1 ?, 1 lintelled
Stumpy ruin with semi-repaired breach
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Dysert O'Dea Round Tower Co. Clare
Dysert O'Dea Round Tower
O.S. Map 57
Location: From Ennis, take the N85 NE for approx. 3 km to R476 for another
3 km. Signposted, and along a back road, this tower can be accessed either on a path
from the Dysert O'Day Archaeological Center, or further along the same road directly.
The path from the O'Dea Tower House winds through a field where
St. Tola's high cross
is situated and over the wall of the ecclasiastical complex. The Round Tower is very
obvious from this approach. If accessed directly from the road, the Round Tower is
behind the church - just visible over the roofless ruin.
Dimensions: The offset is at ground level, barely visible, and so it is not
possible to determine it's depth. What is visible appears to be approximately 10 to
12 centimeters wide. It is composed of well coursed large limestone blocks, dressed
to the curve. At the base, the external circumference is 18.5 meters (or 5.89 meters
in diameter), one of the widest of the recorded towers. At its highest point, it rises
to 14.6 meters. The doorway, facing east, is unembellished and arched with six blocks,
the keystone slightly protruding. The left jamb is comprised of three stones, and the
right has four stones. There are two windows - one squared lintelled is on the west
side above the doorway level. The other, ogee-headed window is at the top on the north
side, most probably a late medieval insertion
Features: : This ruin of a tower has the second largest base of existing round
towers today. While the base circumference suggests that it may once have been a very
tall tower, all that remains is a stump containing the doorway and two windows.
On the NNW side is a large breach about four feet square. Around this breach is evidence
of extensive fire damage. Whether this is the result of torching (common to other towers),
evidence of a lightning strike or a relic of Cromwellian bombardment, is a matter of
conjecture. Rather than being repaired, it has been fitted with a supporting pillar
of stone block, allowing a view to the inside of the tower. This pillar was apparently
installed sometime between 1830 and 1860.
Comments: Dysert O'Dea is a far more complex grouping of archaeological and
historical sites than is commonly known. Within a two mile radius of Dysert Tower
House are over 25 places of interest, ten of them are an easy stroll from St. Tola's
church or the tower house castle.
History: The monastery here was founded by St. Tola in the 8th century.
The church ruin, famous for the elaborately carved heads around
doorway, is from the 12th century and the round tower may be contemporary with the church.
Some renovation was done in the 1800's, but it is difficult to tell whether it was actual
renovation or merely some conservation work.
Other Items of Interest:
DYSERT O'DEA TOWER HOUSE CASTLE
dates from 1480. It was home
to the O'Dea clan chiefs until 1692 when the O'Dea's had their lands forfeited.
It subsequently fell into ruin, but was restored in 1986-88 by the Dysert O'Dea
Development Assoc. with help from Bord Failte and the owners, Jack and Anola O' Day.
It houses a rather nice little museum and has toilet facilities and a small tea room
for visitors. ST. TOLA'S
CROSS lies in a field to the east of the church complex.
The east face is carved in high relief - a representation of the crucified Christ and
beneath that, the figure of a bishop, believed to be St. Tola. The head of Christ was
once removable and used as a cure for toothache. Referred to as "the cross of the
blessing", the figure of the bishop reportedly had an arm raised in blessing, but the
appendage is now missing. The reverse and sides of the high cross are covered with
elaborate interlace work. Knocked down by Cromwellian forces, the cross was repaired
by Michael O'Dea in 1687 and restored again by the Synge family in 1871.
CHURCH stands on the foundation of an earlier church. It dates mainly from the 12th
century. It's primary feature is the elaborately carved arched four order romanesque
doorway - 6'10 high and 3'2 wide. There are 19 stones in this arch which are carved
with twelve human heads and nine heads of animals. Also within easy walking distance
are two HOLY WELLS and two STONE FORTS.