The Churches of County Clare
By T. J. Westropp, M.A.
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Clare County Library

Types of the Churches

Omitting the cathedrals and post-Norman monastic churches, we may class the ancient places of worship as follows:-

1. Dry Stone Oratories.—So far as I know only one exists, on Bishop’s Island near Kilkee. (See illustration, p.166, infra.)

2. Small Oblong Oratories (in which mortar is used, and in which the west door has a lintel and inclined jambs).—Termon Cronan; Tomfinlough; Kilrush, near Limerick; Clonloghan. (Illustrations, Plate XI.)

3. Large Oblong Churches (of similar type).—Templemore, Kells (Plate IX.); Tomgraney (Plate XIII.); Scattery, “Cathedral,” and Temple Knockanangel (Illustration, p.170, infra), and remains embodied in Kilmoon, Rathborney, Kilshanny, and Kilmacreechy.

4. Stone Roofed Oratories (with overcroft).—St. Molua’s on Friar’s Island (Illustration, p.159, infra.); St. Flannan’s, Killaloe.

5. Churches with Nave and Chancel (early and plain. In most cases the chancel is evidently an afterthought).—Oughtmama great church; Noughaval (Illustration, Plate VIII.); Kilcorney; St. Caimin’s, Iniscaltra; Kilrush in Moyarta and Rathblamaic. In some cases the structure has been largely rebuilt, as at Dysert O’Dea.

6. The Oblong Plain Church (with arched door, &c.)—Oughtmama 2 and 3, Kilcredaun, Tomfinlough parish church, Dromcliff, Doora, Inchicronan, Killilagh, Kilmacduan and Kilnaboy. (Plates IX., X.)

7. The Decorated Romanesque Churches.—These occurred at Killaloe Cathedral (door and fragments exist), and the Church of Baptism, Iniscaltra, Kilfenora Cathedral (window), while ornamental windows and doors have been inserted in the earlier churches at Dysert O’Dea; Rathblamaic; Temple Shenan and Oratory, Scattery; Kilcredaun; St. Caimin’s, Iniscaltra; Kilcorney; Inchicronan; Tomgraney; St. Flannan’s Oratory, Killaloe; well-moulded windows occur also at Killeany, Kilkeedy, Doora, Ballysheen, Killimer, Noughaval; and others chamfered and recessed at Dromcliff, Templemaley, Kilmacduane, Killimer, &c. (Illustrations, Plates VIII. and X.)

After the Year 1200

8. Early Gothic Details.—Plain lancet windows, St. Finghin’s, Quin; Moynoe; present chancel of Dysert O’Dea; east gable of Tomfinlough parish church (since altered) and south window. (Illustrations, Plates X., XII.)

9. The Oblong Church (fifteenth century), with pointed south or west door, slit windows with pointed, round, trefoil, or ogee heads. The greater number of churches in the district are of this type. The windows rarely have more than two lights; a few of the later examples have cross-bars (Rathborney; Kilnaboy, Killadysert and Kilfenora chancel (south wall)); a few had simple interlaced tracery as Kilshanny and Kilchrist. Scattery Cathedral had two lancets and a quatrefoil above. It is interesting to note (as shown in the Plates illustrating this Paper) how closely the semicircular heads of several splays of the fifteenth-century windows resemble those of early pre-Norman times. In many cases a bell chamber stood on the west gable. Chancels occur only at Kilkerin, Kilmacreehy, Killeany, and Dromcreehy. (Illustrations, Plate XII.)

10. Belfry Towers occur only at Killadysert and St. Finghin’s, Quin. (Plate X., 202). The tower near the west end of Moynoe was probably a castle.

There are, however, some good examples in the Cathedrals and Monasteries. Killaloe Cathedral seems to be the only case of a tower forming part of the plan of even the existing building. At Canon’s Island the tower is attached to the church, and partly built on an older wall. In Clare, Ennis, and Quin, it is inserted in the long body of the church, and at Kilfenora and Corcomroe it caps a clumsy gable through which a staircase ascends.

11. Transepts do not occur in the churches; and accessory chapels and sacristies are almost absent; the few that exist (Kilnamarve, Scattery Cathedral, Kilmoon, Killilagh, Kilkeedy, Ruan) are small and of little architectural interest. Priests’ houses are found at a few places - Toomullin, Correen, Killballyone, Temple dubh, Leanna, and Clonrush.

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