Feature Sets (4)


A roofless nave and chancel church, with walls and gables intact. The upper parts of the N and S walls were probably restored in the 16thc. The elaborately carved W portal was surmounted by a tangent gable. The N wall of the nave has a round-headed window in the centre and a square window of rougher masonry towards the E end. The S wall has two round-headed windows. The chancel arch leads into a small rectangular chancel, originally vaulted and two-storied, with a plain square opening in the gable above the chancel arch. In the N wall of the chancel is a square opening with the sill c. 0.3m from the ground (a later door opening?). Two round-headed windows in the E gable lit the upper and lower storeys of the chancel. Sandstone is used for quoins, windows and door openings, otherwise the building is of uncoursed limestone. The dimensions of the nave are 12.03m x 7.23m, those of the chancel are 3.65 m x 2.6 m. The loose sculpture and some moulded fragments that were recorded in 1994 were no longer on the site in 2002.


A monastery was founded at this site by St Farannan in the 10thc. At the synod of Rathbreasil (1111), Donaghmore was merged in the diocese of Lismore and its lands became the property of the See. The church was vested in the care of the Board of Works in 1883, at which time conservation works were carried out by Thomas Deane.


Exterior Features


W doorway

Of three orders, with projecting tangent gable.

The first order and gable are badly damaged.

approx. d. of gable projecting from W facade m 0.40 m
h. of caps incl. necking 0.20 m
h. of caps not incl. necking 0.18 m
h. of opening 2.80 m
w. at base 0.89 m
w. (N) of caps 0.23 m
w. (S) of caps 0.25 m
First order

The N base is damaged, and the S base is badly weathered but it appears to have interlaced rolls below a horizontal roll moulding. The jambs have broad angle rolls flanked by wedges. These have a row of foliage decoration on the inner face, with alternate facing groups of triple leaves (Leask describes it as based on an angular fret). There are traces of spiral beaded bands on the top two sections of the inner (E) angle roll of the N jamb. The lowermost two courses of the N jamb are damaged, the next five courses are in situ. The capital is missing. The S jamb has only two lower courses and one stone of the upper courses in situ. The arch and capitals are missing.

Second order

The bases have angle roll flaring out below a horizontal roll moulding with sprays of leaves fanning out on each face (best preserved on W face of N jamb). The overall design is similar to the surviving base of the first order. The jambs are worn in parts, but otherwise intact. These have five-sided angle rolls (or false colonnettes), flanked by narrow wedges and decorated with horizontal bands of chevron, beaded bands alternating with broader flat bands. Both faces of each jamb are decorated with beaded bands framed by a wedge, forming a chain of circles linked by straight sections (Leask, fig. 81).

Each face of both capitals is decorated with floral motifs consisting of a vertical stem that branches to form two spirals, each containing an octopus-like blossom which intertwines with the spiral stem. There are three short broad upright leaves at the corner of the capitals, above the angle roll. The inside face of the S capital is best preserved. Both capitals are integral with the necking. The S capital also incorporates a small section of the top of the jamb.

The imposts have interlace (knot patterns) on both faces of N and S caps, with bosses on the chamfer.

In the arch are two rolls of frontal chevron separated by beading. The triangles on the soffit are decorated with elaborate foliage patterns, and edged with a row of beading along the teeth of the chevron. The outer edge of the face has a roll flanked by two beaded bands.

Third order

Badly damaged with many losses. Only the plain (badly repaired?) arch and N jamb remain, and the top two stones of the S jamb. No sculpture survives except the beaded chamfer of the abacus on the inside faces, and the upper edge mouldings and necking of the inner faces of the capitals, which are smooth and uncarved. The sixth voussoir from the S side of the arch has a crudely carved lozenge and zigzag pattern, which appears to be a trial sketch or unfinished sculpture.

Only the outline of the tangent gable remains, with rough stones and filling, and one section of the outer projecting moulding on L side, with bosses on chamfer.


E windows, chancel

Two windows, similar to the round-headed windows of the nave, but upper window is smaller.

