Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
The other day my travels brought me to the southern end of County Kildare , so come along with me on a drive to visit two interesting monastic settlements that are hidden just off the beaten track.
In fact long ago I would pass right by these places on the main road from Dublin to Kilkenny, but nowadays we have a modern motorway that speeds us along the way and although a much better and safer way to drive – we don’t get to see so many of the sights as we go along. It’s a typical June day in Ireland , heavy downpours of rain followed by bright sunshine , so as you look at my photos your eyes are not deceiving you !
Let’s stop at the pretty village of Moone, and take a right turn up a winding road to visit the historic monastery. It’s hidden behind a heavy wooden gate and up a damp and soggy path but wait until you see what’s standing here.
The monastery is believed to have been established by St. Palladius in the 5th century and dedicated to St Columcille in the 6th century. The 10th century granite cross is the second tallest high cross in Ireland.( the tallest at Monasterboice where we went a few weeks ago ! ) The shape and style are quite unique. It consists of three parts, a base, a shaft and a head. The head or upper part and the base were discovered in the graveyard of the abbey in 1835 and re-erected on the church grounds as a complete cross. In 1893 the middle section of the shaft was discovered and the cross was reconstructed to its original size. Now standing at 7.04 metres tall, about 23 feet , the cross has been re-erected inside the ruins of the medieval church.
The theme of the cross is the help of God, how God came to assist people during their hour of need. Another unusual feature of this cross is that all the biblical scenes appear on the base of the cross. Daniel in the lions pit, the three children in the fiery furnace, the fall of man and the miracle of the loaves and fishes are amongst the scenes depicted. All four sides of the shaft are decorated with animal or bird carvings. At the centre of the head on the west face is an ancient spiral sun and another pre-Christian sun symbol – the lozenge can been seen below it. A resurrected Christ is depicted at the centre of the head on the east face. Nearby there are fragments of other crosses. Clearly this was an important place of worship all those years ago!
Luckily the Cross is covered by a modern roof, not only will this help preserve the cross, but it is keeping us dry as the rain is coming down in Buckets.
Let’s make a dash to the car and travel for about 10 minutes southwards along the old road to the village of Castledermot. It is another pretty village that has now become sleepy as most of the traffic uses the motorway. Lets turn left to visit the church of St. James, which now stands on the old monastic site.
The Monastery was founded here around 800 AD by St. Dermot, after whom the village is named. It was plundered on several occasions by Viking raiders, but luckily fragments of the old church, two high crosses and the portion of the round tower still survive.
Once again, Like Moone, the crosses are carved from Granite and are rich in decoration with scenes from the bible. Although much less tall , and more eroded , we can make out Adam and Eve, the sacrifice of Isaac and Daniel in the lion’s den. The round tower stands at some 20 metres/ 66 feet and is made using granite stones. It’s said to date from the 10th Century. Nearby the splendid romanesque doorway from the old church has been restored and it’s amazing to see the detailed carving on the archway . Hidden in the long grass is the base of a third high cross and there are some carved grave slabs too ! However it’s so wet underfoot I don’t want to risk getting you too soaked so we had better keep to the paths !
We have been so unlucky with the dreadful weather today; every time we have got out of the car the heavens have opened so we will have to forgo visiting anywhere else today – sure there’s always a next time! Let’s head home , and I do hope that you enjoyed coming with me today .
Take care until next time and stay safe , Stephen.