A medieval church, part of which dates from the tenth century, and an eighteenth-century mausoleum, are sited in a graveyard with headstones and tombs spanning three hundred years.
The earliest headstone dates from 1691 and burials continued into the twenty-first century. There are many more people buried in the graveyard than the number of headstones suggests as poorer people could not afford permanent memorials. Only those with existing family graves can be buried in the cemetery now. Six eighteenth-century headstones have elaborate representations of the instruments associated with the Crucifixion (e.g. a spear, a hammer, nails, a ladder, thirty pieces of silver and Christ’s tomb). Four of these are the work of the same mason (there are examples of these distinctive stones in nearby graveyards at Kilmurry, Temple-etney and Kilsheelan village). Some parishioners used the inside of the building for burials. By this time, the main part of the building was no longer being used for religious services.
The ruined church is in two sections. At the east is the older and smaller part which dates from the tenth century. This became the chancel (the site of the altar) when the western part (the nave, where worshippers stood) was added in the twelfth century. It is easy to see the alterations that were made to join the two buildings together. Unfortunately, the arch between the two parts of the church was removed, possibly for reuse in another building.
Entry to the church is now via a Romanesque doorway in the south wall of the nave (rather than the usual west gable – a south wall entrance can also be found at nearby Kilsheelan). The doorway is made of sandstone and has eroded with time, but its decoration is still obvious. What is harder to spot are the holes for the hinges. The nave also has three round-headed windows in good repair. One of these is in the west wall and was repaired by National Lottery funding in the late 1980s (hence the plaque on the outside of the gable). A hexagonal limestone font that may have come from the site is now in the church in Kilcash village.
East of the church is the Butler mausoleum. This substantial ruin (roughly 10×5.5m) had its entrance closed up and is now entered through a breach in the south wall. The entry to a subterranean vault was sealed off in the late twentieth century. Before this, an excavation turned up some human bones – anything else that had been there had been pilfered years before. Among the people who were buried in the mausoleum were Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d.1738), his wife, Lady Iveagh (d.1744) and his brother, Christopher, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly (d.1757). It also housed Walter Butler, the 16th Earl of Ormond (d.1773) and his son John, the 17th Earl (d.1795). Archbishop Butler had been commemorated with a leaden mitre which was melted down by nationalists to make bullets in 1848.
The original material on this site can be reproduced for non-commercial purposes once its source is duly acknowledged. © John Flood, University of Groningen, 2019.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.