Sketching Ireland #4

Had to Stop at Castledermot


Well, I’m back on the M9. I had to work myself back to Ballytore. Okay, I confess! I cheated! I flew back over the mountains back to my last stop on the M9.

It’s kinda funny, but the first leg of this Irish tour was suppose to be at Kilkenny. I hope you all don’t mind me making these extra stops. Because… hahaha… I’m making another “un-itinerary’ stop. It is a small town just off the M9, named Castledermot. At first, by its name, I thought there was castle about. But Castledermot (in County Kildare) was originally called ‘Diseart Diarmad’; meaning ‘Dermot’s Hermitage’. Now, there is a castle about 4-5 miles away, across the M9 from Castledermot. It was modernly refurbished into a hotel overlooking a golf course. I decided to focus on the small town.

Ruins of Franciscan Friary


Believe it or not, this tiny town had historical significance. And to my delight I found part of it right on the main road just across a gas station. It was a ruin of a Franciscan friary which was once a very important ecclesiastical centre in this part of Ireland. This ‘frontier’ location was significant enough to attract many unwanted visitors over the years. It was attacked by Vikings in 841 and 867, the Normans in 1169, Edward the Bruce in 1316, the McMurroughs in 1405 and 1427, the Crown forces in 1530 and of course good old Cromwell whose forces destroyed most of the place in 1650. The town had been so important at one stage that it was allowed to mint its own coins. By 1850 however Castledermot was described as having ‘neither trade nor manufacture’ and is now wholly dependent on agriculture. [content from Wikipedia]

The sketch I made is of the inside of the friary showing the oldest intact stone window in Western Europe. It is believed the Franciscan Friary in Castledermot or Thrisledermot, as it was known at that time, was founded by Walter de Riddlesford II in the early part of the 13th century. All that remains of the Friary today is an undifferentiated nave and chancel church, with a 14th century aisle and transept added to the northside. There are three side chapels on the eastern side of the transept. An unusual feature of the building is the defensive tower attached to the south side of the church. [content from Wikipedia]

St Dairmuid’s Monastic Site

About 2 blocks from the ruins is an older monastic site founded by St Dairmuid back at 815 or 818 CE. He was the son of Dairmait, high king of Ireland, and was an abbot and bishop. However, he died in 823 CE not long after founding his monastery. His feast-day is held on 23rd June.


Today, you’ll find in the ancient monastic site, the church of St James (which is modern) and a round tower, now somewhat damaged, dating from the 10th century. You’ll also find the foundations of a ruined church, a reconstructed Romanesque doorway (arch), grave-slabs dating from the 8th-12th century and two 9th century High Crosses.

Castledermot High Crosses  St Dairmuid s Cross   Ancient Cross   The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map .pngA high cross or standing cross is a free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated. The best preserved of the two high crosses, the North Cross, stands at 10 feet tall and is made of granite. On it’s base (front) there is a hunting scene, while on the back the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The shaft (front) has panels depicting biblical scenes, including David with his harp and Adam and Eve. The central panel between the wheel-head (heaven) shows the crucifixion of Christ.

The South Cross has only the granite shaft remaining but the detail, although worn, shows Daniel in the lion’s den in the lower panel (front) while the top panel has the sacrifice of Isaac; the middle panel has Celtic interlacing and spirals (front and back).

Castledermot-holed-stone-w.jpgIn the graveyard is a holed stone that was formerly known as the ‘swearing stone’. A ringed cross is carved on one face of the stone and the circular hole extends through the centre of the cross. The purpose of this stone is somewhat enigmatic, but it is suggested that it may have been used during wedding ceremonies or for swearing oaths or allegiances in early Christian times. [contents by]

After Castledermot, there is one other stop before we reach Kilkenny, the large town of Carlow. I hope to see you then.


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Thank you.

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