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Temple Finghin or McCarthy's Church, Clonmacnois, Temple Finghin

(53°19′46″N, 7°59′8″W)
Clonmacnois, Temple Finghin
N 01 31
pre-1974 traditional (Republic of Ireland) Offaly
now Offaly
  • Tessa Garton

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A nave and chancel church with an attached round tower on the S side of the chancel (nave 8.8m x 4.39m; chancel 2.6m x 2.6m; internal diameter of tower 2.14m (Leask)). The nave walls are very low, the chancel is walled but roofless, the W wall and window are restored. Romanesque sculpture is found on the S doorway at the W end of the nave, the W window, chancel arch and E window.


The origins of the name of this church are obscure. 'Tiprait Fingen' is mentioned in the Annals of Tigernach in 758, while in 1013 a 'great oak' collapsed in a graveyard called 'Regles Finghin' (Chronicum Scotorum, 257). Later records refer to the church as of 'Fhinghin Mac Carthaigh',for example the Registry of Clonmacnoise (transcribed from the Life of St. Ciaran), refers to 'Great Finghin MacCarthy's' place of sepulture at Clonmacnoise and to a disagreement between Fitzgerald and Mac Carthaigh because the former took the choise place of Mac Carthy in Tempoll Finyn in Cluain' (O'Donovan, 1856-7, 457-8). Recent research suggests that the church may have functioned as a second nunnery at the site (Manning, 2004). Like the Nun's church at the same site Temple Finghin was restored in 1865 under the supervision of James Graves and the discovery of a number of carved fragments at that time including 'a very singular capital, representing a male head with long hair and a moustache, with a greyhound coiled around under the chin' and voussoirs from a doorway are recorded.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Interior Decoration


Temple Finghin is the only Romanesque church with an extant, attached round tower. It has been suggested that the fine cut ashlar used in the tower's construction may have been salvaged from the nearby freestanding round tower, which was struck by lightning in 1135 (Manning, 2003, 91). Ní Ghrádaigh has highlighted the similarities between a capital unearthed in Temple Finghin and the sculpture at the Nuns' Church, Clonmacnoise, suggesting that they may be more or less contemporary and possibly even the work of the same sculptor. The biting beast heads on the jambs of the chancel arch are similar to those on the doorway of the Nuns' Church. Their placement on the jambs is unusual, but can be compared to the beast heads on the jambs of the W window at Dysert O'Dea (Clare).


A. Gwynn, and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland. London, 1970, 64.

C. Manning, 'Finghin Mc Carthy, King of Desmond, and the mystery of the second Nunnery at Clonmacnoise' in (ed) Edwards, D., Regions and Rulers in Ireland, 1100-1650, Dublin 2004.

C. Manning, Some Early Masonry Churches and the Round Tower' (ed) H. King, Clonmacnoise Studies , II, Dublin, 2003, 63-95.

A. Doyle, The Conservation of Ruins in Ireland c.1850-1900 (Unpublished M.U.B.C. thesis, University College Dublin, 2003).

E. Fitzpatrick, and C. O'Brian, Medieval Churches of Offaly. Dublin, 1998, 49-56.

E. Fitzpatrick, Romanesque Sculpture of Clonmacnoise (Unpublished MA Dissertation University of Galway, 1985).

F. Henry, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, 1020-1170. London, 1970, 158-9.

J. Ní Ghradaigh, 'But what Exactly Did She Give?: Derbforgaill and the Nun's Church at Clonmacnoise', (ed.) H. King, Clonmacnoise Studies, II, Dublin, 2003, 175-208.

J. O'Donovan, 'The Registry of Clonmacnoise: with notes and Introductory Remarks', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 4, 1856-7, 444-6.

K. Emerick, 'Whitby and Clonmacnoise' (ed.) H. King, Clonmacnoise Studies, II, Dublin, 2003, 209-221.

H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings. Dundalk, 1955, I, 149.

C. Manning, Clonmacnoise. Dublin, 1994.

T. J. Westropp, 'A Description of the Ancient Buildings and Crosses at Clonmacnois', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 37, 1907, 277-306.