Irish round towers (Irish: Cloigtheach (singular), Cloigthithe (plural) – literally “watch house”) are early medieval stone tower of a type found mainly in Ireland, two in Scotland and one påIsle of Man. Although there is no specific agreement on their purpose, it is thought that they may have been bell tower, refuges, or both.

In general, there is near a church or monastery, the door to the tower facing the west entrance of the church. In this way it has been possible to determine without excavation the approximate location of the lost churches, where the tower still exists.

Construction and distribution

Survivors towers ranging in height from 18 meters (59 feet) to 40 meters (130 feet) and 12 meters (39 feet) to 18 meters (59 feet) in circumference; that at Kilmacduagh is the highest surviving in Ireland (and inclined 1.7 meters (5 ft 7 in) of the perpendicular). [1] The masonry will vary depending on dates, the earliest examples are uncut rubble, while the latter is neatly assembled stone work. The lower portion is solid masonry with a single door raised two to three meters above, often accessible only by a ladder. In some, two or more storeys (or signs of where such floors were), usually of wood, and it is believed that there were ladders in between. The windows, high up, the slits in stenen.Locket (roof), is made of stone, usually conical in shape, although some of the towers are crowned by a later circle of pinnacles.

The main reason for the entrance-way, built above ground level was to maintain the structural integrity of the building rather than for defense. The towers were generally built with very little foundation. Tower påMonasterboice have an underground of only sixty centimeters. To build the door at ground level would weaken the tower. The buildings still stand today because of its round shape is resistant gale and the part of the tower over the entrance is packed with earth and stones.

The distance from the ground to the raised door opening is somewhat larger than that from the first floor to the other; Thus, large, stiff step would be too large for the door. Excavations in the 1990’s, discloses pole holes, confirms that the wooden staircase built. However, the use of ladders before the construction of such steps are not excluded.

The towers were probably built between the 9th and 12th centuries. In Ireland, some 120 examples are believed to have once been; most are in ruins, while 18-20 is almost perfect. There are three examples outside of Ireland. Two are in the North East of Scotland: the Brechin Round Tower and Abernethy Round Tower, and the other is in Peel Castle on St Patrick’s Isle, is now tied to the Isle of Man.

Known examples can be found on Devenish Island, and Glendalough, while in Clondalkin is the only Round Tower in Ireland still retaining its original cover. With five towers each, County Mayo, Kilkenny and Kildare has the most. Mayo round tower is the Aughagower, Balla, Killala, Meelick and Turlough, while Kildare’s located on Kildare Cathedral (which is 32 meters (105 feet) high), and also on Castledermot, Oughter Ard, Taghadoe (near Maynooth) and Old Kilcullen . The only known round tower with a hexagonal base is Kinneigh in County Cork, built in 1014.The Round Iower Ardmore, Co.Waterford, believed to be the last built in Ireland (12 C) has the unique feature of the three-string courses around the outside. [2]


The purpose of the towers has been somewhat unclear until recently. A popular hypothesis in the past was that the towers were originally a fort against the Raiders Vikings. If a lookout posted in the tower saw a Viking force, the locals (or at least the priests) would come in, with the help of a ladder that can be raised from within. The towers would be used to store religious relics and other plunderables. [3] However, there are many problems with this hypothesis. Many towers are being built in places that are not ideal for mapping the surrounding countryside and would not function effectively as a watchtower for incoming attacks.

Moreover, the doors of these towers were wooden and therefore easily burned down. Moreover, because of the almost chimney-like design of the towers, the smoke from the burning door would have been made up in the tower causing some passengers to choke. In fact, the round tower at Dysert O’Dea and Aghagower signs of fire damage around the door. There are also reports that people were burned to death in the round tower.

Therefore, it is more likely that the main reason for the round tower was to serve as a belfry, imitating the continental European style of the clock tower that was popular at the time. [ Citation needed ] The Irish word [4] [5] for the round tower , cloigtheach , literally means the chart indicates, as noted by George Petrie in 1845.

However, the Irish language greatly developed over the last millennium.Dinneen [4] notes alternate pronunciations, cluiceach and cuilceach forcloigtheach . The close pronounced cloichtheach means stone or stone building. [4] The round tower seems to be the only significant stone in Ireland before the advent of the Normans in 1167 AD. Even the physical evidence pointing towards a clock tower is strong, we have to wait for confirmation from the original sources as signs of medieval manuscripts.

