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,
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.
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.
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.
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.