[Gallarus, cross-slab]

Inscribed cross-slab at Gallarus Oratory. Labelled D.

Image Details

Genre Scientific or Technical illustration
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture
Geographical Location
  • Gallarus - Named locality
  • Kerry - County
  • Munster - Province
Keywords(s) Antiquities, Archaeological sites, Churches, Crosses
Colour Monochrome
Published / created 1839

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account Rambles in the South of Ireland
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy Vol. 1, p. 138
Source copy James Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland Galway Special Collections: 914.190481 CHA
Rights James Hardiman Library

Related text from travel account

About half-way down the hill we left the car, and scrambling across the walls of loose stones, and wet fields, in the direction pointed out by our driver, came to a small enclosure formed with higher and stronger walls than those of the larger surrounding fields. In it there was a low stone building, about the size of the ordinary Irish cabin, around which several loose stones were piled up, and some stones of larger size lay scattered in a confused manner, although it was impossible not to feel the conviction that a certain rude attention had been bestowed upon the disposition of them.
[Image: Gallarus Oratory]
[p. 133] The preceding sketch will give a sufficiently correct idea of this curious little building. The masonry, as indicated, shows the horizontal strata of stones by which the walls are formed. The stones are piled up skilfully in the shape of a cone, that in one curve serves for the side wall and arched roof.
It is quite perfect, except the large flat stones that formed the ridge of the arch, of which two only remain. These two remaining stones are curious in form, and, I found, were held in great reverence by the peasantry of the neighbourhood, who suppose that on them a peculiar kind of bell was once placed, by means of which alarm could be given to the inhabitants of the village of Gollerus, which is at some distance.
In one of these stones there certainly is a circular hollow scooped out of its surface, in which, according to the tradition of the place, another stone was made to play backwards and forwards, producing a sound as loud and clear as that of a bell.
[Tale of the theft of this bell-stone, its restitution and later disappearance]
[p. 135] I can say little about the architecture of this cell, although it appeared to me to be very well worth attention. All decisions about the date of its construction must depend upon comparison of its masonry with that of other buildings, the history of which is more known. The stones, as I before said, are laid on each other in very regular horizontal lines, and are so neatly fitted, apparently without the use of hammer or chisel, that they require no mortar to keep them in their [p. 136] places. The side walls slope from the ground in one even curve, until they meet at the top in the form of an arch, without the slightest variation in the layers of stone from the horizontal position, or any key-stone to direct the courses.
[Image: Gallarus Oratory, detail of window]
The sketches, A and B, are accurate outlines of the masonry of the window which is at the end opposite to the door. A, is the little window, as seen outside the building. B, is the same window, from the interior.
From the confusion with which the stones are placed above one another, it is evident that the form of the window was not determined upon until the stones were laid together. It bears a great resemblance to the rudest style of windows in the towers of Norman churches in England.
This little arched hole faces nearly due east. [p. 137] The door given in the sketch of the cell is opposite to it; and over this door, in the interior, are two curious perforated brackets, as shewn in the sketch C.
[Image: Gallarus Oratory, detail of doorway]
Their position might lead to the conjecture that they were intended to receive the two side posts of the door, that once defended this holy place from the intrusion of the birds, and wandering animals, to which it is now abandoned. Near the east end, I observed a curious stone, which no doubt had been originally in an upright, but is now in a slanting position.
A cross within a circle, and various marks, or characters, are sculptured upon it, which I copied, very little to my edification. See my sketch, D.
[Image: Gallarus, cross-slab]
[p. 138] Upon very ancient tombstones, I have observed the upper device of a cross within a circle, from which various scrolls and decorations proceeded, but I have never seen anything more rude or incomprehensible than the strange figures upon this stone.
The supposition that it is the head-stone of some chieftain's grave, is perhaps the most likely. The little cell near it might have been constructed by his followers, that prayers might there be offered up for his soul, and for the souls of those who fell and were interred around him.
Many other stones lie about within the little [p. 139] enclosure, but they bear no marks of the chisel. The cell is called, by some, the hermitage—but no one seems to know any thing of its history.
The interior of the cell measures about twelve feet in length, by about eight feet in breadth, and the height may be about twelve feet.
The little window is about two feet and a half from the ground, outside. The door-way, is scarcely five feet high, and two feet and a half at the bottom, gradually lessening towards the top stone.
The engraved stone, which I have sketched, is, as nearly as I can remember, four feet high, and scarcely a foot broad.
[Vol. 1, p. 132-139]
Gallarus, cross-slab