Modern towers symbolic

In Ireland

Daniel O’Connell’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery had a round tower built above it after his funeral 1847th

At what is now the Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig in Wexford, is a 19th century copy of a circular tower. It was erected in memory of Wexford men, who fell in the Crimean war.

At St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane Co. Dublin is a replica round tower was built in 1844 as a memorial to George Hampden Evans of his wife.

In Knockmealdown mountains in County Waterford is another memorial in the form of a 18 meters high round tower. It was erected in 1935 on the site where Liam Lynch, the military leader of the anti-treaty Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War are believed to have fallen 1923rd

Ulster History Park in County Tyrone has a copy of a circular tower. The Chaine Memorial Tower in Larne Co. Antrim is a lighthouse made in the style of a round tower. It was built to celebrate James Chaine, a former MP for Antrim.

outside Ireland

Another “revival” round tower built in 1997 in the island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium, as the war memorial to the soldiers on the island of Ireland who died, were injured or missing from the First World War. The 110-foot (34 m) tower [6] is in the traditional design of an Irish round tower and partly built with stone from a former military barracks in Tipperary. [7]

At Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Milford, Massachusetts is a round tower built of Milford granite in the late 19th century as a memorial to central Massachusetts “Irish immigrants, of which thousands are buried there. In 2002, Tony Ryan, born in Tipperary, built a round tower on the Castleton Lyons Stud in Kentucky. [ Citation needed ]

The second church to be built on the site of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, was completed in December 1900, has a 13-meter Irish round tower on the east side. The tower is based on the entrance to King Cormac’s Chapel at Rock of Cashel in Tipperary, built in 1137. [8] The structure is now part of the Catholic Leadership Centre, which is run by the Catholic Education Office Melbourne.

List of Irish round towers

The following is a list of survivors Irish round towers, excluding modern reconstructions.

