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Holy Wells | Altar Stone | Dysert Aenghusa

Altar Stone

According to parish records, there was an altar stone in Croom, which dated from penal times. This altar stone bore an ogham inscription. It was given by Canon Wall to the National Museum.

Dysert Aenghusa

Dysert Aenghusa
© Dysert Aenghusa

Dysert Aenghusa is the earliest known Christian site in the area of Croom, dating from approximately 800AD. The ruins of a church and of a round tower are now all that remains. There was a graveyard here until about 100 years ago, although no trace of it now remains. A 19th century landowner used the headstones as slabs to cover drains. A local story told about the man says that he built new sheds on his farm soon after, and "Luke Christy went broke over the sheds". Some say his financial failure was punishment for disturbing the graveyard.

According to Barrow's The Round Towers of Ireland, Luke Christy excavated the interior of the tower in 1849. He also fitted floors and ladders and a lead roof. The roof was replaced in 1881-2 when the Office of Public Works carried out repairs. The ruin is now under the protection of the OPW and is well preserved. Mass was said here last year.

Aengus was born around 750AD. He joined the monastery of Clonenagh, near Portlaoise, and was ordained a priest around 775AD. At this time the Céilí Dé (Companions or servants of God) were a kind of order of hermits. Aengus became one of the Céilí De, and so sought out a lonely place to set up his dísert or hermitage. He came to Croom around 780AD and set up his hermitage at what is now known as Dísert Aenghusa in the townland of Carrigeen in Croom. There, Aenghus founded a church before moving on after a stay of just two years.

There is much confusion as to the dates on which the church and tower were built. Some would date the church from the 9th or 10th centuries, while others would date it as late as the 15th or 16th centuries, and say that the later ruin incorporates the first building into its framework. The tower has been dated as early as the tenth century, and as late as 1200AD. The church was used as a parish church until 1418. By 1610 Dísert belonged to the Protestant church.

A mass path in this area leads from Dysert Aenghusa to Croom.

Holy Wells | Altar Stone | Dysert Aenghusa

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