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Feature Sets (4)


A long rectangular church, 18.06 m x 7.39 m, built of rough blocks of granite with squared quoins. The gabled W and E walls remain to their full height of more than 9 m, and the N wall to its full height of c.5.5 m. The S wall is destroyed. At the W end part of the S wall has been rebuilt and a modern cross-wall blocks off the W end of the nave. Corbels along the nave walls would have supported an upper chamber, lit by a window in the W gable. 12thc. features include a flat-headed W doorway and two round-headed E windows with exterior labels supported by columns.


The monastery was founded by St Finian of Clonard in the early 6thc. The death of an abbot is recorded in 1017 and of an erenagh in 1050 (AFM). The building was in use as a Church of Ireland church until 1716/17.


Exterior Features


W doorway

Flat-headed, of three orders, with a broad inner order and narrower outer orders. Granite.

external h. of surround 2.66 m
external w. of surround 2.45 m
h. of opening 1.91 m
w. of opening 0.82 m
First order

Plain, with a narrow angle roll (damaged, but visible on lintel and on parts of N and S jambs).

Interior, first order

Flat-headed, with a narrow angle roll.

Interior, second order

Round-headed, with plain arch and jambs. About half-way up the inner face of the jambs are holes for bars to lock the door.

Second order

Plain on the face, with a narrow angle roll. There are a series of bosses on the soffit of the lintel and the inner faces of the jambs (badly damaged on jambs). Traces of a groove survive on the outer face of the jambs and the lintel adjacent to the third order.

Third order

Large roll on lintel and jambs.


A tympanum of coursed masonry, slightly overhanging the lintel.


N window

E end of N wall. Round-headed, with plain exterior mouldings in two orders and a plain round-headed interior splay.

N window E facade

First and second orders

Plain square mouldings form a broad frame around arch, jambs and sill. The inner order is formed by a broad rebate and is carved from the same stone as the surrounding frame. The lower stone of the N jamb is damaged.

Third order

A projecting arch is supported by half-columns with block capitals. The bases are in the form of inverted beast heads, angled slightly inwards. The arch is very weathered, with two voussoirs missing at the top left. It has traces of lateral chevron on the face and soffit.

S window, E facade

First and second orders

Similar to the N window. The upper stone of the N jamb is damaged.

Interior, N and S windows

Splayed, with traces of a small angle roll on the arch and jambs.

Third order

A projecting arch supported by half-columns with block capitals, as on the N window. The bases are formed of broad square blocks. The arch is very weathered, with traces of lateral chevron on the face and soffit, as on the N window.

W window

Set in the W gable above the doorway. The window has a gabled exterior with a round-headed interior splay.

Interior Features

Interior Decoration



Tall chamfered base (truncated pyramid), with a hole in the top. The stone projects into the wall.

d. 0.26 m
h. 0.21 m
w. 0.39 m


Niche at a lower level near S end of E wall.

There is a base below the niche which may have supported a font or piscina(?).


Square niche under N side of N window

Loose Sculpture

Unfinished Cross

Near NW corner of church. Granite. Circular cross head with short projecting arms. The surfaces are well finished but undecorated. The top arm has a projection on its top surface. The narrow faces have three vertical ridges. The W face of the shaft has a slightly recessed central panel. The base is in the form of a low truncated pyramid. A large stone basin is set at the foot of the cross on the E side.


d. 0.28 m
d. of base 0.85 m
h. 2.75 m
h. of base 0.48 m
h. of head 1.24 m
h. of shaft 1.49 m
w. 1.53 m
w. of base 1.02 m


The present church was probably built in the 12thc. Leask compares the door to that at Banagher (Derry), and dates it c.1100, but a date towards the mid or later 12thc. seems more likely. The framed E windows flanked by columns have no close parallels in Irish Romanesque.


  • A. B. Graves, ‘The Damhlaig of Achadhaball’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 16, 1883-4, 72-85.

  • ‘The Church at Aghowle’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 18, 1912, 75-76.

  • A. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 28.

  • F. Henry Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, London, 1970, 184.

  • E. Grogan and A. Kilfeather, Archaeological Inventory of County Wicklow, Dublin, 1997,115.

  • H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, I, Dundalk, 1955, 84-5.

E facade.
Interior, E end.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
S 93 69 
now: Wicklow
Type of building/monument
Ruined church  
Report authors
Tessa Garton