Glendalough - St. Saviour's Priory Church




N 53° 00' 28.02"   W 006° 18' 43.8"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

T 13271 96564

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Sunday 3 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

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Approaching from the south, an oval enclosure surrounds the church.

This church, known as the St. Saviour's Priory, lays way east from the other main buildings at Glendalough and for this reason nearly nobody comes to see it. We wish to thank Pat and his family for taking the time to guide us here and spending time with us.

The priory was built by St. Laurence O'Toole between 1150 and 1160, while he was abbot of Glendalough.
The building is a nave and chancel church, with another room parallel to the nave on the north side. The chancel section is narrower than the rest of the building. The most fascinating features of this church are the chancel arch and the east windows, though they were rebuilt in the 1870's when the OPW took over the monument, which was found buried under a thick layer of vegetation.
The path to the church is from the south and leads to an oval enclosure that surrounds the church. On this side of the building is an undecorated round-headed doorway to the nave. Another doorway, now headless, is in the same wall, next to the west end. In the south wall there are also two round-headed windows with a moulding on the upper part of them.

The chancel arch has three orders, with the innermost that continues towards east forming a barrel vaulted ceiling that might have continued to the east wall. The corbels of the tree orders, on both side of the arch, carry elaborate motifs, with geometric patterns and both human and animal figures. The arches of the orders have foliage ornaments, geometric patterns and some human figures.
The two-light east window is widely splayed internally and is set into a thick wall. The internal arch of the window is decorated with lozenges. The south capital of the east window is richly decorated with flowers in the uppermost block and with beaded motifs on the others blocks.
Two ambries flank the the east window. In the south wall of the chancel, there are two more square recesses, and next to the chancel arch is a larger recess, possibly the piscina, now walled towards the outside with a millstone.
Unfortunately the restoration works carried out at the end of the 19th century were done with lots of carelessness and some of the blocks of stone were rebuilt in the wrong position or direction. Furthermore, the mortar used to rebuild the arches and the window is causing damages to the original stonework, as revealed by the massive layer of calcite.

In the east wall of the room parallel to the nave, there's a mural staircase that leads to a floor that once might have been above the chancel.

The church is aligned to the east (100°).

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