Location – In the heart of Kildare town.
OS: N 728 124 (map 55)
GPS: N 72806 12491 (Accuracy – 2m)
Longitude: 6° 54' 41.27" W
Latitude: 53° 9' 28.67" N
See map at the bottom of the page.
Description and History – The history of this site is shrouded in legend and goes back to St. Brigid who founded an abbey here in 480AD. After her death in 523 a shrine was erected in her honour which was presided over by an abbess who was given hierarchy over the Bishop. It is said that the Cathedral was sacked some sixteen times between 835 and 998. The Cathedral was in ruins by 1223 when Ralph of Bristol was made bishop. It was then that the present Cathedral was built. However by 1500 it was largely a ruin and was abandoned by 1649. It was partially rebuilt later in that century and in 1896 the restored Cathedral was opened. It has a standard cruciform shape and is in the early Gothic style and relatively plain in terms of the architecture. There are many interesting features both inside and outside the building. The tomb of Bishop Walter Wellesley is a fine piece of medieval 16th century sculpture and has an exhibitionist female (similar to a Sheela-na-Gig) on the underside of the top – an extremely unusual location for such a sculpture. There are many other architectural fragments inside on display including some cross slabs and a high cross base.
The round tower is one of the finest in the country and stands at 32m in height. It boasts a fine Romanesque doorway and has been restored internally allowing visitors to climb all the way to the top of the tower. It’s not an easy climb.
A plain high cross with a broken head sits in the graveyard as does the foundations of a firehouse which once housed the flame of St. Brigid which was allegedly put out by Cromwell’s men. The original foundation of St. Brigid was likely to have been built on the site of a pagan shrine to the goddess Brigid who was associated with fire and had a shrine in this area. Over time the goddess Brigid and St. Brigid became combined. The flame was relit in 1993 and is now housed in Solas Bhride in Kildare.
Difficulty – Easy to get to with ample parking. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm from May to September.
For more ecclesiastical sites, click here.
For more sites in Co. Kildare, click here.
As viewed from the entrance gate.
I saw this unusual stone in the graveyard. I wonder if it has any significance?
The Romanesque entrance to the round tower.
View The Standing Stone in a larger map