Saturday, 24 September 2016

Where a Viking Sleeps.

On a recent day out we visited St James Church, Castledermot, Co. Kildare.

The original foundation and dedication of this Christian Church was as the hermitage of St. Diarmada [Dermot] in 812. In later years it became a monastery and was twice raided by the Vikings and was burned down in 1106.
In the present church, now dedicated to St James, there is a list of The Church of Ireland incumbents dating from 1605 to the present day.

In the foreground is a reconstructed Hibernian-Romanesque arch detailing the original entrance to the old church.




An artists impression of what the original hermitage may have looked like.

The only Scandinavian hog back grave marker slab in Ireland - beneath which is possibly 
a sleeping Viking.



One of two existing 9th century High Crosses, 
there were once three.



Opposite the entrance to the church is a well kept and attractive tree lined walkway 
connecting to a main thoroughfare.


The Pledging Stone.
Similar stones were used by lovers who would place their hands into the hole 
and make their pledge to each other. 
From this practice came about the phrase ‘being set in stone’.





The round tower dates to the 10th century and was the monastery bell tower. 
The tower has some unusual features to other similar constructions. Here the entrance is only slightly above ground level and it is situated to the north of the church, normally towers were built to the west with access 15 feet or more above the ground. 
There are two arched vaults inside the tower, one over the second storey and the other at the top, with the tower itself constructed mainly of granite blocks with small pieces of limestone used as fillers. 
At sometime during it’s history the original stone capping was removed from the top and replaced with a castellated top which looks very odd - I have heard it likened to that of an electric torch stood on it’s end!

For further information :-








24 comments:

  1. A beautiful church with a rich history. The tower is very impressive for its age.

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    1. All down to quality materials and design I think Bill.

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  2. I expect everything is different in Ireland, that is a most spectacular building and a very interesting story! I have never seen a tower like that one. In Sweden, when they built belltowers around 13th century, they quite often failed to make them stable enough. Many of the churches built in that time have supportive pillars and arches . I am also amazed by the fact that many buildings in the UK and Ireland....are grey. We have both monasteries and old fortresses made by grey stone, but most of the older churches are white. Your pictures are always so bright and alive, Mel, you are quite a good photographer as well as a good provider of ancient history. We only seem to have provided the vikings from our part of the world...hope we have done better since then!

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    1. I think that the reason for your old churches being white is that they have a sand and lime plaster. As did many of our ancient buildings when they were first built and over time it washed off. Today the fully restored tower houses in Ireland are now being given a protective coat of sand and lime mortar.
      Your Vikings left their mark on Ireland in more ways than one and in Dublin they had a large settlement.

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    2. What wonderful history, so different from here and your photos illustrate it so well.

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    3. Am very grateful for your comment LA

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  3. This was a very interesting article, Mel. I always enjoy reading about Ireland since I am of Irish descent. You have taught me something new. I did not know the lore behind the pledging stone. Thank you for the information. Your photos are spectacularly crisp and I feel as if I was there walking around with you.

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    1. Hello Susan thank you for your appreciation.

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  4. Hi Mel - what amazingly well preserved relics - so good to see ... Fascinating Bell Tower - amazing structure; I've loved seeing hogbacks - one day I'll get to see one for real .. while the Celtic cross is extraordinary. It is interesting the history of the Vikings in England ... I went to a lecture at the British Museum back in 2014 June ... re the language and influence of the Vikings in Britain.

    Wonderful photos and explanations - thank you ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hello Hilary!
      Those Vikings got around didn't they and brought a great deal of influence with them.

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  5. I love the tower - look at those graduated stones. And the romantic notion of the sleeping viking.

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    1. Ha'h Sue who would dare to awaken the sleeping Viking - that is my question :-)
      Many thanks for your comment.

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  6. You remind me just how fortunate we are to have the incredibly rich heritages that we do have.

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    1. We do indeed Graham and a wealth of artefacts to remind us. Many thanks for your comment.

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  7. I love that pledging stone. It has an ancient quality and, for me, is reminiscent of Barbara Hepworth and the more recent Peter Hayes' work.

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    1. Hah' yes Bella, I can see why the image of Pledging Stone would evoke your reply.
      Many thanks for extending our visual journey.

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  8. What a beautiful post Melvyn - such a lot of information and such beautiful surroundings.
    We had the Vikings around here and many of our Dales villages have names which originated in Viking names. I love that ruined archway - and also found the 'set in stone' most interesting. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

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    1. Hello Pat ! Am very pleased that you found so much interest in the current blog post.

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  9. Thanks for this post. As a lover of all things Celtic and Viking, this was a pleasure to read and to look at! I remember seeing a lot of Viking traces on the western side of Scotland, where there were countless raids on many of their western isles. Hope you're keeping well, Mel.

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    1. Mel is Well :-)
      Thank you for your interest Anne-Marie.

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  10. That looks like a very nice last restingplace.
    This summer in Co Donegal I made the joke that you should be happy that we came with all our advanced ideas about money, law and ting, but it was clearly too soon to be funny.

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    1. Yes, Viking Girl you should have waited for this blog post :-) :-)
      Thank you for your humour.

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  11. Mel, my apologies for being late, but this was worth the wait. There is so much wonderful history in Ireland and I am constantly amazed by yours and Jane's posts. I suppose the problem with the Netherlands is that so much of the country was under water until relatively recently, whereas Ireland has relics dating from long before much of the Netherlands even existed! I am fascinated by the 'set in stone' history and I love the old crosses too. Wonderful stuff!

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    1. Val thank you very much for your comment. I am amazed at the interest shown in the old viking chappy :-)

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