Timahoe Round Tower

Timahoe 1

A couple of weeks ago I was training in some young Ruin Hunters, if you missed this post you can read more about this HERE. Out first port of call was the Round Tower in Timahoe, Co. Laois. It is believed that a Saint Mochua founded a monastery here sometime in the 7th century. surprisingly we got more than expected. The round Tower dates back to the 12th Century and is said to be one of the finest examples in Ireland. It is approx 30m in height, other than the cap which was rebuilt in the 19th century,

Timahoe 2

Timahoe 3

The Tower remains in its original condition. The doorway which is located almost 5m above the ground is said to have faced the door of the old church. It , is elaborately decorated in the Romanesque style. It has one of the finest four-order Romanesque doorways in Ireland, with elaborately carved and decorated with interlace, human heads, chevrons and capitals. I found this to be quite unique in round tower architecture. The four bell-storey windows face the cardinal compass points and were apparently renovated by the OPW in the late 19th century when the cap was repaired and a modern ground level doorway was filled on the SW side of the tower.

Timahoe 4

Timahoe 9

Timahoe Church.Castle ruins

Whilst all that remains from the monastic settlement founded by Mochua is the Round Tower, there is the remains of a church. Although it is now a crumbling ruin, the main part of the structure which is still standing contains the chancel arch which has been walled in. This is the remains of a later Franciscan Friary, established by the O’Mores in the fifteenth century. After the Suppression of the monasteries  these lands were granted to Sir Thomas Loftus and later in 1609AD to Richard Cosby.

Timahoe 5

Timahoe 6

Timahoe 7

It is believed that one of the Cosby family that converted what was a medieval church into a plantation castle with a tower and bawn in the 17th century. The castle is now only a shell with much of the north and south walls gone. The last friar of the monastery was killed in 1650. Only the east wall of the castle, incorporating the arch of the medieval church remains. Just to the NE of the tower is a modern Church of Ireland church, though it no longer seems to be in use church building.

Timahoe 10

Timahoe 11

Timahoe 12

This site has had quite a turbulent history. According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Cuciche Ua Dunlaing, the Lord of Laois along with his wife and son were killed at Timahoe in 1041. Then in 1069 Gillamaire, son of the chief of Crimhthannan sept, was killed by Macraith Ua Mordha in the doorway of the church after swearing an oath. The abbey was then seriously burnt in 1142. This establishment was dissolved in the 1540s. In the mid-sixteenth century during the plantation of Laois the manor of Timahoe was granted to the Loftus Family and in the seventeenth century to the Cosby family and the church was In 1641, during the Irish rebellion, Timahoe castle was captured by the Irish irregulars and garrisoned.

Timahoe 13

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Castles, Diary of a Ruinhunter, Historical, Medieval, People, Photography, Places of Interest, Religious Sites, Round Tower, Ruins and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Timahoe Round Tower

  1. Jo Woolf says:

    What a wonderful place – I love the ‘Rapunzel’ tower! A stunning piece of architecture. And the old church could tell some stories, I’m sure. Great photos!

  2. Kasia says:

    I’ve been planning to go there for ages. Your post will heopefully motivate me better now. And how did the young Ruin Hunters find the place? 🙂

    • Put it to the top of your list and there are a few spots nearby worth checking out. The kids loved it, especially the playground across the road. Ava wants to find her very own castle to live in, she wants to be a princess. Then we went to a church were we found a mausoleum underneath and Ryan told me to be careful because ‘That’s were the Vampire’s live daddy’. 🙂 Try explaining that to a seven year old?

  3. Another nice view into your land – Do you happen to know (or can you guess) why the original door was located at 5m above the ground?

    • The common belief was that the monks would hide all the churches valuables within. The door was accessed via a rope ladder which would be pulled up when those thieving chaps from the North attacked.
      I have also heard that the towers were built on an energy vortex, where the priests would harness the earths natural energies for use in their rituals? Who knows, but the theory about hiding from the Vikings is the most widely accepted as to the height of the doorway.

  4. Grfeat photos! Love the round tower, makes me think of the fairy tale tower that repunzel was locked up in.

  5. I am astounded by your work! I only ever re-blog with permission as a means to introduce friends. I would love to re-blog this, but as I’m new to you, I’m uncertain how you feel about such things. Please let me know either way. 🙂 Belinda

  6. Reblogged this on Busy Mind Thinking and commented:
    This is a fairly new site to me and in a moment you’ll see why I am so taken by the posts. The photography is incredible and further, details about what and where we are seeing, are included. I love that!

  7. Oloriel says:

    What gorgeous sight and lores, thank you very much for giving me a chance to expirience this!

  8. Great pics Ed, as always. Love the one with the Round Tower casting a shadow. As the doorways of the towers were usually orientated onto the west door of the main church, its a great bit of projection as to the actual ‘footprint’ of where the corresponding 12thC church would have been.

    Regarding the height above ground of Irish Round Tower doorways: I’d like to offer an archaeological/historical ‘correction’ if I could; which may also be of interest to some of your foreign followers. The Viking ‘explanation’ was certainly taught to us in school and is still regularly trotted out to tourists by some of the more shadier tour guide types; but it is simply not true for several reasons.

    Main period of the worst Norse raids were 8th-9thC, while the main period of Round Tower construction was 11th-13th centuries. Bit of a time gap. 😉 Also, seeking protection in what is essentially a stone chimney/funnel would never have worked very well. A well set fire around the base and one would have plenty of smoked monk for lunch 😉

    Structurally, Round Towers have hardly any foundations. Where they have been examined, they appear to go only to a depth of 0.5 – 1 metre underground or a single course of large stones. One recently excavated in Kilkenny had earlier monastic graves still relatively intact – underneath the tower itself. Thats how ‘shallow’ they are. And therein lies the answer to the doorway height.

    If you put an archway/doorway – at ground level – into such a narrow conical stone structure, you would never have structural stability. But with a complete ‘circle’ at ground level – the weight/load bearing of the tower itself is even distributed, allowing for greater stability and height despite the shallow foundation. Hence: the need for an elevated doorway.

    Sorry for the nerd-hiccup, couldn’t help myself 😉

    Cheers again.

    • Wow, Thanks for the correction, It certainly makes sense. Would make you wonder, just how much of what we learned as kids was horse poop, 🙂 I consider myself to be only an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to these things so your comments as always are greatly appreciated. 🙂

      • No probs. Was afraid of coming across wrong. There is a lot of ‘poop’ still out there, to be sure 😉 But there’s also been a seachange in our understanding of some archaeological periods within the last 20 years or so. The next time I’m ever teaching round towers I’m going to point people here for the shadow pic (amongst others!).

  9. Amazing. Bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds and olden architecture; Perfect.

  10. Don’t you just love the little pop of color in that door? I love these shots. Thanks so much for visiting my site recently! I’m going to have a good click around here, if you don’t mind. 🙂

  11. philandre says:

    Hmm: I like this blog very much. Ruins, especially those with an ecclesiastical connection, I find irresistible. Some great shots. Glad you like “In search of unusual destinations”, by the way. Phil.

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