A nave and chancel church, with rebuilt nave. The church originally had northern and southern cells opening off a barrel-vaulted chancel with an upper chamber (of which the curved base of the vault springing remains). There is an entrance to a small staircase in the N wall at the E end of the chancel, with a slab with a Greek cross set over the lintel. There is a round-headed splayed window in the S wall at the E end of the chancel, and two round-headed niches in the N and S walls at the W end of the chancel. The large E window is modern, with reused 13thc. interior mouldings at the edge of the splay. The circular window in the E gable was probably reset in this position during the 1732 rebuilding. Romanesque sculpture is found on the chancel arch, the E window and on a loose scallop capital located on a ledge on the N side of the nave.
When the wall surrounding the church was stripped of its ivy covering in 1995, a small fragment of Romanesque carved stone was revealed (due S of the chancel of the church).
The site was reputedly founded by St Carthach who formed a community of 867 monks. The deaths of three coarbs are mentioned at the site during the 12thc.
A circular window reused in the E gable. (Leask gives dimensions as 7.5 ft diameter including the 5" border). It is splayed, and has three rows of lateral chevron on face and soffit, carved point-to-point, separated by beading on the face and by beading (between chevron row one and two) and wedges (between the following rows) on the splay (accurately illustrated in Leask, but impossible to see from the ground). The lozenges formed between the points are filled with a variety of decorative motifs, including human heads and snakes. The triangles formed outside the chevron on the face are decorated with foliage, snakes and interlace. The label has beading and shallow geometric decoration on the face and bosses on the chamfer.
Of three orders, with plain unmoulded arches in well cut ashlar. The jambs have bulbous bases and three-quarter angle shafts flanked by wedges, and carved capitals.
There is diagonal tooling visible on the plain surfaces of all the orders, except the angle shafts, which have vertical tooling. Fine-grained grey limestone.
|h. of capitals (with necking)||0.27 - 0.28 m|
|h. to top of abaci||1.93 m|
|w. at base of arch||2.52 m|
S respond: bulbous bases at the angles, with foliage palmettes in the centre of the face. Three-quarter angle shafts flanked by wedges. The capital has human heads at the angles, carved in shallow relief, with foliage palmettes between the heads on the central face. The heads have angular features; high set ears, almond-shaped eyes, and a moustache and beard ending in spirals. The W and E faces of the capital are plain. The head at the SW angle is mostly broken off, apart from the ears and the edge of the hairline. The abacus has a beaded band at the bottom of the face, and spiral bosses on the chamfer. The SW corner of the abacus is broken.
N respond: Angle shafts with bulbous bases as on S respond, but without foliage decoration on the face of the base. The capital has human heads at the angles, similar to the S respond, both heads are well preserved, with shallow-carved foliage palmettes between the heads on the central face. The E face of the capital is plain adjacent to the head, and the beard and moustache do not end in spirals. There is a small palmette beside the head on the W face. The abacus is similar to the S respond, with the NW corner broken off. The arch is plain and square.
S and N responds: bulbous bases, supporting three-quarter angle shafts flanked by wedges. Multi-scallop capitals with low cones and a large undecorated area above the plain shields. The abacus has plain bosses on the chamfer. The angles of the capitals and abaci are broken. The arch is plain and square.
S and N responds: bulbous bases support three-quarter angle shafts with multi-scallop capitals similar to those of the second order. there is some damage on the angle shafts and capitals. The abacus on the N jamb is similar to that of the second order, with plain bosses, broken at the corner. The abacus on the S jamb is almost entirely broken away, but a fragment remains on the W face showing the same design with plain bosses.
Triple scallop on the face and double scallop on the sides, with a projecting square block for insertion in the wall, at the rear of the capital. The cones are decorated with shallow-carved foliage, and take up slightly less than half the height of the capital, leaving a large undecorated shield. The capital evidently comes from a colonnette flanking a doorway, and is similar to those on the doorway of the small church at Rahan.
B. de Breffny and G. Mott, The Churches and Abbeys of Ireland, Dublin, 1976, 26.
E. Fitzpatrick, and C. O'Brien, The Medieval Churches of Offaly, Dublin, 1998, 56–65.
F. Henry, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, 1020-1170, London, 1970, 150,152, 178–9.
H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, Dundalk, 1955, I, 142–44.
C. O'Brien and D. Sweetman, Archaeological Inventory of Co. Offaly, Dublin, 1997, 209.