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County Clare

62b. St Flannan's Cathedral, Killaloe

 

Killaloe's pride and joy is the magnificent, fascinating and interesting Cathedral Church of St Flannan and St Flannan's Oratory beside it. In AD 639 St Flannan became the first Bishop of Killaloe. The cathedral has been in continuous use since it was built around 1200 AD. There were earlier churches on this site and a richly carved Romanesque doorway is preserved at the western end of the cathedral nave's south wall.

Killaloe

St Flannan's Cathedral and the town of Killaloe set on the broad River Shannon. St Flannan's Cathedral is a glorious and original example of Ireland's heritage of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The Cathedral was built ~AD 1200 by Donal Mor O'Brien - a direct descendent of the great Brien Boru. The church is built of yellow and purple sandstone`and contains parts of the ealier church.

 

Killaloe

The great oak screen separating the nave from the chancel. The huge oak screen was erected in 1885 mainly to conserve heat for smaller congregations e.g. Sunday services of mass etc.

 

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Left: The Ogham Stone in Killaloe Cathedral. Ogham is an old form of writing usually found on carved standing stones. This stone dates from about AD 1000 and is unusual that it also bears an inscription in 'runes' - a Scandinavian script. It may have been carved by a Viking who was converted to Christianity. The runes read "Thorgrimr carved this cross" and the Ogham reads "A blessing on Thorgrimr".

Right: The High Cross. This High Cross dates from the 11th to the early 12th century. The head of the cross is dominated by the figure of the crucified Christ surrounded by interlace, fret and animal ornament. The cross originally comes from Kilfenora in north-west Co. Clare and brought to Killaloe in 1821.

 

Killaloe

Details of the carvings on the High Cross.

 

Killaloe

The rectangular basin of the font dates from the 13th century and is carved on one face with a typical cross and foliage design, probably by a local craftsman. The font was originally a 'table' or 'polypod' font with five legs mounted on a square plinth. It now stands on a shaft from a cross of uncertain date.

 

Killaloe

The narrow Norman windows in the nave

 

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Killaloe

The 12th century Romanesque doorway that may be from the earlier cathedral by Donal Mor O'Brien.

Killaloe

It has typical figures and chevrons on the several orders of carvings. Strange animals with their tails wrapped around the hair of human heads and fine honeysuckle ornaments abound. It has over 130 'patterns' of plants and animals and no two are alike!

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Killaloe

Killaloe

 

Killaloe

On the floor of the 12th century door are two grave slabs, tombstones from the 12th century. They are reputed to mark the burial place of Muircheartach O'Brien, King of Munster, who died while on pilgramage to Killaloe in AD 1119.

 

Killaloe

An impressive church to attend Sunday services.

 

Killaloe

One could imagine monks singing mass with this impressive east window as the 'backdrop'! The east window is 11m high and nearly 5m across. The three lights symbolise the Holy Trinity and the figures portrayed in the stained-painted glass panels of 1865 are Christ surrounded by the twelve apostles. The stonework is richly and intricately carved - see the pictures below.

 

Killaloe

The carvings on the upper part of the east window.

 

Killaloe

The rib stone vaulting at the 'crossing' below the tower. On the left of the oak screen is the organ made by Nicholson and Lord of Worcester in 1900.

 

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View from the south-east

 

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The east window and the east window of the south transept.

 

St Flannan's Oratory

Killaloe

St Flannan's Oratory stands by the side of St Flannan's Cathedral. Named after St Flannan who founded a monastery here in the early 7th century, this small, stone-roofed building was possibly built in the early 11th or early 12th century. An oratory is usually a small church for private prayer, but this much more substantial building may have been intended to house the remains of st Flannan himself. The oratory has two storeys, a lower floor with a rounded stone vault above it and an upper floor between the vault and the roof. The main body of the building acts as a nave (for the congregation) but the chancel has not survived. The elaborately carved west doorway (picture below) is carved in the Romanesque style

 

Killaloe

Details of the west doorway.

 

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The oratory with a modern Celtic cross headstone in the left foreground.

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