Church Ruins of St. Columba

Confey (1) (640x426)

Well it’s a New Year and to start of I decided that the ongoing lack of transport and a camera will not disturb my Ruin hunting activities. So for a while I will be sharing some of the early sites I have explored over the years, which did not get the exposure that they deserved. First up is the old church ruins of St. Columba. I found this little hidden gem tucked away in the far corner of a graveyard in Confey, just outside Leixlip in Kildare. During my late teens and early twenties I left home and moved out to Leixlip where I finished serving my time as an apprentice. These were good times, and as I passed through the town all these memories came flooding back. It was here that I began to recall some history of the area of which had some strong Viking connections. During the summer months Leixlip would hold its annual Salmon festival. I remember my first year living there, and on the last day of the festival a replica Viking Long ship was burned in the river Liffey.  It was amazing how this not so little town has grown since I last lived there over fifteen years ago.

Confey (2) (640x426)

Confey (3) (640x426)

Leixlip or to give it its original Norse name “Lax-hlaup” which means ‘Salmon Leap’. In fact it is said to be the only inland town known to have a Norse name. Although a Viking settlement, evidence has been discovered that the area was inhabited since the Stone Age. The town was also home to Arthur Guinness’s first brewery back in 1755 before moving to its present location at the famous James Gate in Dublin. But back to the Viking connection. Situated on the banks where the River Liffey meets the Rye, it became an important area due to the fact that this was the furthest point to which the Viking Long ships could be rowed. It also was the scene of a famous battle, where in 917AD the Viking King of Dublin Sigtrygg Caech won a short lived victory over Augaire mac Ailella the King of Leinster.

Confey (4) (640x426)

Confey (5) (640x426)

Well the ruins of the old Confey church also known as St. Columba’s Church was quite easily found in the north-east corner of the current modern Confey cemetery. As I passed through the modern graveyard I noticed an unusual amount of graves of children I guess you could call this the ‘Holy Angels’ section. During the flu pandemic of 1918/19 many local children died and were quickly buried in mass graves in the oldest part of the cemetery.

Confey (6) (640x426)


Upon entering the site the first thing which you will notice is a plaque left during some restoration works carried out by Kildare County Council back in 2000-2001. It’s a rather poor rectangular structure which has been overgrown by ivy in parts and surrounded by some rather decrepit looking trees. Although the church was said to have been is use by 1200AD, it appears to have been built in three different periods. The original structure believed to date back to the 11th century would have been nothing more than a single cell structure. So the chances of this site having any direct connection to Columbus whom was also known in Ireland as Colmcille are rather slim considering that he died in 597AD.

Confey (8) (640x426)

Confey (9) (640x426)

This structure was then converted into a nave followed by the addition of a chancel and chancel arch to its eastern end in the 12th-century. The extension of the Nave to the west was the final stage of its construction which is believed to have taken place in the 15th century. This final addition to the west end of the nave has since collapsed, but there is surviving evidence of a doorway with segmented arch in the west end of the south wall, along with traces of a possible opposing bricked up doorway in the north wall.

Confey (10) (640x426)

Confey (11) (640x426)

The nave is lit by two extremely narrow windows at the east end of the south wall, one of which is lintelled, while the other is round-arched with a tympanum-stone under the arch giving a square-headed ope. There are two further windows in the chancel, near the east end of its north and south walls, with a third and final window in the east gable wall of the nave. The interior contains a number of 18th/19th century burials marked by headstones, and piles of collapsed masonry.

Confey (12) (640x426)

Confey (13) (640x426)

Whilst it is possible to walk around the entire structure once you leave the relative safety of the stone slabs the ground becomes quite deceivingly uneven. The graveyard contains a various assortment of cut-stone grave markers from the 18th-20th centuries, along with some intriguing Crosses. Although the site is surrounded by woodland which gives a rather deceiving impression of seclusion there is a gap in the trees to the north of the chancery, where you will find a rather precarious ditch which once crossed leads you to an adjacent field where you can find the ruins of Confey Castle to the North East. Now unfortunately as is the case, Time had gotten the better of me and I was unable to make my way to explore what remains are left of this ruined castle but rest assured I shall return and my findings shall be posted here.

Confey (14) (640x426)

Confey (15) (640x426)

These ruins are a great find and well worth a visit, unfortunately even though set in a lovely secluded area surrounded by trees, I did not enjoy my visit here as much as I would have expected. A rather unpleasant & unexplainable feeling overcame me whilst on the grounds which overshadowed what would have normally been an enjoyable time for me. Now I am not easily creeped out or spooked by things but my gut told me that something here was just not right. After I put this down to perhaps the children’s graveyard had had some sort of negative effect on me but who knows? When I come back to explore the Castle ruins I intend to spend more time at the site of the church to try to figure out what had caused this unusual experience.

