Devenish Round Tower
At a Glance
County Fermanagh
OS Map 17 & 18
OS Coordinate H 224 469
Condition Complete
Height 25 m
Doorway Type arched
Window Type 1 angle-headed 7 square-headed
Number of Windows 8
Ground to Doorway 2.6
Distinguishing Features climbable, decorated cornice
Traditional Association St. Molaise
 
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Devenish Round Tower, Co. Fermanagh

Devenish Round Tower
County Fermanagh
O.S. Map 17 & 18
Visited May 22, 2006

Location: Off the A 32 to the B 82 to Kesh (about 3 km north of Eniskillen) on Lower Lough Erne. Watch carefully for signs for the Devenish Island Ferry. The narrow lane is about a km long and leads down to the Lough. It ends in a fishing area at the T junction. Turn left and follow the lane a short way to the ferry service to the island. The Environment and Heritage Service operates daily April to September with boats leaving at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. For further information, the EHS telephone number is 028 686 21588.

Dimensions: Not being able to observe closely in person, all information must come from other sources. Purportedly, there is an offset at an uneven ground level. Diameter of this tower is 4.82 m and it stands 25 meters above the lowest ground level. The northeast-facing doorway is approximately 2.7 meters above the present ground. It's arch is composed of three very finely dressed stones running the entire depth of the doorway. A plain raised moulding frames the entire door, including the door sill. The single angle-headed window is slightly to the right and above the doorway at the second storey level. All other windows are lintelled with the third floor window facing NNW, the fouth floor window facing SSE and the fifth floor bell-storey has the traditional four windows which are glassed and slightly off the cardinal compass points.

Features: Pictures from other sources show that the cornice is decorated with a continuous beaded pattern and sculpted heads above each of the four bell-storey windows. This is also one of (presently) only three round towers with intact floors and ladders that can be climbed by the public.

Comments: Although it was May and the sun was shining, the ferry from this location was having engine trouble and was not running the day we were there. We had to regretfully take pictures from the shore across from the island. It was a major disappointment.

History: Founded by St. Lasren, also known as St. Molaise, the monastery here was built on daimh-inis, or Ox Island. The Annals record, as usual, a succession of deaths of abbotts of Devenish and a number of invasions. In 836, it was destroyed along with the other churches of Lough Erne and finally burnt in 1157. The first mention of a round tower is on a map of 1609 and then a distant view in 1792 showing the tower intact. It was falling into ruin by 1808 and in 1834 the part of the roof, part of a wall, and part of the cornice were damaged when a storm blew over the tree that had been growing from the cap. This was successfully repaired the following year, as noted by a large stone near the cornice. Getty excavated the tower in 1844, but apparently nothing of note was discovered. Further repairs were carried out by the OPW in 1896 and a spiral staircase installed. This staircase was removed and replaced by the present floors based the original alignment in 1971 when the tower was also repointed.

Other Items of Interest: The upper church, St. Mary's Abbey, is a 12th-15th century Augustinian monastery. The lower church is an earlier establishment dedicated to St. Molaise. There is an unusual high cross next to St. Mary's. In 1973 the foundations of a second round tower, very close to the existing tower and possibly earlier in date, were discovered. A reconstruction of the foundation is now built above ground on the original foundations.

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