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Feature Sets (3)


The church is ruined and roofless and consists of a nave and chancel separated by a solid wall. The nave measures c.9.9 m x 7.16 m, the chancel 13.64 m x 7.19 m. The N and E walls of the nave and most of the W wall are still intact, while only the E part of the S wall remains. The walls are of rubble. There are plain round-headed windows with an interior splay towards the E end of the N and S walls, and a damaged round-headed window in the E wall of the nave, set slightly S of centre. The chancel, which is longer than the nave, was evidently added at a later date. The N and E walls remain, as well as the lower courses of the S wall. The E wall has a 13thc. double window with pointed arches and small sculptures on the central mullion with a plaited motif and a male head. Some sculptures have been reset on top of the S wall in the centre. The lower part of a reconstructed round tower remains near the NW corner of the church.


A monastery was founded here by St Finian the Leper in the 7thc. A stone church is mentioned in 1061, and the arrival of the Normans is recorded in 1177 (AI). The ‘great’ church was damaged by gales in 1282, and its holy cross was broken (AI). The record of this event also mentions that the church had been finished 1158 by Amhlaoibh, son of Aongus O Donnchadha (Book of Mac Carthy, 1158, 6). The death of Aongus is mentioned in same year, adding that Amblaoibh was buried on the right side of church at Aghadoe 'which he himself had built in honour of the Trinity and Mary' (Book of Mac Carthy, 1158, 7).


Exterior Features


W doorway

Four orders, of yellow and red sandstone, partly restored and altered.

h. of opening 2.13 m
w. of opening 0.82 m
First order

Plain square jambs on chamfered plinths, no bases. Plain arch.

Fourth order

Chamfered plinths as first order, no bases.

Plain square jambs projecting from facade. Plain chamfered imposts. The arch is partially reconstructed, and comprises an assortment of voussoirs on the N side and top of the arch.

From N : uncarved stone; two voussoirs with a row of chevron lateral to the face with foliage beneath; five rough restored stones; three label stones, each decorated with two bosses and an outer roll moulding, the bosses on the first stone are faceted; the voussoir at the apex is carved with a row of chevron lateral to the face, with foliage beneath (as on voussoirs 2 and 3); two voussoirs with a row of chevron lateral to the face, with foliage springing from the outer point of the chevrons (as third order voussoirs 16 and 17).

Label: Only two stones on the N side. The first stone is broken, the second has a boss and outer roll moulding.

There are two narrow rectangular slots on the soffit of the inner order of the arch at the springing. The doorway has a narrow rebate at the rear of the door arch, which is not continued down the jamb.

Second order

Chamfered plinths as first order, no bases.

Embattled ornament (key pattern) on jambs.

Chamfered imposts, with a groove along the upright.

The arch has one row of chevrons lateral to the face, with a fine, slightly recessed roll on the face, following the form of the chevrons.

Third order

Chamfered plinths as first order, no bases.

Detached angle colonnettes

N jamb: Angle colonnette in two sections, with short lower and longer upper section, decorated with horizontal bands of beaded chevron. Cement repair at top.

Attached capital, with damaged necking. This has broad, pointed leaves at the angles and a central furled leaf on each face

Chamfered impost, as second order.

S jamb: Angle colonnette in six sections. The bottom section is damaged and the second and third worn, with no decoration distinguishable. The fourth and fifth sections are carved with beaded barley sugar twist mouldings. The sixth section is restored.

The capital is worn but similar to the N capital. The impost is missing.

The arch has a beaded moulding (small roundels separated by decorated bands) on face and soffit, with keel-moulded angle roll. Two voussoirs (16 and 17) on the S are may have originally come from the fourth order.These have a single row of chevron, lateral to the face, with foliage springing from the outer point of the chevrons.

Loose Sculpture


Set on S wall of chancel. Attached capital, with necking, similar to the third order W doorway capitals. Decorated on two faces with broad, pointed leaves at the angles and central furled leaf on each face.


d. 0.43 m
h. .0.20 m
w. 0.20 m


The doorway has been inaccurately rebuilt at some point in its history. In structural terms it can be compared to doorways at Freshford (Kilkenny) and Clonkeen (Limerick) both of which have a plain, continuous inner order and slots on the soffit, close to the springing of the arch for centuring. Rynne (NMAJ, 1987) suggests that this may originally have held a wooden tympanum, which would have measured h. 0.45 m x w. 0.88 m x d. 0.08 m. The capitals find close parallels at Clonkeen, on the chancel arch of St Caiman’s Inishcealtra (Clare) and with the bases at Freshford. Parallels for the foliate carving are particularly striking in the N window surround at Temple na Hoe, Ardfert. The reference to the construction of the ‘great’ church at Aghadoe in 1158 provides a rare case of an independently-dated Romanesque church. If the current ‘cathedral’ is this building (and this has not been proven), then it provides an important chronological point of reference for a series of related Munster and south Leinster churches. The label was probably originally decorated with a series of bosses as at Temple na Hoe, Ardfert. The bosses on the first (from N) label stone are faceted as at Temple na Hoe.


  • G.L. Barrow, The Round Towers of Ireland, Dublin, 1979, 108.

  • R.R. Brash, Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Dublin, 1875, 103.

  • E. Dunraven (ed. M.Stokes), Notes on Irish Architecture, London, 1877, II, 35, 115-117.

  • A. Gwynn and R.N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 28, 101.

  • P. Harbison, , Guide to the National and Historic Monuments of Ireland, Dublin, 1992, 166.

  • F. Henry, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, London, 1970, 166.

  • H.G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, Dundalk, 1955, I, 145.

  • T. O'Keeffe, Romanesque Ireland, Dublin, 2003, 187-8.

  • J/ Romilly Allen, ‘Aghadoe Cathedral and Castle,’ JRSAI, 22, 1892, 163-6.

  • E. Rynne, ‘Evidence for a Tympanum at Aghadoe, Co. Kerry’, NMAJ, 29 1987, 3-6.



Site Location
National Grid Reference
V 93 93 
now: Kerry
pre-1994 traditional (Republic of Ireland): Kerry
Type of building/monument
Ruined church, formerly cathedral  
Report authors
Tessa Garton