Round Tower at Kildare

Artist(s) : John Duff (Engraver)

The round tower in Kildare, viewed from the south. It stands on undulating open ground, with, on the right, part of the ruins of St Brigid's Cathedral (restored in the late nineteenth century). The usual conical roof has been replaced by the battlements seen today. A hill is shown in the background.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – Duff Sc.
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – Round Tower at Kildare
  • Instructions to binder – to face page 90.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Engravings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture, Forts and fortifications
Geographical Location
  • Round Tower, Kildare town - Named locality
  • Kildare - Town or city
  • Kildare - County
  • Leinster - Province
Keywords(s) Archaeological sites, Churches, Mountains, Round towers, Ruins
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 9.2 cm x 16 cm
Published / created 1778

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland
Note Thomas Campbell
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy opp. p. 90
Source copy National Library of Ireland J.91414.CAN/1778
Alternative source

This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

LETTER IX. // Kildare. IT is an opinion pretty general, on our side the water [sic], that the Irish had not any buildings of stone and mortar, before they were raised by the English; but 1 will enclose you the sketch of one, above 130 feet high, which was certainly built antecedent to that period; for Gyraldus Cambrensis, secretary to Henry II. and afterwards bishop of St. David's, describes those round towers, among the wonderful things of Ireland, and calls them turres ecclefiasticas, quae more patrio arctae sunt necnon & rotundae. // This writer was by no means partial in favour of the Irish nation; when therefore he says, that those towers were built after the fashion of the country, we cannot agree with those who suppose them to have been erected by the Danes. There are no such structures now in Denmark, nor in any other part of Europe, that I hear of, except in Scotland; where there are two of a small size, one at Abernethy in Perthshire, the other at Brechin in Angus. Which, by the bye, among other circumstances, tends to decide the descent of the Scots from Ireland, for we may easily conceive, that those Scottish towers were built by the posterity of the Irish, who went over with Fergus, in the manner of those of their own country, where they are so numerous. The learned, however, are not agreed about the particular use, to which these edifices were applied. Some say they were places of penance; others, that they were belfries, the very name of them in Irish Cloghahd, importing a steeple with a bell; but the prevailing opinion now seems to be, that they were anchorite pillars, such as Simon Stylites used to sanctify himself // upon. They tell you, that in order to preserve the appearance of piety in the Abbey, and augment the same of the monks, one of them, most celebrated for his austerity, used to watch and pray, in an extraordinary manner; thus removed from the earth, and its low cares, and, as it were, holding nearer converse with the Deity. I shall not presume to decide upon a question of such moment; yet I cannot help inclining to the second opinion, not only from the name given them by the indigenal natives, but from the following considerations: Over great part of the east, they have tall round steeples, called minarets, with balconies at top, whence a person calls the people to public worship at stated hours. As the Irish had their arts from Phœnicia, we may fairly suppose, that from thence also came the model of these towers, which served as the minarets of the east do at present, till bells came into use; for narrow as they are, (about ten feet in the clear, at the base) they might hold a bell large enough to summon the auditory, as effectually as the shouts of a man. // Not far from the tower, they shew the ruins of a convent, of the nuns of St. Brigid; who, according to Gyraldus, makes Kildare illustrious by her unextinguishable fires, the ashes of which have never increased. The very oak under which she delighted to pray, has given a name to the place. [pp. 89-92]
Round Tower at Kildare