N window, centre of nave

Round-headed, with a plain recessed exterior and plain interior splay.

N window, E end of nave

Flat-headed, with a chamfered exterior moulding (the window is a later insertion).

S windows, nave

Two round-headed windows in the S wall of the nave, similar to the central N window.

Interior Features


Chancel arch

Of three orders. The arch is mostly missing, and the inner order of the N jamb is missing.

First order

Only the damaged base survives of the N jamb. On the S, a tall base supports a large round three-quarter shaft. The base is carved with a palmette forming a spur-like projection at the bottom angles and a horizontal band across the middle, below a torus. The top courses of the jamb, the capital and arch are missing.

Second order

The bases are similar to those of the first order. Five-sided attached angle shafts (?attached octagonal colonnettes) survive on N and S. The capitals have a spray of foliage at the angle, and triple leaves at each side above roll necking. The impost and arch are missing.

Third order

The bases are similar to those of the first and second orders. These support round three-quarter angle shafts (attached). The capitals are similar to those of the second order. The impost partly survives on the S side of the S jamb, and has bosses on the chamfer. The arch is mostly missing, but three plain square voussoirs survive on the S side at the springing of the arch.

Loose Sculpture

Jamb stone

A jamb stone carved with beakhead (this has since been removed to Kilkenny stone depot) which was evidently part of a straight moulding with an angle colonnette. The angle colonnette is overlaid with a lion mask, with the upper jaw and tongue clasping the moulding.


d. 0.35 m
h. 0.32 m
w. 0.22 m

Jamb stone (?)

A jambstone (no longer on the site in 2002) decorated on two faces with a pattern of lozenges formed by raised mouldings flanked by rows of beading. Two of the central diapers are pierced.


Although badly damaged, the doorway and chancel arch provide evidence of a rich decorative program. The tangent gable may be compared to other examples of this feature at Roscrea (Tipperary), Freshford (Kilkenny), Killeshin (Laois), Clonfert (Galway), and the round tower at Kildare. The porch appears to have projected, as at Freshford, rather than having a flat tangent gable. The rich decoration of the arch and jambs with a combination of beaded bands, chevron and foliage ornament suggests a date in the last third of the 12thc. The foliage motif with alternating facing groups of triple leaves on the jambs also occurs at Clonfert; the beaded chevron with low-relief foliage in the triangles is similar to that on the E window of Annaghdown Cathedral (Galway), and is also found on a fragment at nearby St Patrickswell (Tipperary). The capitals of the chancel arch are similar in design to examples at Clonkeen (Limerick) and St Caimin's Inishcaltra (Clare), but the foliage decoration at Donaghmore is more elaborate. The jamb stone with a biting beast head is similar to those on the chancel arch of Temple Finghin, Clonmacnoise, but is carved in lower relief. Burke (1896) gives a reconstruction of the W doorway with a tympanum; this is an unusual feature in Irish Romanesque, found also at Cashel, Kilmalkedar, and Aghadoe.


  • - Journal of the Proceedings of the Clonmel Historical and Archaeological Society, 1 (4), 1955–6, 64.

  • A. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 380.

  • P. Harbison, Guide to the National and Historic Monuments of Ireland, Dublin, 1992, 303–4.

  • P. Harbison, Guide to the National and Historic Monuments of Ireland, Dublin, 1992, 303–4.

  • H. S. Crawford, Donaghmore Church, Co.Tipperary, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 39, 1909, 261–4.

  • H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, I, Dundalk 1955, 136-7, fig. 78–81.

  • P. Harbison, Tipperary Romanesque, in Tipperary Remembers, ed. W.J.Hayes, Freshford, 1976, 56.

  • W. P. Burke, Donoughmore, Journal of the Waterford and South-East Ireland Archaeological Society, 2, 1896, 23.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
S 19 29 
now: Tipperary
medieval: St Farannan
Type of building/monument
Church (ruin)  
Report authors
Tessa Garton