Anne & Tom Visit Ireland travel blog

We got lost and found this herd of cows.Notice the brown bull...

We found it! The sign really says Saint Gobnait in Gaelic.

The church

White deer play a role in the leged

This is a pilgrimage place

This is the statue of Saint Gobnait

The Protestant Church & the ruined Catholic Church and graveyard

The gate was open for us to enter

Most of the graves are from modern time

Some are ornate

The early headstones are too worn to read

Anne's family name is Murray

She has Murphy, Twomey, and Lynch also

A little statue

Inside the ruined church - recent graves

Anne found the Sheela-na-gig

Close up of Sheela-na-gig

Scratching the stone

Convent ruins

Truck ruins

A stream near the holy well

A holy well (one of many)

Tasting

Articles left at the well

More objects at the well

The main street in Macroom

Irish laundry

Murray's Bar

Twomey's butcher shop

Twomey's truck


Just outside Ballyvourney is a pilgrimage spot dating from the 6th century and founded by St. Gobnait (a woman). These pilgrimage spots are all over the place and have signs with a prescribed set of "stations" and prayers to say at each station. There are many ruins there, including a very ruined old convent site, a Catholic church, also roofless and in ruins, and a later Anglican church (the English banned Catholicism in about the 17th century until the 1800's, making the English church the only permitted religion. The entire area around the ruined Catholic church, as well as inside it(!), is a cemetery still in use. Any headstones prior to 1900 seem to be so weathered as to be invisible or illegible. However, it was quite moving to see all those family names listed above in this graveyard - the people who stayed and did not immigrate to America.

However, Anne had a further quest here - finding the Sheela-na-gig on the ruined church, as described in a catalog of Sheelas in Ireland and Britain. These are now thought to be medieval carvings, by amateurs (i.e. regular people), addressing pagan concerns about the birth and death cycle.The Sheela is a naked female, with the upper half portrayed as an old woman, and the lower half rather enlarged and sometimes giving birth. All the known examples are different from each other. (Look this up on the internet if you want to know more - but you can imagine what the Victorians thought when they noticed these figures in the 19th century!) So after walking around the ruined church, both inside and out, and consulting her guidebook, Anne found the Sheela on a lintel, outside, over a window on the south side of the ruined church.

Many of these pilgrimage sites have a "holy well", where there are coffee mugs turned upside down for the pilgrim to use for a drink of the holy water. There were two of these holy wells at St. Gobnait's.

We drove back down the road to Macroom, a considerably bigger town, where we also walked around and photographed Murray's Bar and Twomey's Butcher Shop.

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