I was given another gift today. During my trip to Jerpoint Park, I met Louise Nugent. An Archeologist; her research focus is on Pilgrimages in Medieval Ireland. Therefore, she is very knowledgeable in medieval parishes, abbeys, etc. Today, she offered to show me some hidden gems within the area that I am staying. It was truly remarkable. And … She was very patient with all of my questions!
As you drive through the countryside, you often see ruins … Sometimes to your left, sometimes to your right; there are castles and high towers. What is very common to see is an 11th or 12th century church, abbey, or monastery in every town or village; each in different stages of ruin. Sometimes all four walls are standing, sometimes only one partial wall covered in vines makes its existence mostly unknown.
What I have found interesting is that the graveyards, which start outside of the church, spread inside the walls … meets the need or desire to be buried closer to God. Grave markers range from simple stones to slabs to elaborate engraved headstones.
In our discussions, Louise had picked up that I was interested in Celtic knots, but that I was also interested in the iconology/symbology. What better place to explore this than church ruins and graveyards.
I was amazed how she would wander through the site and point out a variety of Christian symbols from lambs to ladders to the sun and moon. Some were barely visible, others more elaborate … All were truly, well …. Remarkable. Many will be serving as inspiration for some artwork.
Here is a list of the sites that we visited:
I am going to do separate posts on each site that we visited. In the meantime, I would suggest exploring Louise’s websites ….
And here are some gravestones to pique your interest.