was uncovered in the graveyard in 1987. In an article featured in the Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society Journal No.52 1996 Thomas Gregory Fewer opined why the tower may have been built at one end of the church during the 15th century due to the ‘lawlessness’ of the area at the time. Papal Letters dated to June 1489 mention how difficult it was to get any priest to take on the church of both Killea (reffered to as Kalleayg) and the nearby Rathmoylan (referred to as Ratmelayn). Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries William Wyse esq., claimed the church and lands at Killea and Rathmoylan. The Down Survey of the 1650s doesn’t mention the church as being in ruin so perhaps at that point it may still have been in use or the tower house was inhabited. It appears the church was abandoned during the late 17th century and is described by Rev, R.H. Ryland ins 1824 as ’the ruins of a church’.

GPS: 52.16422, -7.00293

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