Heritage Talk with Sean Murray
Hiberno Romanesque Doorway
At 3pm on Saturday 3rd June, Sean Murray of Laois Heritage Society and Laois Archeology will give a talk on the Hiberno Romanesque doorway of Timahoe Round Tower.
The most elegant round tower in Ireland boasts an extraordinary carved doorway, adorned with human heads sporting flowing beards and moustaches, located about five meters from the ground. While the reason behind why the monks at Timahoe created such a beautiful entrance remains a mystery, it is speculated that it may have been used to showcase a sacred relic to pilgrims or reflect the now-vanished monastery buildings on this site.
Constructed in the 1100s, the round tower sits on the grounds of a religious community established by St. Mochua in 600. Standing almost 30 meters tall and over 17 meters wide at the base, the tower’s walls are almost 2 meters thick and consist of five floors accessible by ladders. It was built to make it easy for travelers to locate the monastery, with bells being rung to call the monks to prayer and signal any incoming attacks. When an alarm sounded, the monks would gather all the monastery’s treasures and retreat into the tower, where they would pull up the outside ladder and bolt the door, safe behind the thick stone walls.
The tower’s location across a footbridge that crosses the Bauteogue river provides a picturesque view, while the nearby former Church of Ireland now serves as a library, and a ruined 17th century castle displays elements from a 15th century church. The tower grounds also feature a sculpture commissioned by the local primary school, called Mochua’s Desk, depicting St. Mochua and his three pets: a rooster who woke him up, a mouse who nibbled his ear if he fell asleep while praying, and a fly that stopped on the word Mochua was reading during his prayers.