The small church, Rahan

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Feature Sets (2)


Small ruined rectangular church with a reused Romanesque W doorway, a plain Romanesque window at the W end of the S wall of the nave, and Gothic windows at the E end of the S wall and in the E wall.


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 12th century.


Exterior Features


W Doorway

Built of the same fine grey limestone as the chancel arch in St Carthage's, Rahan.

h. of capitals (incl. necking) 0.21 m
h. of opening 2.12 m
w. at base 0.70 m
w. between abaci 0.67 m
S capital
d. 0.34 m
h. 0.215 m
w. 0.30
N capital
d. 0.34 m
h. 0.21 m
w. 0.28 m
First order

The base is supported on a chamfered plinth (not integral). The upper part of the base has a hollow band between rolls forming a curve around the angle shaft; the lower part is square, with a chamfered corner. The jambs comprise three-quarter angle shafts flanked by wedges. The capitals are multi-scallop (triple scallop on W face, four scallops on N and S faces) with a large undecorated shield area and low relief foliage decoration on the cones. The abaci are hollow-chamfered with a narrow groove on the face. The arch has lateral chevron carved point-to-point on face and soffit, meeting over a recessed angle roll. The roll is flanked by narrower rolls. The triangles have low relief decoration which includes foliage, knotwork, and inset triangles.

Second order

Only the bases remain, projecting from the facade, and supported on chamfered plinths (not integral). These are similar to the bases of the first order, but were designed to carry a detached colonnette rather than three-quarter angle shafts. The upper part of the base is circular, with a hollow band between a narrow upper roll and a thick lower roll, and with spurs in the form of sprays of foliage. The lower part is square, with a chamfered corner. The top of the base has a central socket for fitting a detached colonnette. The loose capital in the larger church might originally have topped one of these colonnettes. The label is hollow-chamfered and flanked by narrow rolls. It has beast head label stops with foliage decoration on the muzzles of the beasts.


The church was evidently built or rebuilt using spolia from an older church on the site. The fabric contains a large number of well-worked square stones, possibly from the chancel roof of St Carthage's, together with the fragmentary remains of the W doorway. The placement of the label over the outer order is similar to the arrangement in the W doorway and chancel arch of the Nuns' Church, Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly . Like the reset circular window in St Carthage's the doorway is stylistically related to work at the Nuns' Church, Clonmacnoise, and can probably be dated to c.1160.


  • E. Fitzpatrick, and C. O'Brien, The Medieval Churches of Offaly, Dublin, 1998, 56-62.
  • H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, Dundalk, 1955, I, 145-6.
  • C. O'Brien and D. Sweetman, Archaeological Inventory of Co. Offaly, Dublin, 1997, 209.
Exterior, general view, from W.
Exterior, general view, from W.
S window


Site Location
National Grid Reference
N 26 25 
now: Offaly
medieval: not confirmed
now: The small church
Type of building/monument
Ruined church  
Report authors
Tessa Garton