Rath Sheela-na-Gig




N 52° 55' 02.64"   W 009° 05' 07.68"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

R 27000 85726

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 16 June 2017

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The ruins of Rath church seen from the east. There are traces of where the chancel met the nave.

An early monastic site was built probably in the 6th century and associated with St. Blathmac, believed to have been the teacher of St. Flannan of Killaoe.
In the 12th century the monastic site of Rath was an important centre of learning and was supported by the O'Brians Kings.
The church has a nave and a chancel which is oriented to the east-southeast (105°). Most of the ruinous building that we see today dates from the 15th century, but the large stones in the nave might be from the an earlier building built in the 9th or 10th century. Of the chancel only the south wall survives. The nave is taller and wider than the chancel was, as witnessed by the traces of the roof gables on the wall above the chancel arch. The west wall is almost totally missing. There's an opening in this wall where once was the doorway. There are a doorway and a narrow window in the south wall of the nave.
The church measures 15.15 metres in length and 8.80 metres in width.
The site also had a round tower, but its ruins were definitely demolished in 1838.

Set into the inner side of the south wall, between the narrow window and the south doorway, is a carved fragment of stone with traces of a double frame with interlacing patterns between the two frames.
Outside the double frame to the west there's an upside down sheela-na-gig, like at Merlin Park castle.
The carving is very worn out but it depicts a female figure with a big round head, with two big round eyes and an open mouth as in an expression of wonder. The figure is standing, with her legs spread apart and her feet pointing outwards. Her hands are on the front reaching her genitalia. She's surrounded by two animals figures.
The carving measures 17 centimetres of height and 19 centimetres of width and is at 1.65 metres from the ground.
In the same wall other stoneworks are set, like a carved head of a bishop measuring 45 centimetres by 23.5 centimetres, and a square block of stone with nine bosses next to a font.

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