Kildare Round Tower
At a Glance
County Kildare
OS Map 55
OS Coordinate n/a
Condition Complete w/ castellation
Height 32m
Doorway Type Arched
Window Type 4 narrow flat, 5 arched
Number of Windows 9
Ground to Doorway 4.5m
Distinguishing Features Romanesque doorway w/ hood molding, climbable
Traditional Association St. Brigid
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Kildare Round Tower Co. Kildare

Door Door
Door Door Door Door Stone offsets at the base of the tower

Inside the tower

Inside the tower Inside the tower Inside the tower Inside the tower Inside the tower Inside the tower
The windows from the inside The windows from the inside Shot from the top of the tower Shot from the top of the tower Shot from the top of the tower
Shot from the top of the tower KD Shot from the top of the tower Shot from the top of the tower Shot from the top of the tower

Kildare Round Tower
County Kildare
O.S. Map 55

Location: Kildare town is at the intersection north of N7 and west of R 415. Parking is in the center of town and behind Fitzpatrick's Auctioneers is the entrance to St. Brigit's Church of Ireland. The round tower is behind the cathedral in a corner of the cemetery.

Dimensions: There are two offsets at the base of Kildare tower. The lower of these is composed of large boulder-like granite blocks of varying heights due to the uneven ground in this section of the cemetery. Beneath the doorway, where the ground level is lowest, these granite blocks are approximately 34 cm high. The upper offset, more regularly coursed is approximately 10 to 15 cm high. Above the offsets, the circumference of the tower is 16.8 meters, giving a diameter of approximately 5.35 meters. At close to 33 meters high, Kildare is the 2nd tallest round tower in Ireland. The doorway faces SSE, a little over 4.5 meters above the ground level. The windows in the drum in ascending order face WSW, NW, ESE and SW. The five windows in the storey just below the string course under the battlements face N, NE, ESE, SW and WNW.

Features: There are several prominent features noted in Kildare tower. The traditional conical cap has been replaced by castellations dating from the 1730's. Immediately obvious is the beautifully finished and coursed granite in the lowest 3 meters of the tower, contrasting with the less evenly coursed and smaller local limestone of which the remainder of the tower is composed. The romanesque doorway is of dark red sandstone in four receding orders, the innermost being the only to survive intact. It is carved with chevrons, lozenges and stylized marigolds. Set into the stonework above the doorway is a very weathered stone hood moulding composed of the same red sandstone.

Comments: The tower may be climbed for a very small fee. Aside from the spectacular view of Kildare and the surrounding countryside, it is interesting to see how each wooden floor is supported by projecting corbels, how the inside construction of windows can differ from the outside, and while the conical cap no longer exists, there remains a good example of the corbelling technique through the entrance to the caged tower battlements.

History: The monastery at Kildare was traditionally founded by St. Brigid who died in 525. The lower courses of the tower seem to be consistent with an early construction date though the windows and doorway are of a 12th century design. Around 1843, the interior of the tower was excavated by the treasurer of the cathedral, Rev. John Browne and coins from the 12th century (now in the Nat'l Museum in Dublin) were found under the floor at the base. The present floors and ladders used to climb the tower were installed in 1874. At that time, the facing stones immediately below the doorway were missing and it is unclear when they were replaced. The battlements were repaired in 1931. The exterior was repointed at that time and some of the granite blocks on the lower offset were replaced.

Other Items of Interest: On the southwest side of the cathedral is a very plain high cross, devoid of any decoration and missing the upper ring section. In 1686, the shaft was being used as an altar step in what was called the "pro-cathedral" - a transitional church using the old chancel. Near the round tower is an enclosure that purportedly is the foundation of St. Brigid's fire house. This may have been the site of a sacred pagan fire that was kept perpetually burning by a group of nuns. The cathedral, in itself worth visiting for it's beautiful interior, houses a nice exhibition area for monuments, graveslabs and effigial tombs and also contains a tiny gift shop. The outside of the cathedral is worth a walk around for it's unusual architectural features. The stepped gables allow access to the entire roof, and the gargoyles above the downspouts show a humorous side.

  © 2004-2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.