Roscrea Round Tower
At a Glance
County Tipperary
OS Map 60
OS Coordinate S 137 894
Condition capless
Height 20m
Doorway Type Arched
Window Type 1 angle-headed, 2 small lintelled
Number of Windows 3
Ground to Doorway 2.3m
Distinguishing Features ship's carving on N jamb of angled window
Traditional Association St. Cronan
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Roscrea Round Tower Co. Tipperary

Door Door

Roscrea Round Tower
County Tipperary
O.S. Map 60
Ros Cre' : The wood of Cre' (Cre' was reputedly the wife of Dala)

Location: The capless limestone Roscrea Round Tower sits in the center of Roscrea, east of N 62 and northwest of N7. The tower is part of an old monastic complex that is now bisected by the road to Portlaoise, with the facade of the old church and the much-weathered high cross directly across the street.

Dimensions: Since the area is being landscaped and the old mill being renovated to house a museum, two offsets at the base of the tower are now visible. The lower offset is even with the present ground level and is about six centimeters wide. The upper offset is also approx. six centimeters wide and approximately 15 cm above the lower. The circumference is approx. 15.25 meters, giving an external diameter of 4.6 meters. The arched, SSE-facing doorway is just about three meters above the present ground level. The large east-facing window in what would have been the second storey is angle-headed and beautifully set. It is notable for the single-masted ship carved in relief on the north jamb toward the inner edge. At the time of day when we visited, the available light prevented us from being able to photograph this feature. There are two other windows in the drum of the tower. Both are much smaller and lintelled with the lower of these facing west and the upper, north. While the tower has been reported as once being over six meters higher than it stands today, it's present height is approx. 20 meters.

Features: Capless, level top. Carving of a single-masted ship (30 cm by 25 cm) on the lowest window jamb, contempraneous with the tower. Reports of additional carvings could not be confirmed.

Comments: The top was removed following an incident in the town in 1798. The carving of the ship in the large lower window is one of the earliest pictorial references to such a vessel that survives in Ireland. It is ironic that the town, being so landlocked, should have such a depiction in one of it's earliest buildings.

History: The town of Roscrea stands on the ancient road which ran in part from Tara to Cashel. The monastery was founded by St. Cronan who died early in the 7th century. The earliest mention of the round tower when it was struck by lightning in 1131. Most likely the Round Tower also dates to this early twelfth century period. The tower was said to be inhabited as late as 1815. In photographs from the 1860's, a millpond laps against the rear or the tower. The pond is now drained and the adjoining Manor Mills are being restored to house a simple exhibition on Monastic Roscrea. As well as housing St Cronan's Cross (the original high cross will be placed inside the mill exhibition area and a replica placed on its original site), it will also display the ninth century decorated Roscrea pillar, probably of Monaincha origin. Due to the generosity of Mr George J.J. Fasenfeld, the adjoining field was donated to Roscrea People Trust and is being landscaped as a public garden around the monastic site.

Other Items of Interest: From Roscrea Heritage: St.Cronan's Cathedral Church "Today, the main road cuts the early monastery of St Cronan in two, isolating the Round Tower from the cathedral church and the site of the High Cross. These stone buildings are relics of the 12th century efforts by Roscrea to retain its independent bishopric, the Diocese of Ros Cré. The Romanesque gable is all that remains of the twelfth century Cathedral church. The once beautiful sandstone gable is now very badly weathered from pollution and age. Its main composition of tangent gable, blind arcades, ecclesiastical figure over the three-ordered doorway, and the rosettes all echo the Romanesque work at Cormac's Chapel in Cashel. The remainder of the Roscrea church was demolished in 1812 to make way and allow the stone to be re-utilised in the building of the 'new' St Cronan's Church of Ireland parish church in 1812. Because of its great beauty the gable was allow to remain standing. The twelfth century High Cross with its 'clothed' Christ and shaft figures is distinctive and memorable."

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