On a fresh Saturday morning, Laois Public Participation Network (PPN) were delighted to hold a “Tour Round the Tower” at Timahoe.

Timahoe Round Tower is one of the finest examples of a Round Tower in Ireland.  The tour of the early Christian site at Timahoe with its 12th Century Round Tower was led by local guide Roghan Headen. Roghan informed attendees from PPN Member Groups how Timahoe Round Tower was built in the 12th Century, on the site of a religious community founded by St. Mochua around 600. The tower rises almost 30 metres high and is more than 17 metres wide at its base. Attendees learnt how Timahoe Round Tower made it easy for travellers to find the monastery through the years. Bells would be rung to call the monks to prayer, and to signal when the monastery was under attack. When the alarm sounded, monks would grab all the treasures of the monastery and scramble into the tower. Once they had drawn up the outside ladder and bolted the door, the thick stone walls kept them safe.

Roghan spoke about the key role of monks as Ireland became known as the Land of Saints & Scholars. The monks looked after the spiritual needs of the community and recorded significant events. They were skilled stonemasons; this can be seen from the Round Tower which took 40 years to build. Their gifted metalwork skills can be seen with the Ardagh Chalice. The gardens at medieval monasteries were an important part of daily life for monks. Beside the Round Tower, attendees could see a small sample of herbs and flowers the monks would have used for medicine. As well been skilled herbalists, the monks were makers of beer.

Roghan Headen said “It was great to see a good crowd with a genuine interest in the Heritage of Timahoe and Laois”

The tour was followed by a talk with Sean Murray, Laois Archaeologist and Laois PPN Rep for the Laois Heritage Forum, on the project to digitally record the beautifully craved Hiberno Romanesque doorway – that the Tower is renowned for.

Sean Murray said “The great monastic sites of Timahoe, was located along the ancient roadway called the Slighe Dhala, which connecting the Hill of Tara to Munster. It is the site of the last remaining Round Tower or “Clogteach” (Bellhouse) in Co Laois, of which there were originally six that dotted the Medieval Christian landscape in the County. The Hiberno-Romanesque Doorway located at first floor level on the eastern side of the Round Tower, is a very rare feature nationally on round towers, as most have undecorated doorways. There are similarities, between this doorway and the doorway at Killeshin, Co. Laois, and it may have been patroned by Diarmait Mac Murchada, the King of Leinster who invited the Anglo-Normans to Ireland in the 12th Century. The Laois Heritage Society commissioned a 3-D photographic survey on the Tower in 2020, which was funded by the Heritage Council, the results of which can be found on sketchfab.com”.

The day finished with tea and scones for attendees at the Timahoe Heritage Centre café ‘Tower and Bean’. Tower and Bean café is opened at weekends and is ran by volunteers.

Dan Bergin, Resource Worker with Laois PPN, said “Timahoe Round Tower is one of the most iconic structures in Laois. It appears on the Laois GAA crest. Not only one of the most iconic structures in Laois, we should be immensely proud in Laois as it is considered by Discover Ireland as one of the finest the finest Round Towers in Ireland. Laois PPN wish to thank Roghan Headen and Sean Murray for the tour of this heritage gem on Ireland’s Ancient East.”

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