St Oengus, Disert Oenghusa

Feature Sets (2)

Description

Round tower (20 m high) with round-headed doorway on E side. A plain round-headed window is set high up on the S side of the tower, a gabled window half-way up on the W side, and a flat-topped window high up on the N side. The tower is built of grey limestone (?). To the S of the tower is a small rectangular church, ruined, with some late Gothic details.

History

Foundation attributed to St Oengus the Culdee (d.815). Monastery first mentioned in 1083. Used as a parish church until at least 1418.

Features

Exterior Features

Doorways

E doorway

Round-headed, of one order, of reddish sandstone. The stonework is very weathered, but traces of an angle roll flanked by fillets are visible. This appears to have been continuous around arch and jambs. A shallow hollow, containing pellets is visible on the face of the jambs and the lower parts of the arch. The three uppermost voussoirs appear to be repairs and are plain and unchamfered. On the reveal are remains of iron hangings for a door.  The doorway is 4.6 m. above ground level. 

Dimensions
d. through wall 1.30 m
h. to top of arch 1.75 m
h. to top of jambs 1.50 m
w. at base, externally 0.86 m
w. at base, internally 0.82 m
w. at springing 0.79 m

Windows

N window

Flat-headed, probably repaired.

S window

Plain, round-headed.

W window

Gabled.

Comments/Opinions

Few round towers in Ireland boast Romanesque detailing, and of these, not all have this detailing around the doorway (for instance at Devenish, Co. Fermanagh, the decoration is around the cornice). In having an ornamented doorway, therefore, Disert Oenghusa tower can be compared to the tower at Kells, Co. Meath, at Dromiskin, Co. Louth, at Kildare, Co. Kildare, and most famously at Timahoe, Co. Laois.  While some round tower doorways, such as Timahoe, are composed in an almost identical manner to church doorways, with multiple orders, there seems to have been more disparity and freedom in the way tower doorways were decorated, even at the height of the Romanesque, as shown by the plain doorway of Clonmacnoise round tower, which is historically dated to the mid 12th c.  And the round tower at Devenish, whose masons were clearly capable of elaborate architecture sculpture, nevertheless marked the doorway simply with a plain raised continuous moulding.  Disert Oenghusa doorway combines an ornamental Romanesque vocabulary with an unwillingness to break the continuinity of the opening, resulting in a unique creative compromise.  The use of a row of continuous bosses is best paralleled at Aghowle, Co. Wicklow, where the lintelled west doorway is also ornamented in this manner. This does not suggest a connection, but rather that this was a Romanesque ornament which was easily adapted to older architectural forms. (Ed).

Bibliography

  • George Lennox Barrow, The Round Towers of Ireland: A Study and a Gazeteer, Dublin, 1979, 141-3.

  • Richard Rolt Brash, The round tower and church of Dysert, County of Limerick, Dublin 1868, 54-61.

  • A. Gwynn and R.N. Hadcock, Medieval religious houses : Ireland, London 1970, 383.

  • Peter Harbison, Guide to national and historic monuments of Ireland, Dublin 1992, 218.

  • T.J. Westropp, 'A Survey of the Ancient Churches in the County of Limerick', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 25, 1904, 385. 

Location

Site Location
Disert Oenghusa
National Grid Reference
R 49 41 
Boundaries
pre-1994 traditional (Republic of Ireland): Limerick
now: Limerick
Diocese
medieval: Limerick
now: Limerick
Dedication
now: St Oengus
medieval: St Oengus
Type of building/monument
Round tower  
Report authors
Tessa Garton 
Visit Date
13 Aug 1994