Mediaeval Monastic & Church Sites, Surveyed in Co Carlow.Ireland.

Christianity was introduced to this area by the 5 th c. At that time the countryside was heavily wooded with the population dispersed in small clusters. Travel was mainly along the R.Barrow. Early monastic foundations were sited in lonely places away from the river & roads, mainly on the high ground East of the river.With the exception of Old Leighlin and Kiloughternane all of the other monasteries listed were small, with a community of probably not more than twenty monks at any time.  Such historical information as exists is available in; Rev Comerford’s Collections, Dioceses of Kildare & Leighlin (Vol3 1885).

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Present features

1. Agha

St Aed


(12th c)

Became parish church

10th c church ruin &. graveyard

2.* Ballyknockan     Priory


13 th c

15 th c

Derelict by 1400

No trace of former priory  or leper hospital.  Ruined C of I parish church on site.


St Lappan

8th c

(12th c)

Parish church (14th  or 15th c) a short distance away

Slight ruins at both sites




19th c

Parish of Dunleckney preceded Bagenasltown

Ruins of two churches in graveyard

5. Kildrenagh

St Mernoc


(16th c)

Chapel of ease for Dunleckney

Slight ruins. Head of carved cross at roadside.

6. Killeogan


8th c


Anglo-Saxon foundation

Small monastic cross in graveyard








St Fortchern

(5th c)

(15th c)

Center of learning

Ruin of small 10th c oratory.  Holy Well

8. Killeshin (Laois)

St Comgall

5th c


Round tower here until demolished in 1703

Ruins of two churches here. Fine  Romanesque doorway to 12th c church


St Laserian

7th c

(12th c)

Parish church later.

C o I parish church. Base of cross in churchyard.. Holy Well


St Abban

(5th c)



Two early crosses. C o I parish church.

10.* Old Leighlin

St Laserian

7th c


13th c Cathedral. Monastic cross. Well

C of I Cathedral



(7th c)

(16th c)


Slight ruins

12. St Mullins

St Moling

7th c

(16th c)


Several ruins. Holy well.    Interpretive Centre

13.* Moling Abbey


15th c

18th c

Late Medieval

In ruins. Only North wall standing

14. *Tinnahinch

St Michels

(5th c)



Only west wall remains. Graveyard.







Note; Figures in brackets are the authors date estimate.

 * Subject of lecture to Graignamanagh Historical Soc or article in Carloviana, Journal of the Carlow Archaeological & Historical Society


Buildings of the 1 st millennium were generally constructed with; wood framework hewn locally, walls of clay and wattle, roof of reeds or straw. Church was rectangular in plan, lime washed inside and out. Other buildings could be round or rectangular. About the 10th and certainly the 11 th c stone buildings using field stones bound with lime mortar were introduced locally.

Church Organisation;  Following the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 AD the Irish monastic system gave way to the system of  dioceses (headed by a bishop)  and parishes as we have today. The continental orders (Cistercians, Franciscans etc) invited by St Malachy Primate of Armagh  greatly hastened the changeover.  Some large monastic foundations continued  as before eg Clonmacnoise, Holy Cross etc.  Many of the smaller monasteries became parish churches and so continued until suppressed by Henry VIII in 16th c..  .                                                © J.M.Feeley.  2008