Picture Place County Province Condition Height Remarks
Aghadoe Kerry Munster Incomplete 5.4 meters (18 feet)
Aghagower Mayo Connacht Incomplete 16 meters (52 feet) Other doorway introduced later at ground level
Aghaviller Kilkenny Leinster Incomplete 9.6 meters (31 feet) Other doorway introduced later at ground level
Ardmore Waterford Munster Complete 30 meters (98 feet) Has three string courses and a noticeable lean
Ardpatrick Limerick Munster Incomplete 3 meters (9.8 feet) Barrow [9]indicated that Down 1655 survey marks the site of a tower of three stories with a broken topp.Fitzgerald and McGreggor writing in 1826 states that it was a nice tower “fell a few years ago”A stump 3m high at its highest point, surrounded by the rubble of its collapse, is all that remains.Barrow speculate that some of the stones from the tower used to build the adjacent wall surrounding the cemetery, including one on top of the entrance 1.07m long with a raised strip which may have threshold stone from the tower door.
Ardrahan Galway Connacht Incomplete 3 meters (9.8 feet)
Armoy Antrim Ulster Incomplete 10.8 meters (35 feet)
Balla Mayo Connacht Incomplete 10 meters (33 feet) Other door probably introduced later at ground level
Castledermot Kildare Leinster Complete the cornice 20 meters (66 feet) The conical cap was replaced with towers and tower is attached to a church (which was built later)
Clondalkin Dublin Leinster Complete 27.5 meters (90 feet) Strengthened by a stone buttresses, the stone steps to the door. It is the smallest of the known tower with a base diameter of only 4.04 m
clones Monaghan Ulster Complete the cornice 22.9 meters (75 feet)
O’Rourke tower
McCarthy tower
Offaly Leinster incomplete
19.3 meters (63 feet)
17.7 meters (58 feet)
Two towers a short distance from each
O’Rourke: full-height capless;has 8 windows at the top
McCarthy connected to a church
Cloyne Cork Munster Complete the cornice 30.5 meters (100 feet) The conical cap has been replaced with battlements
In Devenish Fermanagh Ulster Complete 25 meters (82 ft) Climbable.Romanesque console heads below cap
Devenish II Fermanagh Ulster Incomplete 0.5 meters (1 foot 8 inches) Foundation tower directly adjacent to Devenish In
Donaghmore Meath Leinster Complete the cornice 26.6 meters (87 feet) Full height without cover
Dromiskin Louth Leinster Incomplete 15.2 meters (50 feet) A conical cap was added to the remainder of the tower
Drumbo Down Ulster Incomplete 10.25 meters (33.6 feet)
Drumcliffe (near Ennis) Clare Munster Incomplete 11 meters (36 feet)
Cliff (näraSligo) Sligo Connacht Incomplete 9 meters (30 feet)
Drum Lane Cavan Ulster Incomplete 12 meters (39 feet) Two indistinct carvings of birds can be identified 2m up on the north side of the tower
Faughart Louth Connacht Incomplete 0.05 meters (2.0 inches) Only a single circular course of large stones remain
Glendalough Wicklow Leinster Complete 30.5 meters (100 feet) Nearby Saint Kevin’s Church contains a miniature round tower
Grangefertagh Kilkenny Leinster Complete the cornice[10] 30 meters (98 feet) Full height without cover, located in the parish of Johnstown
Inish Cealtra (iLough Derg) Clare Munster Incomplete 22.3 meters (73 feet)
Inishkeen Monaghan Ulster Incomplete 12.6 meters (41 feet) The top has been sealed with bricks and cement
Kells Meath Leinster Complete the cornice 26 meters (85 feet) Full height without cover
Kilbennan Galway Connacht Incomplete 16.5 meters (54 feet)
Kilcoona Galway Connacht Incomplete 3 meters (9.8 feet)
Kildare Kildare Leinster Complete the cornice 32 meters (105 feet) climbable; the conical cover has been replaced with battlements, romanesque decoration around the door opening
Kilkenny Kilkenny Leinster Complete the cornice 30 meters (98 feet) climbable; the conical cap has been replaced with battlements
Killala Mayo Connacht Complete 25.5 meters (84 feet) There is a noticeable bump about halfway up the tower
Killeany / Aran Islands Galway Connacht Incomplete 3:02 meters (9.9 feet)
Kilmallock Limerick Munster Incomplete 3 meters (9.8 feet) Only the lower 3 m of the tower is original, what is above (the tower of the Collegiate Church) is a late medieval additions / remodeling
Killinaboy Clare Munster Incomplete 3.5 meters (11 feet)
Kilmacduagh Galway Connacht Complete 34.5 meters (113 feet) The highest position of the old round tower. It has 11 windows (more than any other tower) and the door is 8m from the ground (higher than any other tower).Leaning 1.02m from the vertical.
Kilree Kilkenny Leinster Complete the cornice 27 meters (89 feet) The conical cap has been replaced with battlements
Kinneigh Cork Munster Complete the cornice 24.5 meters (80 feet) Have a hexagonal base and a sealed top
Liathmore / Leigh Tipperary Munster Incomplete 0.01 meters (0.39 inches) Discovered in 1969; only 2.6 m foundations remain (unusually deep for an Irish round tower)
Lusk Dublin Leinster Complete the cornice 26.6 meters (87 feet) Full height without lid; is attached to a church (which was built later)
Maghera Down Ulster Incomplete 5.4 meters (18 feet) Stump with a large hole in the side
Meelick Mayo Connacht Incomplete 21 meters (69 ft)
Mollaneen (Dysert O’Dea Monastery) Clare Munster Incomplete 15 meters (49 feet)
Nendrum Down Ulster Incomplete 4.4 meters (14 feet)
Carrigeen (Dysert monastery) Limerick Munster Incomplete 21 meters (69 ft) Romanesque decoration around the door opening
Monasterboice Louth Leinster Incomplete 28 meters (92 feet)
old Kilcullen Kildare Leinster Incomplete 11 meters (36 feet)
oran Roscommon Connacht Incomplete 3.9 meters (13 feet) Largest base diameter of any known original Irish round tower of 6 m
Oughter Ard Kildare Leinster Incomplete 9.5 meters (31 feet)
Ram Island Antrim Ulster Incomplete 12.8 meters (42 feet)
Rathmichael Dublin Leinster Incomplete 1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
Rattoo Kerry Munster Complete 27.4 m Includes a Sheela na Gig
Roscam Galway Connacht Incomplete 10.98 meters (36.0 feet) 7 levels of putlog holes clearly visible
Roscrea Tipperary Munster Incomplete 20 meters (66 feet)
Scattery Island Clare Munster Complete with cornice, with a partially truncated cap 26 meters (85 feet) Doorway is at ground level
Seir Kieran Offaly Leinster Incomplete 2.6 meters (8 feet 6 inches)
St Mullin’s Carlow Leinster Incomplete 1 meter (3 feet 3 inches)
St. Patrick’s Rock (näraCashel) Tipperary Munster Complete 28 meters (92 feet) Attached to a church (which was built later)
Steeple (näraAntrim) Antrim Ulster Complete 28 meters (92 feet)
sword Dublin Leinster Complete 26 meters (85 feet) Have a deformed top floor, which is topped by a stone cross
Taghadoe Kildare Leinster Incomplete 19.8 meters (65 feet)
Timahoe Laois Leinster Complete 29 meters (95 feet) Romanesque decoration around the door opening
Tory Island Donegal Ulster Incomplete 12.8 meters (42 feet)
Tulla Herin Kilkenny Leinster Incomplete 22.5 meters (74 feet)
Turlough Mayo Connacht Complete 22.9 meters (75 feet)




