St. Declan established a monastery at this spot along the southern coast between 350 and 420 AD. This means that Christianity had a toehold in Ireland long before St. Patrick arrived from Britain. St. Declan’s church stands on the site of the original monastery, and the cone-roofed, 12th century, round tower is one of the finest examples in all of Ireland. One of the walls of the church bears 9th century carvings arranged in unusual arched panels depicting the Archangel Michael weighing souls, the adoration of the Magi, the judgment of Solomon and Adam and Eve.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site was leased to Sir Walter Raleigh and pilgrims once came here to wash in St. Declan’s Well.
Kapoors On The Road
We started out driving using a detailed road map that my cousin Cheryl Walker had given us, saved from her own trip to Ireland a couple of years earlier. We were also given a road map by the car rental company that showed points of interest with a small red star. I found that I had to refer back and forth between the two maps throughout our eleven days of driving because outside of the major cities and towns, each map chose to mark a different set of villages and hamlets. We chose to drive all the byways to get from one place to another and it was my job as navigator to ensure we didn’t get completely lost, or spend too much of our time going around in circles.
As I mentioned earlier in my entry on Kinsale, we were faced with our first day of rain in over two weeks of travel in usually wet and windy Ireland. While we were driving towards Cork, the rain began pelting so I put my head down and studied the route map instead of admiring the scenery. I happened to notice a red star near the seaside town of Ardmore, and knowing that we had enjoyed all the other red star sights, I quickly flipped to the iPad and read the entry about Ardmore in our Lonely Planet eBook.
When I learned that I was finally going to be able to see a round tower with its roof intact, I suggested to Anil we make a quick stop at the ruins of St. Declan’s Church. Anil stayed in the car and I got out with my camera in one hand and the huge green umbrella in the other. The site is located on top of a hill above the town, on sloping land, so I entered the gate near the top and walked down through the graveyard towards the church. This turned out to be fortuitous because the water was also flowing downhill along the paths, and through the grass, so I didn’t have to walk through puddles.
The ruins were incredibly atmospheric in the mist and I kept snapping photos while trying to keep the rain off the lens. I couldn’t really take any time to study the engravings or the incredible sculptures on the wall of the church, but I was happy to be there just the same. Just before turning to leave, I decided to enter the church itself and I am so glad I did. The roof is long gone, so the rain was pouring down on the graves that at one time would have been located down the middle aisle.
One poor grave was almost completely submerged, which made it look incredibly pathetic indeed. This location was probably considered to be a place of honour within the church, but in reality, it would have been high and relatively dry if it had been in the cemetery surrounded by green grass and flowers. Oh, what ravages time brings.
Right in the middle of my picture taking session at Ardmore, my camera signaled that the chip was full and I had to stand in the rain and delete some photos before I could take any more. I always carry a spare battery and an extra chip in my purse, but I left it in the car with Anil to keep it dry. The best laid plans…