Moving on to yet another interesting church ruin. Just outside Stepaside village in Co. Dublin lies the church of Kilgobbin. These ruins only date back to 1707AD, but was built of the site of an earlier wooden church, probably from pre-Norman times. The church can be found standing on top of a grassy mound which at the loss of a wonderful view is surrounded by modern housing estates. Whilst the mound itself is quite steep, I wonder, might this have been an ancient burial mound or passage tomb, prior to the religious establishment? It would not have been the first time that this been done done.
The church itself is stepped in history. It is said that Brian Boru stopped off here after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 enroute to Wexford to bury some of his dead soldiers . You can read more about this Here. It was also believed to be the first church in Ireland to be built after the Reformation. What makes this ruin stand out from the numerous others which can be found scattered all across Ireland, is two interesting stones. Around 1800AD during work on the graveyard a 10th century High Cross was unearthed. This cross now lies at the bottom of the site, but I shall cover this in more detail in a later post. Then there are a nice collection of badly weathered grave stones known as Rathdown slabs.
There is some speculation about the name Kilgobbin. Kilgobbin means the church of St. Gobban, but Gobban is the Irish for blacksmith. Blacksmiths were considered to have supernatural powers by the early Celts, probably because they worked with fire. There were a number of saint’s with this name in the early Irish church. A saint Gobban accompanied St. Fursa on his mission to England and then on to northern France where he helped to establish a monastery and was martyred. The town of St. Gobain still displays his head as a relic. Another St. Gobban was a prolific church builder in the 6th century. The festival of St. Gobban falls on 1st April.
The real jewel of this site is the Rathdown Slabs. Although the site is littered and some idiots have tagged some of the stones with their graffiti, it is still and interesting site to explore. You may note that I have removed most signs of graffiti thanks to the digital darkroom. The Rathdown slabs lie on the inner walls of the church. Dublin County Council commenced restoration of the site in 1983 and a very interesting discovery was made namely a grave slab, following the removal of a lintel over one of the church doors.
The Rathdown slabs date back to the Viking period and other similar artefacts were found in the area. There are several badly worn slabs of the Rathdown style hung on the wall. In the entrance porch there is also a few pieces of stone work. These grave slabs are found with various Viking abstract designs such as fishbone, circle or cup marks, a couple of them have a combination of a cross and Viking cup marks. They are believed to mark the graves of Vikings who converted to Christianity in the late 10th or early 11th century, after settling in this area. There is a fine example of a Rathdown slab on displayed in the Dalkey heritage centre at Goat Castle. If you are in the area, it is well worth checking out
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