Irish Round Towers

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to do a post that was somewhat related to him.  I feel a sort of affinity for Saint Patrick.  Like me, he was born and raised in Wales but captured by Irishmen and dragged over to Ireland where his spirituality blossomed.  I’m exaggerating somewhat, for effect, but you get the idea I hope.croptower

Since I moved to Ireland in 2000, I have wondered about the round towers that one sees dotted about the landscape.  Above is a photo of one at Turlough that I took last year. I was driving past it regularly back then, and one night there was a full moon which I wanted to capture.  I’m not a particularly good photographer but I think it looks kind of atmospheric.   It is claimed that Turlough Abbey was founded by St. Patrick in 441 A.D.

Up until I read about round towers in “The Golden Age of Irish Art” by Peter Harbison a few days ago, I thought they were for protecting people and valuables from raids by Vikings and other marauders.  However, according to Harbison, the towers actually provided very little protection from that kind of attack.  The floors and stairs of the towers were wooden, so a single, well-aimed fire arrow through a window could destroy the whole contents in a fiery inferno.  The doors are raised several metres off the ground but I think this was probably to prevent opportunist burglary and access by animals.  Here is a summary of what Harbison says about round towers.

About 65 round towers survive in various states of preservation on Ireland’s ancient monastic sites.  Considerable discussion has arisen on the purpose and date of these towers, and most would agree that they had multiple functions.  The first reference we have found in Irish historical sources is to a tower at Slane, Co. Meath, which was burned by the Vikings in 950 A.D.  The towers are visible from a distance and probably served as a beacon to weary pilgrims.  The old Irish word for the towers was cloicthech, literally a bell-house.  It is possible that the towers were used to store bells that pilgrims carried, and later on to store larger bells which may have been rung in the towers, but the evidence is scant.  Other valuables were probably also stored in the towers.

Here are some photos of another local tower, this one ruined.  If you click on one of the photos it will take you into a slideshow.

Here is one final picture of Turlough tower that I took last year from the grounds of the National Museum of Country Life.


Posted on March 17, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Well done Sarah! Loved the slideshow. Thanks for this delightfully informative post. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cheers, Gina


  2. Thank you for bringing beauty and spirituality to St. Patrick’s Day. My only “green” today is the green tea I am sipping on our near record cold day here in central NY. Hope you are surrounded by green and sunshine today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Colleen


    • “Record cold” for the time of year, or coldest of 2014, or coldest on record? Whichever, I hope it warms up soon for you. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you too. It’s a bit misty and cold here today but it’s not too unpleasant.


  3. Near record for the day. We started at 4 degrees F. The sun is out so we may approach 20. I froze trying to get pictures for my Sunday slideshow of nature photos — I got a few shots of a critter I haven’t photographed before. Peace.


    • Critter? Was it the caterpillar, or the woodpecker maybe?


      • Nope it will be on the upcoming slideshow. It was very far away but it still made me nervous that my cat snuck out on the deck as I snapped the photos. (And of course “sweet” Nox wouldn’t come when called). So there’s a hint — this critter will eat cats.


      • I can’t imagine cats are very tasty; I wouldn’t want to eat one. 🙂 It must be a strange critter.


  4. Reblogged this on Life in the City with a Future and commented:
    For those who wish they were in Ireland today (like me) but can only dream of the journey — here are a few beautiful photos of Irish Round Towers by Sarah. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


  5. What a nice gift to post on St Patrick’s Day!


  6. Thanks Sarah, beautiful atmopheric photos!


  7. Would love to see these. In Miami there are no “historic” structures more than 150 years old.


    • Thanks for the comment Carl.
      The round towers aren’t quite as impressive as the European cathedrals and suchlike but it’s certainly nice to have that historical presence in the landscape.


  8. Thanks for sharing the awesome slideshows, I had a blast watching them. :-))


  9. Beautiful and interesting. Thanks for filling us in. I’ll be “in the know” if I ever make it to Ireland.


  1. Pingback: Woodland Walk | Anglo Saxon Celt Creates

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