full height but without cap
4 lintelled, 5 angle-headed
five bell storey windows/ sculpted heads flanking doorway
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Kells Round Tower Co. Meath
Kells Round Tower - Ceannanas (White head)
O.S. Map 42
Location: On R 163 in the center of Kells town, just west of the intersection of
N3 and N52 is St. Columba's Church of Ireland whose cemetery contains the round tower,
several high crosses and nearby, an ancient oratory said to be the house of St.
Columcille. The town of Kells is situated on the N3, 60km northwest of Dublin in the
historic Boyne Valley.
Dimensions: The churchyard wall bisects the tower, so that the doorway half is in
the raised cemetery and the street side is fully 2 meters lower. On the street side there
is an offset (more like a plinth) of approx. 1 meter. From the base of the offset to the
capless top of the tower is just over 26 meters. Because the ground level in the cemetery
has been raised at some point, the north-facing doorway appears much lower than it must have originally
been. From the street side offset, the doorway is 3.6 meters above the original base.
Circumference above the offset is approx. 15m. There are four small lintelled windows in
the drum, facing (from bottom to top) SSW, ESE, N, and WNW.
Features: The bell storey windows of the tower are unusual in that there are
five of them, rather than the usual four. Only Kildare round tower has this unusual
configuration. Instead of the cardinal compass points, these angle-headed windows are
said to have faced the five roads into Kells. Evenly spaced, they face ENE, SE, SSW,
W and NNW. The doorway is presently just under 2m from the ground level in the cemetery.
It has a three stone arch, two extending the entire depth of the doorway. The arch and
some of the jambstones have a faint flat moulding. The keystone of the arch appears
to have been prepared for some carving, as it has been worked to a noticeable protrusion
though without decoration. Flanking the doorway are two projections. The left appears to
be a carved head - at least in shape - though so thoroughly weathered that no features
remain. The right jamb also has a projection, though what carving, if any, was originally
there is no longer identifiable, even by shape.
Comments: This site is a rich collection of artifacts. In addition to the round
tower and high crosses, there are unusual headstones from the 18th century , an ancient
sundial, and the spire on the bell tower dating from 1783, according to its stone-carved
plaque. The "Unfinished Cross" gives insight into how the great high crosses may have been
History: The site, purportedly an ancient royal fort, is said to have been given to
St. Columba by Dermot MacCarvill around the year 550. Monks, chased from Iona by the Vikings
came to Kells in 804. The settlement was burned and pillaged repeatedly over several
centuries. The annals mention the murder of a new high king in the tower in 1076. Drawings
from the late 18th century show the tower much as it is today.
Other Items of Interest:The circular monastic enclosure protects St. Columba's Church, the round
tower and four of the town's five high crosses.
Nearby, St. Colmcilles' House is
strategically positioned at one of the highest points in the town. It once housed the relics
of the Saint and the 9th century Book of Kells. A full interpretation of the monastic
history is available in Kells Heritage Centre, which displays a facsimile of the Book of
Kells and a museum. The market cross of Kells has been
restored after several
accidents damaged it in its original location and resides under a protective
plexiglas roof just outside the Heritage Center. Tourist information, a coffee shop and
gift shop are also available here. Kells Heritage Festival takes place annually in the
first week in June.