Fertagh or Grangefertagh, is about 4km from the village of Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny. It’s easy to spot from a distance because it is rather tall. It is a shame that only a small fragment of its cap remains because if it was rebuilt, it would become the tallest round tower in Ireland. Maybe somebody needs to sort that out! 😀
According to the OPW information here, the monastery was probably founded in the 5th or 6th century by St. Kieran of Saighir. This is the same saint who founded the monatery at Seir Kieran. Like just about every other monastery in Ireland, it found itself under attack at various times. It is recorded that the Vikings tried to raid it in 861 but were repelled by Cerbhall of Ossory, who was a powerful King at that time. Indeed, it is suggested that no Vikings raided monasteries in Kilkenny at that time because they did not relish the thoughts of tangling with him. Cerbhall was long gone when the monastery was well and truly raided and burned in 1156. It is said that the tower was burned by the High King of Ireland, Muirchertach MacLochlainn, with the monastery’s lector inside it…
The original doorway into the tower was badly damaged around 1800 when a local farmer decided that the stones from it would protect his property from fire. The doorway was repaired at a later date but it is still easy to see the damage that was done by this local.
Also in the cemetery are the ruined remains of a 13th century church. It remained in use until the 1780s. In the 19th century, its west doorway and east window were removed and are now to be found in Johnstown Church of Ireland. The Catholic Church got its baptismal font and a representation of the Crucifixion. Later still, part of the church was converted into a handball alley. Still, after all of that there still is something left to look at. Inside the church’s side chapel is a tomb, believed to be the final resting place of a king called Seán Mac Giolla Phádraig. Alongside the effigy of the late king is one of a woman. This is believed to be his wife Nóirín Ní Mórdha.
The tower is easy to find – it is in a small cemetery on a narrow country lane. There aren’t many places to park a car though, as you can see from Google Streetview.
Date of Visit: 16th March 2008
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