IRELAND'S TALLEST ROUND TOWER
If you are looking for a unique and historic attraction in Ireland, you might want to visit the Round Tower at Kilmacduagh in Galway. This impressive structure is not only the tallest round tower in Ireland, but also one of the most ancient and well-preserved.
A round tower is a type of medieval stone tower that is found mainly in Ireland, but also in Scotland, Wales and other parts of Europe. They are usually cylindrical, with a conical or pyramidal roof, and have a single door that is several meters above the ground. They have narrow windows that are placed high up on the walls, and often have four or more floors inside.
The exact purpose and origin of these towers are still debated by scholars, but some of the possible functions include:
– Bell towers: The towers may have been used to call the faithful to prayer, or to announce important events or emergencies.
– Watchtowers: The towers may have served as lookout posts to warn of approaching enemies or raiders.
– Refuges: The towers may have provided a safe place for the monks and their valuables to retreat to in case of attack. The elevated door and windows would make it difficult for invaders to enter or damage the tower.
– Symbols: The towers may have represented the prestige and authority of the monastic community, or served as landmarks for pilgrims and travelers.
The round towers were built between the 9th and 13th centuries, during a period of political and religious turmoil in Ireland. They were often associated with monastic settlements that were founded by Irish saints and missionaries. Many of these monasteries were raided and plundered by Vikings, Normans and other invaders, but some of the towers survived and remain standing today.
One of the most remarkable examples of a round tower is the one at Kilmacduagh, a monastic site near Gort in County Galway. This tower is the tallest in Ireland, measuring 34.5 meters (113 feet) high, and has a circumference of 17 meters (56 feet) at the base. It also has a noticeable lean of over half a meter (1.6 feet) from the vertical, earning it the nickname “the leaning tower of Kilmacduagh”.
The tower was built sometime between the 10th and 12th centuries, as part of a monastery that was founded by Saint Colman MacDuagh in the 7th century. According to legend, Saint Colman was walking through the woods of the Burren when his girdle fell to the ground. He took this as a sign from God to build his monastery on that spot. The girdle was said to be studded with gems and was later held by the O’Shaughnessys, a local clan that claimed descent from Saint Colman.
The monastery became the center of a new diocese, the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, which means “the church of Duagh’s son”. It was a wealthy and influential institution that attracted many pilgrims and scholars. However, it also suffered from several attacks by raiders and invaders over the centuries. The Reformation in the 16th century effectively ended its religious life, but some of its buildings remained intact.
The round tower at Kilmacduagh is one of these surviving structures. It has a single door that is 8 meters (26 feet) above the ground, which would have been accessed by a rope ladder. It has four windows that face the cardinal directions, and two more windows near the top that face northeast and southwest. The roof is made of stone slabs that form a cone shape. The tower has four internal floors that are connected by wooden ladders.
The tower is remarkable for its height, condition and lean. It is taller than any other round tower in Ireland, and taller than most other medieval buildings in Europe. It is also one of the most externally intact towers, with only minor repairs done over the years. The lean is probably due to subsidence of the soft soil beneath it, but it has not affected its stability or integrity.
The tower is situated in a graveyard that contains several other ruins from the monastic site, such as churches, crosses and tombs. The site offers a splendid view of the surrounding landscape, which is part of the karst region known as the Burren. The limestone rock that was used to build the tower and other buildings blends well with the natural scenery.
The round tower at Kilmacduagh is a majestic and mysterious monument that reflects the rich and turbulent history of Ireland. It is a testament to the skill and faith of the medieval builders who erected it, and a symbol of the enduring legacy of Saint Colman and his followers. It is a must-see attraction for anyone who is interested in Irish culture and heritage.
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