'St. Declan's Church' : Church

Grid RefX 189 774
GPSX 18862 77378 (5m)
Longitude7° 43' 32.32" W
Latitude51° 56' 53.94" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownYoughal (8.1 Km)
OS Sheet82
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192

This is a subsite of:

Ardmore - Round Tower
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 23rd June 2002

From the moment I saw a picture of the west wall of this church I have wanted to visit here. It really does have to rate amongst Ireland's best eclesiastical sites.

Lying in the shadow of the round tower the church is a roofless ruin now, but the carvings on the west end are special. The images are, like many of the sculpted high crosses biblical scenes - the nicest of which is the Adam and Eve.

I was advised to visit in the afternoon so that the west end was lit by the sun. As it turned out I got here approaching sunset on a beautifully clear day and so the end wall and carvings were lit up bright orange and well defined by shadow. I would recommend this approach to everyone.

Round Towers are found all over Ireland. They are very tall towers associated with early monastic settlements. Their purpose is one of much debate: were they bell towers, look-out towers or were they defensive structures, built to protect the sites relics and books during Viking raids? Maybe they were all three! The high-set doors certainly give the impression that some element of defense was considered in their construction.

Internally they had four or five floors, each accessed via a ladder from the floor below. Not every floor had a window, but the top floor usually had four windows which aligned to the cardinal points of the compass. The one at Kells (County Meath) unusually has five windows on the top floor which point at the five gates to the town.

Not many of the eighty plus examples left are full height these days. Many crumbled and were taken down for safety purposes. Some, however, are still very impressive inded with Kilmacduagh (County Galway) reaching an incredible 35m tall.

Originally all of them would have had a conical roof and those that still possess this feature give the impression of being ready to blast off into space.

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Sunday, 4th February 2007

As it was just after midday when I arrived here and I had realised that the sun would be lighting up the the west end of the church at any moment I sat around waiting for it to happen. I waited for an hour! The west wall does not face due west at all. However, it was worth the wait. At around one o'clock the sun finally started to light up the carvings on this wall.

By one thirty all the panels were highlighted and many details I hadn't previously noticed were now visible. Two panels that I didn't think had anything on them do contain very eroded figures. One of these appears to be someone riding a horse - perhaps Jesus entering Jeruselum.

As well as the wonderful Adam and Eve panel and the depiction of the Judgement of Solomon I really like the Weighing of the Souls panel. This is very simple, but very clear: a floating set of unbalanced scales has two demons pulling down on them. Hanging from one of the pans there is a small figure, clutching on for the sake of saving his soul.

Sadly the church was locked, so I could not take another look at the ogham stones within. There was no indication of whether the key is availabe from anywhere.

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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