5 angle-headed (4 in bell storey), 2 lintelled
Extensive & intricate doorway carving
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Timahoe Round Tower Co. Laois
Timahoe Round Tower
O.S. Map 55
from Tigh Mochua: Place of Mochua
Location: Timahoe Round Tower is situated equidistant southeast from Port Laoise,
and northeast of Abbeyleix. From M7 south, take R425 south to left on R 426. Timahoe
village is approx. 10 km. down R 426. The round tower stands in a lovely park-like setting
across a pretty footbridge that crosses the Bauteogue river in the center of the village.
Dimensions: There are three very obvious offsets at the base of the tower. The lowest
is approx. 20 cm wide and varies in height, but is about 30 cm high on average. The upper
two are each about 15 cm high and 5 cm wide. Above this offset the circumference is just
over 17.5 meters, giving it a diameter of a bit over 5.5 meters. Height from ground level
is 29.26 meters. The unusual doorway is 4.9 meters above ground level and faces ENE. The lowest
window, facing S is also unusually finished, being large and framed in stone. The jambs of
this window may also have once had carvings, though weathering has made this determination
difficult. The window mid-way on the rear of the drum is a lintelled slit and the top drum
window is squared and lintelled, facing WNW. The four bell-storey windows face the
cardinal compass points and
were apparently renovated by the OPW in the late 19th century when the cap was repaired
and a modern ground level doorway was filled on the SW side of the tower.
Features: Timahoe is a complete tower, though without floors or ladders. It
has one of the finest four-order Romanesque doorways in Ireland, with elaborately carved and decorated
with interlace, human heads, chevrons and capitals. It is unique in round tower architecture.
Comments: Romanesque doorways, usually reserved for important churches, are a
labor-intensive decoration on a flat surface. Imagine, then, inserting such a feature
in a curved surface. Viewing this doorway from directly underneath it should impress anyone
with it's clever integration into the structure of the tower. At the time of our visit in
2004, slates, apparently from the tower's cap (as evidenced by the change in slate color
in the cap directly above) , had split and slid to the base at the rear of the tower.
History: Saint Mochua, who died in 657, established a monastery here in the seventh-century.
Burned in 1142, it was re-founded by the O'Mores. The twelfth-century Round Tower
with its impressively decorated romanesque doorway is all that remains of the original
monastic foundation. After the Suppression, the monastery and lands were granted to
Sir Thomas Loftus and later (1609) to Richard Cosby. It was probably one of the Cosby
family who transformed what was a medieval church into a castle. The last friar of
the monastery was killed in 1650.
Other Items of Interest: Just to the SE of the tower stands a ruin, once a 15th
century church (with blocked chancel arch) that had been fortified as a "castle" in the
17th century. Only the east wall of the castle, incorporating the arch of the medieval
church remains. Just to the NE of the tower is a modern Church of Ireland church,
though it apparently is no longer used as a church building.