complete w/ battlements
Number of Windows
10, 6 are bell story windows
Climbable in season
Kilkenny Round Tower Co. Kilkenny
Kilkenny Round Tower
O.S. Map 67
Kilkenny (Cill Chainnigh, or Canice's Church) territory of the Osraige (Irish for "Deer
People"), later anglicised as Ossory.
Location: Kilkenny is located at the crossroads of N 76 and N 77, approx.
48 km north of Waterford and 51 km south of PortLaoise. At the lower end of the town
of Kilkenny, just off R 693 (St. Canice's Place) on one of the highest points, stands
St. Canice's Cathedral. The round tower proudly overlooks the town just meters
from the south transept of the cathderal. The roads are very narrow and negotiating them
to find the tower can be very frustrating, but is worth the endeavor.
Map of Kilkenny town
Dimensions: There is no visible offset above ground level at this time, though
Barrow reports one just below the ground level. An excavation during 1846-47 found that
the foundations extend less than three feet down. The circumference is just over 14 meters,
giving an external diameter of approx. 4.5 meters. The towers stands just over 30 meters
to the top of the battlements. The parapet projects approx. 8 cm. at a string course
above the main drum. The SSE facing arched doorway is devoid of decoration and approx.
2.7 meters above ground level. The windows, all lintelled and in ascending order, face
NW, NE, just to the E of S and just to the S of W. The top storey just below the parapet
has six evenly spaced windows, unique, except for the round tower at Kilmacduagh.
Features: Though it is unclear as to when the Kilkenny tower was built, figures
range from a completion date of around A.D. 700 to 1100. During the 19th century excavation,
a number of skeletons were found, some completely within the base of the tower and some
partially under the foundation walls, evidence that the tower was built within an existing
cemetery, probably Christian, as the skeletons were found facing the traditional E-W
orientation. Evidence of a severe fire at this time suggests that the tower may have existed
when buildings in Kilkenny were burnt, though before the Norman invasion. It has been
suggested, from holes and corbels in the interior, that the tower was constructed from the
inside. No evidence has been found to date the battlements and no record of when or if the
traditional conical roof was removed.
Comments: Though ordinarily this tower can be climbed for a small fee, during
October of 2004 the ancient heating system was being replaced and the tower and cathedral
were both closed for safety reasons. Though disappointing, I am consoled when I remember
just how shallow the foundations of this very tall tower are, and that it has a bit of a
lean toward the cathedral.
History: The round tower is the oldest surviving structure in the town of Kilkenny,
despite the uncertainty of it's time of construction. Composition is of local limestone.
The 13th century cathedral of St Canice is the second longest cathedral
in Ireland . The site on which the cathedral stands has been a site of Christian worship
since the 6th century, traditionally founded by St. Canice. Built to replace a
succession of earlier churches, the architectural style of the cathedral is Early Gothic
and it is also built of local limestone. The early Gothic cathedral was built between
1202 and 1285.
Other Items of Interest: The cathedral contains some of the finest 16th century
monuments in Ireland. In addition to varied memorial plaques, there are a number of altar
tombs with effigial carvings. The baptismal font is original and the ancient stone
of enthronement for bishops still exists under the seat of the medieval throne in the
North Transept. The carvings on the choir stalls are noteworthy as is the hammerbeam roof .