The chancel

Innisfallen Abbey

I had seen the large cruisers heading out from Ross Island across Lough Leane and presumed they stopped at Innisfallen. After a few enquiries I discovered the trips to the island were via a small row boat with an outboard engine. The weather was quite changeable that day with frequent showers, so for more reasons than one I was delighted to set foot on the island. The first foundation on the island is often accredited to St Finian the Leper, but it was more than likely, established by St Finan Cam. Nothing remains from that early settlement. Towards the end of the 12th century the Augustinian Canons were in control of the abbey and most of the buildings we see today are from that period. The abbey church is the first building you see as you approach the island.

West end of abbey church

Domestic building

Cloister garth

Bullaun stone

The church which dates to the 12th century was known as The Priory of St Mary. It is believed the west end of the nave may be part of an an earlier church with antae belonging to the 10th century. The twin-light east window is beautifully chamfered using sandstone. In the southwest corner of the nave is the bullaun pictured above right. On the northern side of the abbey lie the remains of the cloisters and various domestic buildings probably dating to the 13th century. Further west is a long rectangular building known as the abbot's church.

Mask on capital

The Abbot's Church

Romanesque Church

The nave and chancel of this 15 metre long church are divided by a reconstructed romanesque archway. The original entrance is in the south wall and a modern one has been built into the north wall. In the image below you can see the remains of the chancel arch, which survives up to the springers. On the top northern jamb is a decorated sandstone capital bearing a mask traditionally believed to represent St Finan. Attached to the west gable is another rectangular chamber. There are several other structures on the island including a Romanesque oratory, the low walls of yet another church and the possible remains of a clochan.

Situated: On Lough Leane, Killarney. There are boat trips out to the Island from Ross Castle. There is an information board with a phone number to ring at the pier. 10 euro per person.

Discovery Map 78: V 9339 8942. Last visit May 2013.

Longitude: 9° 33' 15" W

Latitude: 52° 2' 48" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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