St Canice, Kilkenny

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Feature Sets (4)


A 13thc. cathedral built on the site of an earlier church which was burned in 1085 and in 1114. It contains a font and some loose sculpture from the Romanesque church, and some Romanesque stones reused in the walls of the 13thc. church. A round tower is located to the south of the cathedral.


The present cathedral stands on the site of the original monastic settlement founded by St Canice in the 6thc. The street pattern around the cathedral suggests the original presence of a large, circular enclosure around the monastery (Bradley,1990, 65), but the number and form of church buildings is not known.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Reset fragment

S facade of S transept. Reused in the lowest course is a piece of red sandstone (different from the surrounding stone) which appears to be the base of a double shaft with a central fillet. The 1860 account describes this as 'the capital of a pillar', 'turned upside down', and 'representing a bearded face'. (the bearded face is not evident , but the central fillet may have been a mask of some kind).

h. 0.22 m
w. 0.31 m

Reset fragment

N chapel of N transept. Reused as a voussoir over the S window of the E facade. A fragment with round bosses on a chamfered edge (similar to Loose Sculpture fragments (v) and (vi)).




Located in the Gash Chapel. Brought from Inchiologhan (Inchiholohan) (Co. Kilkenny). The basin is in the form of a cushion capital with a roll moulding bordering the shields. One shield is carved in shallow relief with an asymmetrical leaf pattern. The cone is decorated with three small upright leaves in the centre and lilies at the corners. The sides and rear are not decorated. Some of the leaves on the shield and those on the cone below contain stamen-like upright stems with round tips.

The pedestal, consisting of a central column with four attached shafts, has vertical tooling and is of later date. The base is modern. Of sandstone or Dundry stone.

Basin d. 0.55 m
Basin h. 0.40 m
Basin w. 0.52 m
Pedestal h. 0.31 m
Pedestal w. 0.24 m
Pedestal w. 0.24 m

Loose Sculpture


A damaged stone on the sill of the E window of the N aisle appears to have traces of decoration, possibly chevron, but is hard to decipher. This stone was missing in 2002.

Jamb capital

Multi-scallop capital with a frieze of knotted interlace in the shield area above the scallops. The fragment was designed for a jamb with an attached nook >shaft and incorporates a necking with a curved section at the left for the nook shaft. It is decorated on the longer face and broken on the short face corresponding to the nook shaft.


d. 0.28 m
h. 0.17 m
w. 0.29 m

Jamb stone

Section of jamb with an attached nook shaft flanked by a decorative band bordered by wedges and containing a foliage scroll with alternating half-palmettes. Four half-palmettes curl back against the stem in the same direction, while the fifth, at one end, curls back towards the others.


d. 0.15 m
h. 0.45 m
w. 0.19 m

Springer or label stop

The fragment is irregular in shape and partly broken. It is decorated on two angled faces with foliage ornament.


d. 0.18 m
h. 0.36 m
w. 0.18 m

Voussoir with billet

The lower edge is chamfered, with four billets along the chamfer. The voussoir appears to have formed part of a label.


d. 0.13 m
h. 0.25 m
w. 0.30 m

Voussoir with bosses

Similar to (iv) but with round bosses along the chamfer.


d. 0.12 m
h. 0.17 m
w. 0.28 m

Voussoir with bosses

Similar to (v).


d. 0.12 m
h. 0.25 m
w. 0.31 m

Voussoir with interlaced beast

Decorated on the face with part of an Irish-Urnes style interlaced beast which evidently continued onto the adjacent voussoirs. The beast head, in profile facing right, with open jaws and foliate lappet or ear, is placed centrally above interlacing body sections caught in the coils of neck and tail. The broader bands (body sections?) are decorated with a ribbon-like design. The upper moulding of the voussoir is damaged.


d. 0.17 m
h. 0.31 m
w. 0.29 m


The loose fragments indicate the existence of a stone church with Romanesque sculpture in the 12thc. The voussoir from an arch with interlaced beasts can be compared to fragments at Jerpoint and the Irish Urnes style shows that this sculpture included traditional Irish forms, also evidenced in the interlace on the multi-scallop capital. The design of the multiscallop capital with a broad frieze in the shield area is similar to the capitals of the E bay of the nave at Jerpoint. The decoration of the voussoirs with round bosses along a chamfer is similar to that on the imposts of the W doorway of the church at Ullard (Kilkenny).


  • P. Harbison, 'Carved Stones from the 12th century Predecessor of St Canice's Cathedral', Old Kilkenny Review, 5/1, 1974, 26-9.

  • H. K. J. Pike, Medieval Fonts of Ireland, Greystones, 1989, 13.

  • J. Graves and J. Prim, The History, Architecture and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of St. Canice, Kilkenny, Dublin,1857, 25-6.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
S 51 56 
now: Kilkenny
now: St Canice
Type of building/monument
Cathedral church  
Report authors
Tessa Garton