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St Maolcethair/St Malkedar, Kilmalkedar

(52°10′59″N, 10°20′24″W)
Q 40 06
now Kerry
  • Tessa Garton

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Nave and chancel church, roofless. Nave 8.28 m x 9.4 m with antae and steeply pitched gables. The nave was originally barrel-vaulted, with a step pitched stone roof over. The barrel vault of the nave was not keyed into the gable walls, which are smoothly finished above the remaining curve of the vault. Some purlin holes in the gables suggest the use of timber supports for the vault. The lower courses of a corbelled stone roof remain. The original narrow barrel vaulted altar recess was replaced by the present chancel probably c.1200. The chancel measures 5.72 x 5.1 m. externally, and also retains evidence of the springing of a corbelled vault. Evidence of the original chancel can be seen in the remains of small splayed windows to N and S and a section of barrel vaulting immediately E of the chancel arch. The nave has a decorated W doorway and chancel arch and internal wall arcades, as well as carved heads on the antae and decorated finials. There is a decorated E window in the chancel.


Little is known of the history of this site. It was reputedly founded in the 7thc. by Maolcethair, whose death is recorded in the martyrology of Donegal in 636 (Cuppage 1986, 308), but also holds strong associations with St Brendan. The site is rich in pre-Romanesque remains including a corbelled building, perhaps a cell, some 50 m from the church; an ogham stone; the sundial stone; a plain stone cross; and some bullaun stones. The use of the site in the later Middle Ages is indicated by a medieval two-storey dwelling located to the NE of the church. The church is included in the 1302-7 Papal Taxation List for the Diocese of Ardfert.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration

Blind arcades

Many of the details at Kilmalkedar, such as the internal wall arcades, chevron and base mouldings tie it closely to Cormac's chapel, and ultimately to the English West Country. Like Cormac's chapel the church at Kilmalkedar blends 'exotic' English elements with the native style, seen here in the obviously coeval antae and steep-pitched stone roof over barrel vault (now collapsed). Given that this must have been a building of some importance when it was constructed, remarkably little is known of its history, although a date of c.1130 can be inferred through its similarity to the Cashel chapel.

J. Cuppage (ed.), Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula, Ballyferriter, 1986, 312-17.
A. Hill, 'Kilmalkedar', JRSAI, 10, 1869, 560-64.
R. R. Brash, Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Dublin, 1875, 98.
E. Dunraven, Notes on Irish Architecture, (ed.M.Stokes), London, 1877, II, 52-3.
A. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 39.
P. Harbison, Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People, Syracuse/London, 1992, 74-5, 82-3.
F. Henry, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, London, 1970, 176.
A. Hill, Kilmalkedar, Co. Kerry, Cork, 1870.
L. de Paor, 'Cormac's Chapel: the Beginnings of Irish Romanesque', (ed.) E.Rynne, North Munster Studies, Limerick, 1967, 133-45.
H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, Dundalk,1955, I, 121-4.
Macalister, Corpus Inscriptionum Insularum Celticarum, I, Dublin, 1945, 181.
T. J. Westropp, 'Proceedings', JRSAI, 27, 1897, 291-6.