refer only to the building characteristics discussed,
from different irish sites; none of clonamery church
oratories and churches erected
in the early centuries of Christianity in Ireland are
architecturally humble, but they have a special interest.
They were evolved, unlike those of Western Europe in the
same period, in almost entire inadvertance of Roman
building traditions. The use of mortar and the knowledge
of the round arch, for instance, must have come to
Ireland from the continent.
to Glendalough Lara, the ancient Wicklow monastic site,
demonstrates the 'round arch
Irish churches were very simple buildings, simple
character structures with no divisions into nave and
chancel. The most unusual proportion is the short oblong,
that in which the length is seldom greater than
one-and-a-half times the breadth.The general style of
masonry unwrought or roughly dressed stones not laid in
regular courses.many stones are of a massive size not
often found in modern masonry. There was indeed a strong
preference for such stones in particular, but by no means
always, in the lower parts of walls and around an
entrance door way as at Clonamery.
building characteristically observable in Clonamery is
the 'batter' or slightly inward sloping walls.The earth
or mud-built cottages - survivals of a fast vanishing, an
old and practical tradition - are also examples. In
Ireland there are many buildings of dry stone and the
technique of any stone fence or wall building still lives
on. Stability in such structures is still sought and
obtained by 'battering', which gives a measure of
security against the slipping or spreading of the
The 'battering in the case of Clonamery is
subtle - a matter of but a few inches in the height of
the walls. In part it is barely perceptible.Though
adopted for practical reasons in the first place. the
'batter' seems to have been retained in later works as a
grace. The batter is very conspicuous in the round towers
and without it they would lack all grace and something in
the sense of stability.
The 'battering' on the west wall of this church is on the
inside instead of the outside, a most unusual feature.
The sloping doorway was erected to harmonise with the
'battered' walls of the church. A cross in relief -
called 'pattee' in heraldry - is chisselled over the
ornamental moulding around the door. from this descendst
to left and right across the top of the door and down the
sides to the ground, a scroll or border, also in relief.
In this door the large stones are exceedingly well
wrought and fitted, giving to the opening permanence and
massiveness, even a degree of majesty.
DESCRIPTION OF CLONAMERY
The ancient parish of this church was a
small one consisting of five townlands only and is now
united to Inistioge. There is some doubt as to the
meaning of the word Clonamery and as to the identity of
the patron saint. Canon Carrigan states the true patron
is a local saint of the name of Broonahawn. Also he
suggest that the name of this place was the Plain of
Ainmire - a less likely interpretation being the lawn or
meadow of the Ridge.
Cluain - a meadow, pastureland, a plain between
two woods, a watershed- Dinneen
mearog or meirin - small as of little finger - Dinneen
Broonahawn: bruinne - the
verge, the brink
/ bruinnim - I well forth
/ huat -whitethorn tree
/ heing - a call - Dinneen
The patronage of the Church of Cloone must
be assigned not to St. Brendan, whose name and fame are
celebrated in all our martyrologies, but to St.
Broonahawn, whose name survives only in the traditions of
this locality. His pattern day was held on the 16th May,
but I am sorry to state that his Holy Well was destroyed
over 100 years ago. I am told its remains are quite close
to another road leading to the Quay at Clonamery
The gable over the entrance is a reconstruction built of
small rubble, which contrasts strongly with the large
stones of the wall below. A relieving arch has been
worked over the doorway and over this there is a plain
roughly built window. The gable terminates in a bell-cote
with space for two small bells - one contained the
sanctus bell, and the other the bell for calling the
people to prayer, which was a custom in the early church.
There is another window in the south-wall near the east
end. It is now closed by a monumental tablet inserted in
1860. It is said that the dressings had disappeared
before the tablet was erected. In the north wall the only
feature is a doorway; it is three feet eleven inches wide
and suggests a doorway long built-up. Possibly an opening
into a side building rather than an external doorway. No
trace, however, remains of any such building.
The chancel is built of small slatey flag-stones and is
bonded to the nave at one point only in each wall; the
walls being two feet four inches in thickness. The
southwall contains a doorway and a window, the doorway is
roundheaded - six feet two inches in height and two feet
four inches wide, rebated and sprayed internally.
In the east wall at the north side is a doorway which
opens into the sacristy or mortuary chapel; this doorway
is partially destroyed and its dimensions are uncertain.
This sacristy is lighted by a window looking east. The
walls are not bonded to those of the chancel.
Several curved or shaped stones have been found near the
church, the most interesting being a pillar-stone of
early date. It was found in the graveyard outside. It is
formed of greenish slate-rock and bears three crosses and
two circular hollows or cup-marks. First a cup,
two-and-a-half inches in diameter and finally below this
a simple cross in relief. the combination of cross and
cup-marks has been found in monuments in the district
immediately south of Dublin, but not apparently
elsewhere. It is therefore of interest, to meet one so
far away, in southern Kilkenny.
A small 18thCentury tombstone is mentioned bt Carrigan.
