From the land of Saints and Scholars it is without doubt that our Irish Monastic Settlements are a very important part of our heritage. Celebrate Ireland’s Monastic past with our beautiful Irish monastic crafted candles for sale at totallyirishgifts.com, available as gift sets or as individual candles.
The Irish Round Tower, or Cloigtheach in Irish, was the Bell House found throughout Ireland, principally at churches and more so at monastic sites.
Round Towers were extremely solid and well built, ranging in height from 59 ft to 130 ft and 39 ft to 59 ft in circumference. The Round Towers have slits for windows, positioned high up the tower. The roof of the Tower was made of stone in a conical shape. The Round Tower has a door which is raised c.6-8 ft above ground, accessed by a ladder. Within the Tower there would be c.2 more floors (wooden) also accessed by a ladder. As children we were taught that these Towers were built to with-hold raids – Viking attacks. Upon attack the Monks would gather their precious books and relics to the Tower and raise the ladders behind them as they progressed up the Tower and so were protected against the invaders. Other ideas regarding what these Round Towers were used for include:
- Purely as Bell Towers
- Watch Out Towers
- Beacons for Travellers
- Massive Sun Dials!
- Local Memorials
Round Towers were built in Ireland between the 9th and 12th centuries and many still exist today in various states, some in ruins, some intact and good condition.
Irish Celtic Monks built beehive shaped stone huts for use as their living/sleeping areas – cells. The building technique was called ‘drystone’, i.e. no mortar was used yet they still stand strong and watertight. One of the best examples of beehives in Ireland is at the Monastic Site on the wonderful Skellig Michael island off the coast of Kerry. It takes an hour long boat trip to the Skelligs and then an ascent of 600 steps up to the Monastic Site (and of course then down again) – I chickened out of a trip a few years ago that my husband and 12 year old son went on!!
On Skellig Michael you will also find a perfect example of an Oratory – a small stone church, to hold c.12 people. Here the Monks had their daily prayer when they would read the Gospels and memorise Psalms. Other monastic sites had larger churches, but small oratories would have been quite common.
This is the Round Tower in my home town of Clondalkin, Dublin.
Built on the site of a monastery founded by St. Mochua in the 7th century, this Tower stands c.89 ft high and is made with a variety of rough stones of local calp limestone.
This tower is unusual because it is strengthened by a stone buttress at the base, which is thought to have been added at a later stage. It is the only Round Tower in Ireland to still retain its original cap.
Opposite the Round Tower there are remnants of a monastery on the site of the present Church of St John. In 832 the monstery was plundered by King Olaf the White (Viking), who built a fort here in 852.
Our local GAA Club is named after the Round Tower – ‘Round Tower GAA Club’ and many other clubs and schools have the symbol of a Round Tower in their crest.
If you are ever in the area drop by and get a photo!