St Lachtain, Freshford, Kilkenny
- Site Location
- National Grid Reference
- 18S 41 65
- St Lachtain
- Type of building/monument
II General Description
III Exterior Features
(i) W doorway, nave
|h. of opening||2.39 m|
|w. at base||1.02 m|
|w. at top of jambs||0.95 m|
L jamb: the lower two recessed panels are empty and the top filled with a rough block of stone
R jamb: the middle frame has some cable decoration on the W side, and the top frame contains an inset rectangular panel with two standing figures. The figures wear long robes, and each carries a staff. Their heads are inclined towards each other and resting on their hands. The panel doesnt fit its location and has some concrete and other materials (?slate) below. The lower edge of the panel is irregular and it looks as if the feet have been broken off. The stone surface is worn, so that no detailed features can be discerned. There is an incised equal-armed cross on the face of the L jamb, on the sixth stone from the bottom, and a similar cross is also on the S jamb at the same level (fifth stone on S). The crosses are at c. 1.30 m from the ground.
The arch has a plain soffit. The face has an inscription running in two bands around the arch, the inner band continuing down part of the face of the R jamb, the outer band only at the top of the arch.
Inscription: (after Macalister, II, p. 24) OR DO GILLA-MOCHOLMOC U CE[NN]CUCAIn DO RIGNE. (A prayer for Gilla-Mocholmoc o Cenncucain who made) OR DO NEIM InGIN CUIRC ACUS DO MATHGAMAIN U CHIARMEIC LASNDERNAD In TEMPUL-SA. (A prayer for Niam daughter of Corc and for Mathgamain o Chiarmeic under whose auspices this church was built).
The jambs comprise nook shafts , with sections alternately attached and detached. The base of the L jamb is very damaged, but may have had spurs. The base of the R jamb has raised bosses between torus mouldings.
L capital: multi-scallop with roll necking
R capital: As L capital
The arch has one row of lateral chevron flanked by wedges on face and soffit, forming cogwheel edge. The porch reveal has paired attached colonnettes. Bases damaged. L capital: a double capital, very weathered, with human heads at the angles and in the centre of the S face of each capital, and animal bodies on the W face and over the join between the two capitals. R capital: a double capital carved as a continuous frieze above necking, with human heads at the angles (very worn) linked by an animal body viewed from above across the N face. The imposts have pellets on the chamfer, very worn. (the imposts continue as a string course on the face and sides of the porch). The arch has a geometric pattern of intersecting bands in step-pattern surrounding plain panels, on face and soffit.
The soffit has beading between mouldings. There are lion masks at the base of the soffit on both sides. There is a human head (in high relief) on the face of the axial voussoir. The label is chamfered, with pellets. L and R of the springing of the arch, on the face of the porch, above the beaded string course and below chamfered mouldings, are very worn figured relief panels. The L panel contains a horse and rider in profile, facing R. The horse appears to be prancing, and there are faint traces of a raised shape beneath the horse (Moss, 2000). The R panel contains two standing figures, wearing long robes, turning towards each other with arms outstretched (and possibly holding a crozier between them). The porch has a shallow gable, projecting approx. 0.68 m from the facade. The upper part of the gable is a modern restoration, with a plain square surround, and a cross inscribed in a circle at the top of gable.
Antae, surmounted by imposts with a hollow chamfer containing pellets.
The first church here was founded in 622 by St Lachtain. The earliest surviving part of the church is the western part of the nave which originally formed a single cell structure with eastern and western antae. In the 12thc. the Romanesque porch was added to the west gable, presumably in an attempt to raise the status of the monastery. From the early 13thc. the bishops of Ossory had their summer palace at Uppercourt, close to Freshford. The church was extended further eastward probably in the 15thc. with an extension to the nave, and the addition of a chancel. Extensive works were carried out to the church in the 1730s, and it is probably at this time that at least part of the porch and doorway were dismantled. The upper gable of the porch was completely removed to facilitate the addition of a large window above, lighting the new gallery within. The church was further renovated in the late 1860s, probably by architects Welland and Gillespie, who replaced the 18thc. W window with a neo-Romanesque, circular window, capped the antae with neo-Romanesque pellet ornament and reinstated the gable of the porch.
Fragmentary inscriptions survive at Killeshin and Mona Incha, but the portal at Freshford is the only Romanesque monument to retain a complete inscription, although the builder and patron commemorated in the inscription cannot be historically identified. The barrel-vaulted porch is unusual in Ireland; the only other comparable example being the N porch at Cormac's Chapel, Cashel. The capitals of the inner orders of the portal can also be most closely paralleled with the N porch at Cormacs Chapel (c. 1134), while the structure of the portal, with its continuous, relatively plain inner order is closer to Clonkeen, Limerick, and Aghadoe, Kerry (c. 1158). This would seem to place the porch c.1140s. The sculptural decoration includes motifs found at a number of different sites, chiefly in Munster and Leinster. A similar step-pattern is found on the doorways at Aghadoe and Killeshin, and on the fragmentary remains of a doorway at Clonattin, Wexford. The use of a human head on the keystone is a common feature in Ireland, found at Killeshin, Clonkeen, Ullard (Kilkenny), Kilmore (Cavan), St Caiman's, Iniscealtra (Clare), and the N porch at Cormac's Chapel. The pseudo-scallop capitals are closely paralleled at Cormac's Chapel, and capitals with angle heads bitten by animals are also found at Cormac's Chapel, St Saviour's Glendalough (Wicklow), and Dysert O'Dea (Clare). The chamfered moulding with pellets used on the label and imposts is paralleled at the Nuns' Church at Clonmacnoise and Rahan (Offaly), Donaghmore (Tipperary), Killeshin (Laois), Ullard (Kilkenny), Kilkenny cathedral fragments and Kilmore (Cavan).
The unusually elaborate figure sculpture is probably not in its original location. The pair of figures on the R jamb of the inner order have obviously been cut down from their original size to fit the recessed panel, while a section of frame stops abruptly on the R porch panel, with two figures suggesting that this panel originally formed part of a longer narrative frieze. It seems likely that there may originally have been more scenes, possibly occupying the gable, removed in the 18thc. (Moss, 2000). Narrative sculpture is also found (reset) at Ullard (Kilkenny) and Liathmore (Tipperary), together with the better-knowm frieze sculpture at Ardmore (Waterford). Rachel Moss suggests that the incised crosses on the W doorway are later medieval consecration crosses.
- R. R,.Brash, Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland,Dublin, 1875, 101.
- W. Carrigan, The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, Dublin, 1905, 253.
- E. Dunraven, Notes on Irish Architecture (ed. M.Stokes), London 1877, II, 91-94.
- A. Gwynn and R.N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland , London 1970, 36.
- F. Henry, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, London, 1970, 181.
- H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, Dundalk, 1955, I, 154-6.
- R. A. S. Macalister, Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum, Dublin, 1945-9, II, 24, no.569.
- S. McNab, Irish Figure Sculpture in the Twelfth Century, Ph.D. Thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 1986, 342-52.
- R. Moss, The Romanesque Porch, in St. Lachtains Church Freshford, Conservation Plan (eds) M. Quinlan and T. Foley, Unpublished Heritage Council Report, 2000
- T. OKeeffe, 'La façade romane en Irlande,' Cahiers de civilisation medievale, 34, 1991, 361.
- H. Lanigan, 'St. Lachtain's Freshford', Old Kilkenny Review, 21, 1969, 5.
- G. Petrie, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Dublin, 1845, 282-6.
- M. Stokes, Early Christian Architecture in Ireland, London, 1887, pl.XLIV.