This is from the chisel of a stone-cutter named Darby
O'Brien of Rathpatrick, who florished during the first
quarter of the 18thCentury. It bears a cross and border
in relief, also the inscription : "Here lyeth the
body of Silvester Wh(it)e" The name is White, two of
the letters, which are in relief, having been sealed off.
It seems curious that this church, though of the most
remote antiquity, and possessed of so much interest, has
been altogether overlooked by the careful and laborious
Petrie in his great work on early Irish ecclesiastical
On some of the single chamber churchs chancels were added
at a period subsequent to their erection. The date of the
first appearance in Ireland of this type of church is a
matter of doubt. It has been suggested that it was in the
11thCentury at the earliest ; that it may be a logical
result of the Reform movement which gained impetus about
the beginning of the 12thCentury. Possibly the change
points to a steady increase inpopulation bringing with it
larger congregations and and increased necessity for
marked differentation between the space for the people
and the sanctuary. It seems not unreasonable to assume
that the earliest churches with severed nave and chancel
may belong to the 10thCentury and that the addition of
chancels to single chamber churches has an equal
Traditions states that the church continued in use till
1691, when Edward Fitzgerald of Cloone Castle fell in the
Battle of Aughrim.
Up the river is a townland one time owned by
the Dobbyn family and forfeited in 1653. Under date 1118
the Four Masters record that a mermaid was taken bu the
fishermen in the Weir. Inside the perimeter walls of
Inistioge Church is an effigy of a mermaid, probably from
the cloister of the Monastry that once stood in
Inistioge, likely to commemorate the incident.
Thr Irish Church speedily developed monastic
centres not only evangelistic but also educational in
purpose. Frome these settlements went forth those
missionaries, teachers and servites to Britain and the
Continent who are still remembered in places remothe from
the homeland. The monastic centres of the early Irish
Church were very similar to those of the earliest
monastic centres of Syria and Egypt. That is to say,
associations of monks, each dwelling under self-imposed
discipline in seperate cells grouped with others around
The most austere among Irish holy men sought even greater
isolation as hermits and built their cells and oratories
in relatively inaccessible and often inhospitable places.
a constant feature of these early hermitages and
monastries, small or large, was its enclosure; an
encircling rampart of earth and stone. This was as
necessary to a Monastry as to a farmhous of the times
and, for the hermit, it served also to shut out
everything but the heavens from his sight and thoughts.
In hagiographical literature there are
numerous references to the gifts of forts or duns given
to the Church by newly converted Chiefs of the tribes. An
erroneous impression exists that this work was carried on
by greybeards, but we have only to look around at the
amount of laborious work involved, even in the remains of
the buildings here today, to appreciate that this work
was carried out by young and virile men. In early
centuries life was stronger and religion was more of a
driving force in the life of the ordinary man.
Survivors of stone architecture of early
Christian times are the beehive huts of clochans. They
were built upon the castle principle; a structural method
of great antiquity, first practised in Ireland, as far as
we can judge, by the Bronze Age builders of the great
passage graves of Newgrange. In the typical clochan the
corbel principle is well applied. Each course of
stonework was laid without mortar and nearly
horizontally, overhanging by small measure the course
below. As it rised the building gradually narrows until
its arch can be closed by a single slab and the dome then
be finished by more stones to secure it closer in
position and complete the beehive outline.
One of these clochans was fourteen feet in diameter, the
other eleven. There is a tradition here that a monastry
existed at this spot in ancient times. Should this have
reference to some period anterior to the 13thCentury,
when the Church of Cloon became prebendal, it is no doubt
correct. It is plain no monastry could have existed after
prepared this paper to be read to the Kilkenny
Archaeological Society and Billy Kirwan, Inistioge's
local historian, again, as of nearly all the articles
printed in The Handstand of Inistioge history, provided
me with this text.
people, I am sure, have often heard of the
poetess, Mary Tighe. She spent many days in walks
on the opposite side of the river from Clonamery
Church, communing with nature. Few poets have
achieved such rapid fame on so slender an output.
Her single volume of verse, Psyche, was
published in 1801, and atonce ran into numerous
editions. It was translated into French and
pirated in America. Thomas More, who incidentally
resided close to here for some time, addressed a
poem to the author called "To Miss Tighe On
Reading Her Psyche" Literary critics in
England hailed it as a work of genius, today it
is almost forgotten.
Miss Tighe who was the daughter of a Church of
Ireland clergyman, the Librarian of Marsh's
Library, Dublin, married her cousin Henry Tighe.
Her married life was unhappy and her health
suffered in consequence. She died in 1810 at the
early age of 37. As a girl her beauty and talents
made her the centre of attraction at the
Viceregal Court, and she had the distinction of
having her portrait painted by Romney.
the Banim brothers laid the scenes of some of
their novels in the woods opposite Clonmaery
Church. the literary partnership of John and
Michael Banim was a happy and fruitful one, and
of the volumes which they published Michael could
claim a little more than half ! The two best,
"Crohoore of the Billhook" and
"Father Connell" were his.
It could be that
Mary Tighe entitled her poetry collection after
Keats' poem "Psyche"