Confey (16) (640x426)

Confey (17) (640x426)

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
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53 Responses to Church Ruins of St. Columba

  1. I enjoyed you post. I just saw the Celtic exhibit in the British Museum, London Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was that rabbit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jfwknifton says:

    It certainly looks a very spooky place, but then again, so do so many of the beautiful ruins that you photograph. I think you were born too late, You could have been the person who sought out locations for Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee films!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thats a big compliment. I only recently started to watch these guys Hammer films. I guess what they lacked in special effects was made up for with atmosphere. Something that these wonderful old sites aare bursting with. What a dream job that would have been 🙂


  4. Darlene says:

    This is indeed an intriguing place. The children´s graves would have creeped me out for sure. I tend to enjoy exploring these old graveyards and reading the gravestones. Your photographs are excellent and convey the feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. TanGental says:

    Very evocative Ed

    Liked by 1 person

  6. noelleg44 says:

    The pictures are a bit spooky. Interesting that you sensed something. It could have been the childrens’ grave or something else traumatic happened there, Who is St. Columba? Why a Saint?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dont know what it was, just a not nice feeling, strange really. Columba was one of irelands best known saints, also known as Colmcille. But I could find no connection between the two. I guess the church was just named after him?


  7. oglach says:

    Lovely photos, as always. Now about the feelings you had; have you ever walked into an empty room and sensed that someone had been there recently? I’m sure you have. I get the same feeling at cemeteries, ruins and churches. I think it’s just a natural sensitivity to people who have been somewhere before we arrived. (And you’re right; not a pleasant feeling.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, but it is not always a bad feeling. Some places can have a happy/friendly vibe. And it can happen anywhere. I recall one such episode at an old castle. Everything was going fine and I was wandering around exploring for about an hour, before I got a rather overwhelming sense of!
      I took this as a sign to leave, so I dont know what caused it, perhaps its an extra sense or maybe whatever was present there got fed up with me being there?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sue says:

    You do have a way of making even the smallest ruined structure look a little eerie, Ed….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. beetleypete says:

    As always, Ed, your atmospheric B+W shots tell the story as well as the words that accompany them. Nice work.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ed, did you not see the feckin’ rabbit in the last picture?
    A bit that one, no?
    I like the pictures as always Ed and the story is insightful and intelligent. I have always like the crosses with the round circle on the and the celtic patterns.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. avemi says:

    I love cemeteries…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. fantastic images and post Ed. I visited St. Columba’s island on the Isle of Skye. There is an ancient Pictish graveyard there. St. Columba certainly got around!! I’d love to visit this site when next in Ireland!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rajiv says:

    Fantastic. I shall be back this weekend, with the history challenge

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Diane Tibert says:

    I’m amazed by the images. These are places that beg to be explored. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Intriguing images. I really like that you included the second one with the lettering. Give a solid sense of place. Next favorite would be the 3rd one.
    There are stories there – apparently so many reaching out to you at once it was stirring up chords. When you go back you’ll be forewarned and more prepared for the oddness maybe? Any local tales about the place and occurrences there? Bet you aren’t the first to feel it.
    Always enjoy your destinations!


  16. Great atmospheric images, Ed.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. zoetravel says:

    Amazing photos Ed. One can actually feel the history in your photos. Very authentic. Keep moving brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gacochran says:

    Thanks for the visit and like. I look forward to viewing and hearing about more Ruin Hunts!


  19. Amanda says:

    Beautiful pictures! I’m a “sensitive” to haunted places and just by looking at your pictures and reading how you felt, I think the children there were probably wondering why you were there. Did you feel like you were being watched the entire time? That was them. 🙂 Anyways, great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Amanda, so glad you liked them. I find im quite sensitive to subtle energies too. Although Im not sure I felt the presence of children. So many mistakingly believe that spirits reside where they are buried. I believe that they morst likely visit places of importance such as a family home or if they died traumatically, they might be drawn to the place of their death.
      I didnt feel I was being watched, but just got an unnerving sensation around the rear of the chapel, this came on after about 20 minutes so I took it as my time to leave. I get it quite a bit at these old sites, although rarely in a cemetery. Sometimes it hits you like a bus. Sometimes it is welcoming such as Rath Grainne at the Hill of Tara and sometimes not such as a rather forcefull encounter I had at Skyrne. Then alot of places are rather uneventfull. But I always listen and act accordingly 🙂


  20. jazzfeathers says:

    This is a beautiful palce. Such haunting atmosphere. The pictures of the cemetery are particularly moving, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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