Kildare Round Tower

Feature Sets (2)


A well-preserved round tower, standing to the NW of the Gothic cathedral dedicated to St Brigid. The lowest courses (up to approximately 2.9 m) are built of roughly dressed granite, thereafter the masonry is of coursed rubble, largely limestone. The battlements were added in the 1730s. The only sculpture is found around the doorway, which faces S, and is set 4.67 m above the ground.


Although the tower may be a reconstruction or replacement of an earlier tower, there is no reason to believe that the portal was added to the present structure. The portal is likely to date to the third quarter of the 12thc. Coins found below the stone floor of the tower in 1843 are likely to date from the 1140s at the earliest. Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1186, mentions a falcon that lived at the top of the tower. 


Exterior Features


S facing doorway

The doorway originally had four orders, but only the inner one survives intact. The damaged parts of the doorway have been reconstructed in plain masonry. The red-coloured masonry used in the original work appears to be sandstone. Above the doorway are some fragments of a tangent gable.

height of first order 1.95 m
width of doorway 0.62 m
1st order

The bases and jambs are destroyed and have been replaced by relatively modern masonry. The arch has three fragments of roll moulding, of two different sizes, evidently fitted in during relatively modern repairs.

2nd order

The bases and jambs are destroyed. The arch has eight voussoirs. These have a deeply cut roll moulding on the angle with a further shallow roll on the soffit.

3rd order

The base and jambs survive only on the E side; too weathered to detect the form of any original moulding or ornament (if any).
The arch has 12 voussoirs with frontal chevron on the face.  The soffit has a delicate roll moulding, flanked by fillets.

4th order

The bases are very weathered.  There are hints of a bulbous form in the centre of the W base. The jambs have three flat roll mouldings incised on the surface of the stone; very worn; preservation is better on the W faces. The capitals are block-shaped, very worn with possible traces of foliage.

The arch has five voussoirs.  The face is plain, the soffits are decorated with lateral chevron, thinly carved. The chevrons are arranged to form a central lozenge, each of which is filled with an eight-petalled rosette.


Kildare is one of a small group of Irish round towers with Romanesque portals. The most ornate example is found eighteen miles away at Timahoe (Laois).


  • G. L. Barrow, The Round Towers of Ireland, Dublin, 1979, 118-123.

  • The Irish Builder, 71, (1879). (includes drawings of moulding sections)


Site Location
Kildare Round Tower
National Grid Reference
N 23 22 
now: Kildare
medieval: Kildare
Type of building/monument
Round tower  
Report authors
Roger Stalley