Old Churches

Today, I booked a ride with Kilkenny Taxi to take me out into the wilds of Co. Kilkenny to see some interesting ruins. I had wanted to see Jerpoint Abbey and Kells Priory, and Paul, the driver, suggested I add Kilree as well, as it was right in the area and pretty cool.

So, he picked me up around 11:30, and off we went. The day was generally overcast and not terribly warm, but though it looked to be threatening rain, that never materialized.

Jerpoint Abbey was built in the 12th century, with some expansion and decoration up to the 16th century. There was some restoration started in the 1950s, and it’s ongoing today.

The towers out front are in pretty good repair, for being 800 years old, though a lot of the restoration work is replacing the mortar.
These buildings were for the monks. The lay brothers would have had separate buildings that don’t exist any more. And the whole thing would have been enclosed in two sets of walls.Those walls also don’t exist any longer, but the abbey complex has it’s own walls, binding the buildings together.
They’ve restored part of the cloister arcade, starting in the 1950s. The pillars were apparently all carved at one time, with images of saints, churchmen, and mythical creatures, and many were painted. They’ve only got two sides done, right now.
There’s a lot of carving all around the place, much of it preserved from it’s original dates rather than restored, like the cloister pillars. Here’s a very lovely St. Christopher.
Here are a couple of carved tombs still in the church area.
Another carved tomb, this one with several of the apostles.
This carved tomb marker has two soldiers on it, and is referred to as The Brethren. Apparently the tomb had been in the floor, and a lot of that is being dug up as part of the restoration efforts.
This was an interesting thing in one of the small display rooms in the abbey. It’s an ogham stone. Ogham inscriptions are generally pre-Christian, so I assume this one was found on the abbey lands, rather than something the religious community here would have made.

We left Jerpoint Abbey after the tour, and made our way over the Kilree. On the way, Paul took us through the Mount Juliet estate, showing off the lovely golf course, gardens, and houses.

Kilree is a little site, with a small cemetary, a ruined church, a round tower, and a high cross.

The little cemetary is shrouded in heavy trees. It’s a very picturesque place.
The church at Kilree no longer has a roof, but there are still some tended graves inside it.
This is the round tower at Kilree. It rises up out of a little grove of trees, and you can see it quite a ways off.
There’s a high cross out in the field. It’s not that tall – maybe six feet – but still pretty cool. There’s also a sign saying that there’s a bull loose in the field. We didn’t see it, but the ground around the rails surrounding the cross was all churned up in a very cattle-like way.

Then, it was on to Kells Priory, a 12th century site. This one hasn’t been as maintained or restored as Jerpoint Abbey, and is an open site – no visitor centre or admission or tours. But it looks like they’ve recently1 started doing some restoration work.

The priory is down a pretty significant hill. You have to walk through a sheep pasture to get to the outer wall. The sheep were kind of grumpy, bleating loudly as we walked through.
Down the hill, and through the gate, into the outer ward of the priory.
The buildings of the priory aren’t anywhere near as preserved as at Jerpoint, but are nicely picturesque.
Here’s a shot of the cloister and the inner wall. You can faintly see the white-shrouded tower in the background – that one is currently undergoing restoration

The walk up the hill was significantly more punishing than the walk down it. By the time we made it back to Kilkenny2, I was pretty wiped out. I started working on this post, but was going to fall asleep if I stayed in the hotel room, so I walked down to a nearby theatre and went to a movie. After that, I grabbed some dinner, and came to finish up the blog.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a day trip by train to Waterford and going on a walking tour there. Should be a fun day.

  1. Like, in the last five years or so. []
  2. After a quick detour to drive around Kieran’s College, which is a cool looking school. []