Glendalough, Visitor Centre, loose sculpture

Feature Sets (2)


A large collection of carved and moulded stones has been gathered from the various buildings and monastic sites at Glendalough. Most of these were stored in St Kevin's 'Kitchen' until 1987, when they were moved to the new Visitor Centre. A catalogue of the stones appears in the Official Guide, first prepared by Dr Robert Cochrane in 1911–12 and revised on a number of occasions by Harold Leask. The numbering system of the Official Guide is followed here. Some of the grave slabs and crosses may belong to the Romanesque period, but only those fragments with carving that can definitely be attributed to this period are listed below. One of the pieces not included below (number 28), probably of 9th–10thc date, has part of a human figure. A number of additional Romanesque stones were listed by Patrick Healy in an unpublished study commissioned (around 1971) by the Office of Public Works and entitled Supplementary Survey of the Ancient Monuments at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow (98–102).


Loose Sculpture

Carved mouldings and fragments

Seven of the carved stones are from the Priests' House, two are from St Saviour's Priory and six are from the cathedral.

42: a section of string course, 0.48 m in length and 0.26 m in depth, carved with a grotesque animal head in the centre. Along the top of the front face is a band of nailhead, the surfaces of which are decorated with foliate motifs.

43: a section of string course of similar form to 42, but with more elaborate foliate motifs.

44: a section of string course similar to 43.

45: a stone (0.36 m in depth), with traces of a floral pattern on its bevelled face, which is returned on the sides. It may be a capital or a section of impost (not seen at the time of recording).

46: a section of label moulding (0.28 m deep), 'with a hollow weathering'. The lower member is carved with a fillet and a row of square pellets (not seen at the time of recording).

47: a springer (width of face 0.14 m) carved with one row of frontal chevron on the face. In a hollow behind this is a stem with foliage shoots following the curve of the arch. At the base is a triangular motif with a foliage infill. On the outer panel of the face a line of beading follows the curve of the arch

48: a narrow voussoir, carved with one row of point-to-point chevron meeting on an angle roll (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

49: another larger voussoir with the same design as 48, but with added foliage decoration (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

50: a third voussoir of the same type as 48 and 49 (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

(50a): a fourth voussoir of the same type as 48–50, but not listed in the Official Guide (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

51: a section of label moulding (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

52: a voussoir, with frontal chevron on the face, and beaded chevron on the soffit. The triangular projection of the chevron on the face takes the form of an animal head. The face is 0.06 m widening to 0.10 m.

53: a voussoir from the second order of the chancel arch of St Saviour's Priory.

54: a voussoir fragment from the first order of the chancel arch of St Saviour's Priory.

55: a triangular-shaped fragment carved with a grotesque animal head, similar to that on 42 (not seen at the time of recording).

56: a human head with moustache and beard, possibly a keystone. In the back there is a mortice, 0.05 m by 0.035 m, and 0.13 m deep (not seen at the time of recording).

57: a section of granite, 0.13 m thick, carved on the face with 'a cusped foliated design of five leaves'.

58; 59: Two wedge-shaped stones (0.25 m by 0.24 m by 0.09 m widening to 0.14 m), which the Official Guide suggests formed the head of a triangular window, each decorated with leaves and foliate scroll. 

64; 65: two sections of jamb (from the reset E arch of the Priests' House).

66: part of a basecapital, or impost (0.20 m by 0.15 m by 0.06 m) carved on two adjacent sides with parts of finely cut foliage scrolls.

67: an irregular fragment, 0.14 m deep, carved with a square fret pattern on the face. Found at Temple-na-Skellig in 1912.

84:  a section of the outer order from the E window of the cathedral, carved in Dundry stone.

85: a voussoir from the outer order (W) of the chancel arch of the cathedral.

87: a voussoir, probably from the interior arch of the N doorway of the cathedral.

90: a rectangular plinth (0.25 m by 0.33 m), 'with adjacent edges moulded into a chamfer between two beads'.

Among additional stones listed by Healy were the following:

XCIII; XCIV: two voussoirs of Dundry stone (not yellow sandstone as Healy states) with one row of point-to-point chevron meeting on a filleted edge roll, from the outer order of the chancel arch of the cathedral (0.28 m by 0.21 m by 0.14 m). No trace of a wedge-shaped form is discernible, which led Healy to doubt that they were voussoirs. However the chancel arch is unusually wide, and the wedge form would be difficult to detect on relatively small stones.

XCV: Deteriorated voussoir with point-to-point chevron similar to XCIII and XCIV, from the cathedral.

XCXII: a section, possibly from a gable-headed window, made of mica schist (0.26 m by 0.10 m by 0.37 m). The top of the gable is missing. The outer face is decorated with a floral motif (it is described as a truncated pyramid by Healy, who incorrectly suggests that it may have belonged to a capital). 

Two further fragments did not appear to be included in either list:

(a) a piece of granite (0.14 m by 0.13 m by 0.17 m), with a single roll on one face, the two adjacent faces having a sunken panel. The function is unclear.

(b) a label stop of Dundry stone carved with a human head with pierced eyes. Very deteriorated.


The stones gathered in the Visitor Centre deserve further study. It is disappointing that no provenance can be found for the ornate string course (numbers 42-4). A decorated string course, interspersed with grotesque heads, can be seen at the top of the round tower at Devenish (Fermanagh), but there is no record of similar carving on the round tower at Glendalough. Several of the other stones relate to windows with ornamented triangular gables. Two fragments of chevron are particularly interesting: number 47 with its foliate infill and number 52 where the chevron itself takes the form of an animal. These appear to be unique in Ireland.


  • Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Official Historical and Descriptive Guide, Dublin, n.d., 44–52.

  • P. Healy, Supplementary Survey of the Ancient Monuments at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, unpublished manuscript, n.d.


Site Location
Glendalough, Visitor Centre, loose sculpture
National Grid Reference
T 123 968 
medieval: Wicklow
now: Wicklow
Type of building/monument
Visitor Centre  
Report authors
Roger Stalley 
Visit Date
15 Aug 1994