Kilmalkedar

Romanesque Church

This Early Christian and later Medieval site is spread over a large area of around 10 acres. Although the history of this site is associated with St Brendan it is thought to have been founded by St Maolcethair, a local saint. At the centre of this area is the 12th century Hiberno-Romanesque Church pictured right. It consists of a Nave and Chancel wth the chancel being a later addition. The church is thought to have been modeled on Cormac's Chapel at Cashel and there are many similarities. The church like Cormacs Chapel is one of a number of stone-roofed churches in Ireland. The first thing to look out for are the three finials sticking up above the gables.

From the South West

Hiberno-Romanesque Doorway

Access to the church is through a gorgeous inclined romanesque doorway. It has three orders and a round head with a projecting hood made from red and green stone. The green keystone, seen in the image left is a carved head. Inside the Nave there is blind arcading also similar to Cormac's Chapel. The Chancel arch pictured below, is also beautifully decorated in the romanesque style. The Saint's Road, a pilgrimage trail to Mount Brandon passes between the Church and St Brendan's House. Give yourself plenty of time if you are planning a visit as there are so many interesting antiquities here at Kilmalkedar. Amongst them, the Alphabet Stone, a holed ogham stone, a sun dial, a large stone cross, two Holy Wells, two Bullaun stones, St Brendans Oratory and numerous cross slabs.

Blind Arcading in the Nave

The Chancel Arch

The Alphabet Stone

Now erected inside the church next to the chancel arch, the alphabet stone stands at 1.22 metres high, the stone was originally taller but the top has been broken off. The west face of this stone is inscribed with the latin alphabet in half uncial script dating to the 6th century and an earlier inscription with the letters DNI meaning Domini. The south face shown right, has an inscribed Latin cross with scrolled terminals. The north face has an inscribed cross but only a scrolled terminal and stem remain. This would have been a beautiful inscribed stone when it was originally carved. It is very hard to photograph this stone without proper lighting. There are a number of other carvings situated around the inside of the church.

 

Ogham Stone

Situated on the northern side of the pathway that leads you to the romanesque church this wonderful holed ogham stone stands at 1.83 metres in height and measures 0.24 metres in width at the base. The inscription reads,

ANN M(AI)LE INBIR MACI BROCANN

A second inscription on the south side reads either ANM or M(A)QI.

This stone may have been a standing stone with the ogham writing added during the early christian period. I love this particular stone, it adds so much more interest to the site. There are a number of standing stones with holes, Doagh in Antrim , Cloch a' Phoill in Carlow and this early christian pillar stone at Gleanncholmcille are excellent examples.

The Sundial

This pillar stands at 1.23 metres high and the rectangular shaft and the semi-circular head have a smooth finish. The south east face of the head is divided into four equal sections by lines radiating from the gnomon hole. The north west face of the head is decorated with a cross of arcs. It is now believed that the cross of arcs was a symbol of pilgrimage. The symbol appears on many stones associated with pilgrimages or pilgrimage routes. The sundial is situated on the outh side of the pathway as you approach the church and very close to the Saints Road. Near to the pilgrimage site at Ballyvourney in county Cork is another stone bearing the cross of arcs. Sundials are also present at a number of other christian sites including Monasterboice in Meath and Clone in County Wexford.

Stone Cross

Also situated on the southside of the pathway is a stone cross standing at 2.5 metres high. The cross bears a very simple rectangular design on the west face. The east face is plain. During excavations it was discovered that 1.8 metres of the shaft lay below ground level. Not sure about the date but it does look like very early cross.

St Brendan's House

To the north of the church is a two storey medieval building known as St Brendan's House or the Priest's House. Close to the south east corner is St Brendan's Holy Well. Unfortunately the landowner has a large gate across the pathway denying access. It is such a shame that something cannot be agreed. The house has been repointed recently. Since my last visit to Kilmalkedar I have learned that the house and holy well are now officially opened to the public. March 2013.

Situated: From Dingle head west on the R 559 then turn right for Baile na Fheirtearaigh , also the R 559. The church is on your right about 7 kilometres from Dingle.

Discovery Map 70: Q 4023 0622. Last visit July 2011.

Longitude:  10° 20' 11" W

Latitude:  52° 11' 5" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

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