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Kilmacduagh monastery

Coordinates: 53°02′58″N 8°53′15″W / 53.049444°N 8.8875°W / 53.049444; -8.8875
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Kilmacduagh Monastery
Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary de Petra, erected in the 13th century
Kilmacduagh monastery is located in Ireland
Kilmacduagh monastery
Location within Ireland
Monastery information
Established7th century
Founder(s)reportedly Colman MacDuagh
Heritage designationNational Monument No. 51
Groundbreakingoriginal structures 7th century
Locationnear Gort, County Galway, Ireland
Coordinates53°02′58″N 8°53′15″W / 53.049444°N 8.8875°W / 53.049444; -8.8875
Public accessyes
Official nameKilmacduagh
Reference no.51

Kilmacduagh Monastery is a ruined abbey near the town of Gort in County Galway, Ireland. It was the birthplace of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh. It was reportedly founded by Saint Colman, son of Duagh in the 7th century, on land given him by his cousin King Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin of Connacht.


Kilmacduagh Monastery is located in a small village of the same name, about 5 km from the town of Gort.

The name of the place translates as "church of Duagh's son".[1] It was reportedly the 7th century Saint Colman, son of Duagh who established a monastery here on land given to him by his cousin King Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin of Connacht, who had a fortified dwelling near what is today Dunguaire Castle.


As with most dates from this period, the year in which the monastery was founded is somewhat uncertain, but apparently the early 7th century is deemed the most likely.[2]

Colman was abbot/bishop at the monastery until his death. Of his successors, only one appears in the annals by name, one Indrect (died 814), before the arrival of the English.[2]

This site was of such importance in medieval times that it became the centre of a new diocese, or Bishop's seat, the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, in the 12th century.

The early monastery was victim of multiple raids and finally ruined by William de Burgh in the early 13th century. To replace it, the local lord Owen O'Heyne (died 1253) founded the abbey of St. Mary de Petra as house for the Augustinian canons.[3] The abbey is also attributed to Bishop Maurice Ileyan (died 1283) but the architectural evidence, according to Harold Leask, allows only the later added east range of the abbey to be associated with bishop Maurice.[4] During the reformation this was granted to the Earl of Clanricarde.[2]

The round tower was repaired in 1879[5] under the supervision of Sir Thomas Deane,[6] with financial support from Sir William Henry Gregory of Coole Park.

The Diocese of Kilmacduagh is now incorporated into the United Dioceses of Tuam and Limerick in the Church of Ireland and in the Roman Catholic divisions, into the Diocese of Galway.


Kilmacduagh round tower: at 32.5 metres (112 feet) it was the tallest pre-modern construction in Ireland.

The ruins of the monastery are sometimes referred to as "the seven Churches". However, not all of these buildings were actually churches, none of them dates back to the 7th century. The buildings are:[6]

  • The abbey church, former cathedral, or Teampuil Mor, in the graveyard
  • The "Church of Mary" or Teampuil Muire (also known as "The Lady's Church"), east of the road
  • The "Church of St. John the Baptist" or Teampuil Eoin Baiste, to the north of the graveyard
  • The "Abbot's House" or Seanclogh, further north, close to the road
  • Teampuil Beg Mac Duagh, south of the graveyard
  • The "Monastery Church" or "O'Heyne's Church" (or "O'Heyne's Abbey"), ca. 180 metres north-east of the graveyard (13th century)
  • The round tower, roughly 15 metres south-west of the cathedral

The round tower is notable both as a fine example of this particularly Irish feature but also because of its noticeable lean, over half a metre from the vertical. The tower is over 30 metres (98 feet 5 inches) tall, according to measurements taken in 1879,[6] with the only doorway some 7 metres above ground level. The tower probably dates from the 10th century.


According to legend, Saint Colman MacDuagh was walking through the woods of the Burren when his girdle fell to the ground. Taking this as a sign, he built his monastery on that spot. The girdle was said to be studded with gems and was held by the O'Shaughnessys centuries later, along with St. Colman's crozier, or staff. The girdle was later lost, but the crozier came to be held by the O'Heynes and may now be seen in the National Museum of Ireland.

It is said that, in the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, no man will ever die from lightning. This legend was put to the test when one unlucky soul was struck, but the force of the bolt made him fly through the air into neighbouring County Clare, where he died.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fahey, Jerome (September 1904), "Kilmacduagh and Its Ecclesiastical Monuments", The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 34 (3): 220–233, JSTOR 25507375
  2. ^ a b c Lewis, Samuel (1837), A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland – Kilmacduagh, London: S. Lewis & Co., retrieved 17 August 2013
  3. ^ Gwynn, Aubrey; Hadcock, R. Neville (1970). Medieval Religious Houses Ireland. London: Longman. p. 183. Note that Gwynn and Hadcock refer to William Fitz Adelm De Burgo, a name taken in verbatim from an earlier publication. However, the reference to Fitz Adelm is wrong, see Orpen, Goddard Henry. Ireland under the Normans 1169–1333. Vol. II. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 7. ISBN 1-85182-715-3.
  4. ^ Leask, Harold G. (1960). Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings. Vol. Two. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press. pp. 70–71.
  5. ^ "The Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland" Day, J.G.F./ Patton, H.E. p151: London, S.P.C.K., 1932
  6. ^ a b c Cochrane, Robert (September 1904), "Notes on the Round Tower etc. of Kilmacduagh", The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 34 (3): 234–238, JSTOR 25507375
  • A New History of Ireland, volume 9, pp. 330–331.
  • Fahey, Jerome, The history and antiquities of the diocese of Kilmacduagh, Dublin, M. H. Gill & son, 1893. (available online at archive.org)

Annalistic references[edit]

  • 814. Innreachtach, Bishop of Cill Mic Duach;
  • 846. Colman, son of Donncothaigh, successor of Colman, of Cill Mic Duach, died.
  • M1199.10. John de Courcy, with the English of Ulidia, and the son of Hugo De Lacy, with the English of Meath, marched to 'Kilmacduagh to assist Cathal Crovderg O'Conor. Cathal Carragh, accompanied by the Connacians, came, and gave them battle: and the English of Ulidia and Meath were defeated with such slaughter that, of their five battalions, only two survived; and these were pursued from the field of battle to Rindown on Lough Ree, in which place John was completely hemmed in. Many of his English were killed, and others were drowned; for they found no passage by which to escape, except by crossing the lake in boats.

External links[edit]

  • O’Donovan, John (ed. and tr.). Annála Rioghachta Éireann. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Edited from MSS in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy and of Trinity College Dublin with a translation and copious notes. 7 vols. Royal Irish Academy. Dublin, 1848–51. Vol. 1 available from the Internet Archive. Available from CELT:
  • Cotton, Henry (1850). The Province of Connaught. Fasti ecclesiae Hiberniae: The Succession of the Prelates and Members of the Cathedral Bodies of Ireland. Vol. 4. Dublin: Hodges and Smith. pp. 197–215. (Note: The website incorrectly calls the book "The history of the popes, from the close of the Middle Ages", but when downloaded or read online it is volume 4.)