St. Saviour’s Priory – Glendalough

Glendalough’s Hidden Gem…..

St. Saviours Priory (1)

St. Saviours Priory (2)

Moving on a little further up the green track I found the Priory of St. Saviour. To me this is my favourite site in Glendalough. Tucked away from the rest of the complex, it’s about half a mile from Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, but only five minutes’ walk from St. Kevin’s Well. It sits on the south bank of the river, and is completely surrounded by trees. If it was not for a well-placed sign, you would probably never find it. To get to it you follow a small dirt track down the hill towards the river. The Priory stand at the bottom of the hill within an oval shaped clearing in the trees, and covers an area of approx 18 x 41 meters. Not surprisingly it is also enclosed by an earthen bank of approx 1.5 meters in height and three meters thick, with dry stone walling within, to support the external face of the bank.

St. Saviours Priory (3)

St. Saviours Priory (5)

St. Saviours Priory (4)

Whilst I walked around the mound to get a feel for the place, I wondered what purpose this might have served. For a lot of similar sites it was not uncommon to have some type of enclosure around a church or graveyard, mainly to keep animals out. But considering its close proximity to the river I wonder might it have also served as a flood defence for the site. Taking into account that it stands in the middle of a glacial Valley, it would be all too easy in heavy rain for the river to burst its banks. Whether this happened or not I can’t really say, it’s just an observation.

St. Saviours Priory (6)

St. Saviours Priory (8)

St. Saviours Priory (7)

The Priory is yet another Romanesque styled church, which consists of a Nave and Chancel. It is believed to be one of the newest additions to Glendalough and was founded back in 1162 by Lawrence O’Toole, where it served as a priory for the members of the order of the Canons of St Augustine. A year later it is said to have become part of the Arrosian in 1163. The building itself unfortunately underwent some very poor reconstruction work during the 19th century. It consists of a Nave and Chancel with what may have been some sort of domestic structure attached to the north side of the Nave, which may well have been a Chapter House or refectory for the canons.

St. Saviours Priory (9)

St. Saviours Priory (11)

St. Saviours Priory (10)

The remains of the chancel arch which consists of three orders and a twin-light east window has some stunning Romanesque design, which includes carvings of both human and animal figures. The real stand out feature of this priory is the Romanesque arch between the Nave and Chancel with its three orders. This consists of three sets of pillars with arches which are lavishly decorated with Chevrons and Celtic motifs such as spirals and floral patterns. It is believed to have collapsed in the late nineteenth century and was only partially rebuilt by the OPW using stones situated on site. The stonework looks to have been disfigured by calcite from the mortar used in the reconstruction.

St. Saviours Priory (12)

St. Saviours Priory (14)

St. Saviours Priory (13)

The window in the Chancel east wall which is a twin round headed light, is decorated in the Romanesque style and includes human and animal figures, sadly it appears to have been reconstructed, with pieces in the wrong order. Certain parts of the outer walls have been filled in using local quartz stone which can be found in abundance in to local are. There are two aumbries in the east wall, one at either side of the window opening which would have been used to store precious artefacts. The chancel is believed to have once been barrel vaulted. The nave has two doors and two windows in the south wall with another door in the North wall. There is what appears to have been a mural stairs rising southwards in the east wall of the attached building which would suggest that there may have been an upper floor in this part of the structure. If you do get to visit Glendalough at some stage, I would highly recommend checking out St. Saviour’s Priory, you won’t be disappointed.

St. Saviours Priory (15)

St. Saviours Priory (17)

St. Saviours Priory (16)


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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Medieval, Photography, Religious Sites and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to St. Saviour’s Priory – Glendalough

  1. I don’t expect to get there so I appreciate the pictures. Closest we came was to stay in Dunmore East, Ireland a year ago for a week and drive around as much as we could.


  2. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. I really felt I was going on a mini pilgrimage viewing these lovely photos. Regards. Thom


  3. You are not just the ruin hunter, but also the ruin whisperer, the way that you interpret the fixes, rebuilds, original uses etc.


  4. lauramacky says:

    I love what the previous commenter said…the “ruin whisperer”. So true! Thank you for taking me back into time.


  5. slpsharon says:

    Wonderful memories of another time.


  6. Ali Isaac says:

    What a fabulous place! I love the mysterious little path to get there…


    • Yeah,its so secluded, I could only imagine what lurks in the trees, waiting on a victim seeking refuge within the priory grounds….

      Sorry my imagination goes a but mental sometimes 🙂


      • Ali Isaac says:

        Great! Write the story, illustrate with your images = best seller! Go for it… you never know if you dont try!


        • I wouldn’t know where to start, especially with a fiction, just because it makes sense in my head, does not mean it will translate to a reader. The blog works because I am dealing with images and historical fact with the odd tale and opinion thrown in for good measure.

          What I would love to do is a photo book of really cool images and a small written piece about them, similar to what I do in the blog. I even have my title! ‘Diary of a Ruinhunter’

          Putting it together would be easy enough, but publishing is a bitch. Unless you have an agent they wont look at you, and doing it yourself is a nightmare and expensive.

          Wait what am I saying, your the expert on this one, how did you approach it?


          • Ali Isaac says:

            Well I’ve only published 1 book so far to be fair, so hardly an expert lol, but I’ll take the compliment, lol!

            I’m not sure how you would go about self pub-ing a book of images, because they would have to have top quality reproduction, and I’m not sure you would get that via Print On Demand. Having said that, I don’t see why it can’t be done digitally, images come up really well on a Kindle don’t they, although most kindles only show b&w images, but that’s your speciality anyway.

            I contacted a lot of printers around Ireland and of them all, there is only 1 I’d print with, I’ll get you his email address and you can maybe make contact. But you’d have to buy in a minimum of 100 books, and then try and get them sold in bookshops, and in my experience, most bookshops are not willing to stock self pubbed books.

            Having said that, you would have a unique product, which would do very well indeed in places like the gift shop at Newgrange (who were happy to sell my book!) and many others around the country.

            Ed, I really think you should look into it. Your blog is fantastic, but a book would work really well for you, I’m sure. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, it’s at least worth investigating. You could try something small on Kindle first, its free, I’m just not sure of the formatting for images, but that’s why it would be worth the experiment. (I’m excited now!) DO IT!


  7. joserasan66 says:

    Un Gran Trabajo En B&W, Muy Buena Serie… Ha Sido Un Placer Encontrar Tu Blog, Tienes Trabajos Muy Buenos… Un Saludo.


  8. Myriam says:

    Amazing photos as usually… you are so talented! Thank you for sharing your work with us 🙂


  9. In some of your images I expect a fairy to pop out at any moment; in others I expect something, well, much darker. Love that about your work, Ed.


  10. Thank you for liking “Beautiful and Bizarre Butterflies and Moths.” I am impressed by the detailed carvings and the stately arches in these ruins. Great photos and post! 🙂


  11. Pingback: Monastic City- Glendalough | EdMooneyPhotography

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