St Molaga, Labba Molaga

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Feature Sets (3)


The walls of two churches remain within a subrectagular enclosure, possibly of early or medieval date (Harbison, Guide, p.59).  The smaller church has deep antae and a lintelled doorway; inside is a slab which tradition holds indicates the grave of the founding saint. The larger and later church had a nave and chancel, but is without any features, and the walls only remain to a height of c.0.60 m.


The monastery can probably be identified as Tulach-min-Molaga, founded by St Molagga, of Timoleague and Lann Beachaire, in the 7thc. (Gwynn & Hadcock).  Its current name, literally, 'Molaga's bed', probably refers to the saint's final resting place or grave here.




Founder's grave slab

There is a faintly incised carving of crosier on this slab. The spiral or continental style of the crosier suggests at earliest a 12th c date. The stone itself is likely to be older and to date to the construction of the chapel itself, c.1000.

Loose Sculpture

Moulded stone

Reset in the W graveyard wall is a piece of moulded stone which may be Romanesque: it is a simple roll moulding and could have formed part of the jamb of a doorway. (Ed.)


Although it has been suggested that the style of the smaller church could be 12thc, the scholarly consensus has more recently identified it as an early pre-Romanesque church, one of the so-called shrine chapels which monumentalise the founder's grave, and probably pre-dating the year 1000. As such, it can be compared with Temple Ciaran in Clonmacnois, Co. Offaly or St Declan's, Ardmore, Co. Waterford. In the late 19th c, a carved finial remained at the site, which almost certainly belonged to the smaller church. Although Romanesque finials, such as that at Kilmalkedar, Co. Kerry, survive, it is unlikely in this case that the very plain finial was this late; such finials are skeumorphs of wooden rafters and are known pictorially from the 8th c onwards. There must, however, have been some activity at the site in the 12th c, as indicated by the moulded jambstone visible in the graveyard wall.  This may have come from a doorway or chancel arch in the larger church, now featureless, but whose proportions would not contradict such a date.  It has also been suggested that the spiral crosier on the recumbant slab which marks the founder's grave within the smaller church, was carved on it in the 12th c (O Carragain, 'The Cult of Relics', p.172). (Ed).


  • H. Crawford, 'Finial Stones', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 6th series, Vol.4, 1914, pp. 171-2.

  • A. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland, London 1970, 396, 408.

  • P. Harbison, Guide to National and Historical Monuments of Ireland, Dublin 1970 (1992), 82.

  • Lord Killanin and M. V. Duignan, The Shell Guide to Ireland, Dublin 1962 (1967), 376.

  • T. Ó Carragáin, Churches in early medieval Ireland: architecture, ritual and memory, London 2010.

  • T. Ó Carragáin, 'The Architectural Setting of the Cult of Relics in Early Medieval Ireland', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol.133, 2003, pp. 130-76.

  • T. O'Keeffe, 'Architectural Traditions of the Early Medieval Church in Munster', in M. A. Monk and J. Sheehan, eds, Early Medieval Munster: Archaeology, History and Society, Cork, 1998, pp. 112-24.

W facade of shrine chapel
Graveyard wall
View from SW, shrine chapel in foreground, large church in background
Shrine chapel from N
Larger featureless church


Site Location
Labba Molaga
National Grid Reference
R 76 18 
now: Cork
pre-1994 traditional (Republic of Ireland): Cork
medieval: Cloyne
now: Cloyne
medieval: St Molaga
now: St Molaga
Type of building/monument
Ruined church  
Report authors
Tessa Garton 
Visit Date
15 Jul 1992