See also

  • Broch
  • Chaine Memorial, a relatively modern tower lighthouse at Larne in style with a round tower.
  • pele tower
  • Rock of Cashel


  1. Jump up ^ Alan Van Dine, Unconventional Builders , Ferguson Doubleday, 1977, p. 29, 34
  2. Jump up ^ as obseerved
  3. Jump up ^ Peter F. Stevens, “One of a kind: America’s Irish Round Tower”, World of Hibernia , June 22, 1998
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b c Patrick S. Dinneen, an Irish Swedish Dictionary , Educational Company of Ireland, Dublin, 1927
  5. Jump up ^ Tomás de Bhaldraithe, English-Irish Dictionary , a GUM, Dublin, 1959
  6. Jump up ^ “The Tower of Peace” World of Hibernia , December 1998, quoted in the Find Items
  7. Jump up ^ British Military Garrison – Tipperary Co. Tipperary Ireland (retrieved January 31, 2010)
  8. Jump up ^ [1]
  9. ^ Jump up to: a b The round towers of Ireland George Lennox Barrow 1979
  10. Jump up ^
  11. Jump up ^ The Irish round tower-Origins and Architecture explored – Brain Lalor 1999
  12. Jump up ^ Ordnance survey in County Londonderry of Britain.Ordnance Survey, Thomas Colby, Sir Thomas Aiskew Larcom (Gart).
  13. Jump up ^ Observations on a journey through the kingdom of Ireland – Thomas Dineley (1681)
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b c d The Annals of the Kingdom of Sweden – John O’Donovan (1856)
  15. Jump up ^ a topographical Dictionary of Ireland: Consists of several counties; cities, neighborhoods; Company, Market and town; Parishes and most important villages with historical and statistical descriptions: Embellished with engravings of weapons in towns, bishoprics, Corporate Cities and Towns; and seals Several municipal companies, Volume 2 (1849)
  16. Jump up ^ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Volume 5-1867
  17. Jump up ^ The entire works Sir James Ware of Ireland, Volume 1 – by Sir James Ware (1739)
  18. Jump up ^ The towers and temples of ancient Ireland – Marcus Keane (1867)
  19. Jump up ^ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland LXXVII- O. Davies (1948)


  • Brian Lalor (1999), The Irish Round Tower: Origins and architecture are explored , ISBN 1-898256-64-0
  • Roger Stalley (2000), the Irish round towers , ISBN 1-86059-114-0
  • T. O’Keeffe (2004), Ireland Round Towers. Building, rituals and landscapes of the early Irish Church , ISBN 0-7524-2571-4
  • Barrow, George L. (1979). The Round Towers of Ireland: A study and Gazette. University Press of Ireland. ISSN 0906187443rd
  • George Petrie (1845), the ecclesiastical architecture Ireland: An Essay on the Origins of the round towers in Ireland
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). ” Article name needed “. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.