On the way home from work I took a slight detour up past Balgriffin cemetery where I came across this interesting church. At first glance I thought that it was a medieval castle as the first thing I noticed was its Battlement tower. So after finding somewhere to park I took a closer look. The church of St. Doolagh dates back to the 12th century. It was named after a the hermit whom is believed to have lived here around 600AD. Like many hermits Doolagh would have lived a solitary life with little or no contact with the outside world. He would have spent his days here praying with just basic food in order to survive. It is believed that he would have lived in a small cell either attached to or beside the church. Nothing remains of the original church prior to the 12th century, but it would seem that a monastic settlement started up in the area as was the case with most of these hermitic sites in Ireland. Glendalough would be a perfect example of this.
Although the site dates back to the 7th century the present church was built in the 12th century. It is one of a handful of stone roofed churches which have withstood the test of time in Ireland. On my visit the church was not open and the main gate was locked. However I was able to access the grounds from the main road and steps led me into the graveyard and church. From research it would seem that Doolagh’s doesn’t just have just one room used for service like most other churches. It has several rooms on different floors, connected by stone steps. The stone roof is said to be a double roof, the outer roof covering the building and the inner roof dividing the lower from the upper floors. There is also has a leper’s window where people who had infectious diseases such as leprosy would be given communion through the bars.
The original part of the building is 48 feet by 18 feet, with a double roof of rough stone set with cement. The original walls are said to be three feet thick. The battlement on the square tower was added in the 15th Century. An extension was added to the church in 1864 but it appears to have blended in well to the older structure. In the 19th century there was some dispute over the existence of St Doulagh some thinking that he was in fact the 10th century Viking god, Olave. However it has since been proven that he did exist. It was also thought that the actual church may have been built by Vikings but again it was proved due to the methods of construction that the Irish built it; the features of the church were not those of Viking structures.
Although closed on the day I arrived it is said to be open to the public for tours etc during the summer months. If I get a chance I may make a return visit to check out the interior of the building.