Dysert O'Dea Round Tower
At a Glance
County Clare
OS Map 57
OS Coordinate R 282 848
Condition Ruin
Height 6.5m S to 15m
Doorway Type Arched
Window Type 1 ?, 1 lintelled
Number of Windows 2
Ground to Doorway 4.5m
Distinguishing Features Stumpy ruin with semi-repaired breach
Traditional Association St. Tola
 
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Dysert O'Dea Round Tower Co. Clare

East facing doorway East facing doorway Base of the tower NNW breach with modern pillar Looking in the right side of the breach Looking toward the missing south side of the tower

Dysert O'Dea Round Tower
County Clare
O.S. Map 57

Location: From Ennis, take the N85 NE for approx. 3 km to R476 for another 3 km. Signposted, and along a back road, this tower can be accessed either on a path from the Dysert O'Day Archaeological Center, or further along the same road directly. The path from the O'Dea Tower House winds through a field where St. Tola's high cross is situated and over the wall of the ecclasiastical complex. The Round Tower is very obvious from this approach. If accessed directly from the road, the Round Tower is behind the church - just visible over the roofless ruin.

Dimensions: The offset is at ground level, barely visible, and so it is not possible to determine it's depth. What is visible appears to be approximately 10 to 12 centimeters wide. It is composed of well coursed large limestone blocks, dressed to the curve. At the base, the external circumference is 18.5 meters (or 5.89 meters in diameter), one of the widest of the recorded towers. At its highest point, it rises to 14.6 meters. The doorway, facing east, is unembellished and arched with six blocks, the keystone slightly protruding. The left jamb is comprised of three stones, and the right has four stones. There are two windows - one squared lintelled is on the west side above the doorway level. The other, ogee-headed window is at the top on the north side, most probably a late medieval insertion

Features: : This ruin of a tower has the second largest base of existing round towers today. While the base circumference suggests that it may once have been a very tall tower, all that remains is a stump containing the doorway and two windows. On the NNW side is a large breach about four feet square. Around this breach is evidence of extensive fire damage. Whether this is the result of torching (common to other towers), evidence of a lightning strike or a relic of Cromwellian bombardment, is a matter of conjecture. Rather than being repaired, it has been fitted with a supporting pillar of stone block, allowing a view to the inside of the tower. This pillar was apparently installed sometime between 1830 and 1860.

Comments: Dysert O'Dea is a far more complex grouping of archaeological and historical sites than is commonly known. Within a two mile radius of Dysert Tower House are over 25 places of interest, ten of them are an easy stroll from St. Tola's church or the tower house castle.

History: The monastery here was founded by St. Tola in the 8th century. The church ruin, famous for the elaborately carved heads around it's romanesque doorway, is from the 12th century and the round tower may be contemporary with the church. Some renovation was done in the 1800's, but it is difficult to tell whether it was actual renovation or merely some conservation work.

Other Items of Interest: DYSERT O'DEA TOWER HOUSE CASTLE dates from 1480. It was home to the O'Dea clan chiefs until 1692 when the O'Dea's had their lands forfeited. It subsequently fell into ruin, but was restored in 1986-88 by the Dysert O'Dea Development Assoc. with help from Bord Failte and the owners, Jack and Anola O' Day. It houses a rather nice little museum and has toilet facilities and a small tea room for visitors. ST. TOLA'S CROSS lies in a field to the east of the church complex. The east face is carved in high relief - a representation of the crucified Christ and beneath that, the figure of a bishop, believed to be St. Tola. The head of Christ was once removable and used as a cure for toothache. Referred to as "the cross of the blessing", the figure of the bishop reportedly had an arm raised in blessing, but the appendage is now missing. The reverse and sides of the high cross are covered with elaborate interlace work. Knocked down by Cromwellian forces, the cross was repaired by Michael O'Dea in 1687 and restored again by the Synge family in 1871. THE PRESENT CHURCH stands on the foundation of an earlier church. It dates mainly from the 12th century. It's primary feature is the elaborately carved arched four order romanesque doorway - 6'10 high and 3'2 wide. There are 19 stones in this arch which are carved with twelve human heads and nine heads of animals. Also within easy walking distance are two HOLY WELLS and two STONE FORTS.

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