The Romanesque church at Killeshin, Co. Laois, near Carlow

Just 4km from Carlow town the church at Killeshin has one of the finest decorated Romanesque doorways preserved in Ireland. The church is found by taking the R431 Killeshin road, from the end of the Carlow N80 Northern relief road, and then on reaching Killeshin village taking the left turn and immediate right turn. You pass the modern cemetery on the left and Killeshin church is 300m further on the right. The church has good views over the Barrow valley and the Wicklow Mountains.

The monastery of Killeshin (Glenn Uisin) was founded by Diarmait mac Siabairr, a saint of the local Uí Barraiche family. Nothing of the early monastery survives. Originally a Round Tower stood north-west of the church but this was taken down in 1703 by the local landowner. The surviving remains of Killeshin Church currently comprise the west and east gables and a major portion of the north elevation. The church was probably built between 1100 and 1200, and is built of uncoursed rubble masonry with carved windows and a Romanesque doorway in the west gable. The Romanesque doorway has four receding orders beneath a pointed-arch hood mould. The arch is decorated with human, animal, foliage and geometric motifs, and the capitals feature human heads with inter-twined hair. A granite font stands to the north of the doorway. The west gable also has an internally splayed round-headed window with a pointed-arch surround.

View of the inscription to Diarmait Mac Murchada on the doorway at Killeshan

An inscription on the door reads ORAIT DO DIARMAIT RI LAGEN - 'a prayer for Diarmait, king of Leinster'. This is a reference to the famous King of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada, who invited the Normans to Ireland. Traces of carvings are also present on the the jambs and arch of the round-headed window in the north wall. The original window in the east gable was replaced with a double ogee-headed window, probably dating to the sixteenth century. Mac Murchada also built the Cistercian Abbey at Baltinglas, Co. Wicklow.

View Killeshin, Co. Loais in a larger map

GPS coordinates 52.847156,-7.001038

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