Thursday, 10 October 2019

Domhnach More

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Domnach mor in campo Ethnach near Navan The original church of Domnaghmore was built by St Patrick who placed there his disciple St Cassanus whose relics were preserved in this church and held in the highest veneration for ages after his death AD 843 died the abbot Robertagh the son of Flinn The round tower of Domnachmor has a doorway with a figure of the Saviour crucified sculptured in relievo on its keystone and the stone immediately placed over it the head of the figure reached the joint of this upper stone while nearly approaching the curve of the keystone On each side of the door is a human head carved the one partly on the band and the other outside it This doorway placed at an elevation of twelve feet from the base of the tower measures five feet two inches in height and its inclined jambs are two feet three inches asunder and two feet at the spring of the arch This tower is considered to belong to the 10th century That the round towers are of Christian origin is undeniable Nowhere are they as yet discovered unless in connexion with the ancient ecclesiastical establishments of the country If they had been used for other purposes than Christian belfries or for the worship of fire as some pretended in ignorance of the early history of the Irish church how is it that at Tarah the stronghold of that form of paganism there is no vestige of any such tower or building nor at Downpatrick in Tyrawley another place in which the fire worship was observed nor in the islands of Aran to which the obstinate votaries or priests of the old superstition had fled sooner than embrace the saving truths of the Gospel When St Patrick founded Armagh there is no record of the existence of a round tower there while the building of St Patrick's cathedral is so accurately described as well as the office of his campanarius or bellman and if a tower of this description had been converted into a belfry how is it that such a fact would be unrecorded When the converted princes gave up their fortresses as at Fenagh and Killbannon mention is made of those grants of the yew tree which the apostle planted at Newry memory is kept in the Irish annals and if the apostle had consecrated the Pagan places of worship to that of the true God such an act of triumph over the errors of Paganism would be faithfully recorded At Kildare which took its name from the oak tree growing there at the time that St Brigid founded her church there was no round tower until a subsequent period The worship of fire was carried on in many places over the country and those places still retain the names which designate the fact such as Greany Tomgreany &c and in which no traces of the round tower exist The annals of Ireland point out the era of the erection of some towers as at Clonmacnoise and Annadown In the former establishment is Temple Finghen and its round tower which is entered by a door way from the church and level with the floor thereof If some towers remain without vestiges of an ecclesiastical building attached be it remembered that many of those churches were built of wood and consigned to the flames by the plundering Danes who devastated in particular everything sacred These towers were used it appears from the Irish annals not alone as belfries but also as places of security for the valuables of the altars in cases of sudden attack being by their construction and solidity capable of resisting every kind of military machine then known and also fire They were also in many places as at Killala peculiarly adapted for the purpose of signal towers as well as beacons to guide the wearied traveller towards the sacred buildings where they found religion as well as hospitality practised towards them

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