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Thursday 28 August 2014

Church with links to St Patrick's lost tooth

Published 17/06/2014 | 05:40

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Killaspugbrone Church near Strandhill

KILLASPUGBRONE is located just to the north of the runway at Sligo Airport at Strandhill.

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Killaspugbrone is located just to the north of the runway at Sligo Airport at Strandhill.

Much of the church was built between 1150 and 1220, but it probably is located on an earlier monastic foundation.

Its internal dimensions measure 15.25m by 5.25m, with the walls being 0.9m thick.

The church had a steeply pitched roof evident from the gable end at the east.

The west gable is still visible in the masonry of a later medieval tower.

The doorway on the south wall is partially collapsed.

The tower and a sedelia (seat for clergy) were added in the 15th century.

The sedelia is an arched area in the north wall near the stone altar beneath the east window. The tower on the west end was originally three stories high.

The vaulted room at the base was used for storage with the priest's living room above this and his bedroom on the next storey.

This tower made the interior smaller, reducing its length to 10.35m.

The buttresses visible in the image were added to support the tower after it had been built.

The church survived the Reformation by becoming Protestant, but was abandoned by the late 18th or early 19th century.

After its abandonment, the vaulted room at the base of the tower was turned into a burial vault and parts of the tower were removed and levelled.

Killaspugbrone translates as the Church of Bishop Bronus, a son of a local Chieftain and companion of St Patrick.

A tooth of St Patrick fell out onto a flagstone here and Bronus (who died in 511AD) retained the tooth and founded the church on the spot.

However, there is no evidence of this early foundation and the site became a medieval parish church between 1150 and 1220.

The Shrine St Patrick's Tooth (the Fiacal Phadraig, now in the National Museum of Ireland) was made in 1376 for Thomas de Birmingham, Lord of Athenry, who owned the lands of Killaspugbrone and this shrine reputedly held the tooth.

The church was abandoned when it began to be engulfed in shifting sand dunes.

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