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St. Columbkille's Roman Catholic Church, County Longford
South elevation of nave.
Reg. No.13400605
Date1935 - 1945
Previous NameN/A
CountyCounty Longford
Coordinates231588, 287037
Original Usechurch/chapel
In Use Aschurch/chapel
Detached Roman Catholic church, dated 1939 (1939 - 41), having six-bay nave elevations, four-storey square-plan tower (on square-plan) to the west, and polygonal chancel to the east end. Two-bay single-storey flat-roofed sacristy attached to the northwest end of nave having raised parapet with stepped crenellations to the corners, and gable-fronted entrance porch to the centre of the south elevation of the nave having pitched sprocketed natural slate roof. Pitched sprocketed natural slate roof to nave having cut limestone corbelled eaves course, raised verge to west gable end and a wrought-iron cross final over the east gable apex. Hipped natural slate roof to chancel having cut limestone corbelled eaves course. Cast-iron rainwater goods. Raised parapet to tower with stepped crenellations to the corners. Cut stone chimneystack to sacristy. Gently battered snecked dressed sandstone walls over chamfered dressed limestone plinth course. Flush dressed limestone quoins to the corners of nave, chancel, sacristy and tower. Recessed square-headed panels to west, north and south faces of tower above first storey level having flush limestone quoins to the corners. Cut limestone cross motif to recess at the west side of tower. Round-arched window openings with dressed limestone voussoirs and surrounds and chamfered sills, having leaded stained glass windows. Round-headed openings to tower at belfry level having dressed limestone surrounds and louvered vents. Number of square-headed window openings to tower with dressed limestone surrounds, paired round-headed window openings to sacristy. Round-arched door opening to tower (south face), and square-headed door opening to porch, having dressed limestone surrounds and timber battened doors. Set back from road in own grounds to the north of Granard. Squared rubble stone boundary wall with crenellated coping over to the road-frontage (west). Main gateway to the southwest of site, comprising a pair of gently battered dressed limestone gate piers (on square-plan) having gabled slated caps and decorative double-leaf iron gates.


This interesting and quite quirky church building retains its original character and form. The slightly battered walls and the round-headed openings lend this building a vaguely Hiberno-Romanesque feel. The unusual stepped crenellations to the tower and the sacristy are reminiscent of the Irish style crenellations found on some tower houses. This church was built to designs by Ralph Henry Byrne (1877 - 1946), a prominent architect of his day noted for his academic, and rather eclectic, approach to architectural design. The sacristy at this church is very similar to that at the Byrne-designed church of the Four Masters in Donegal Town, built 1931 - 35. It was built by Father Peter Murtagh and cost £7,700 to build. The church was dedicated on 5th October 1941 by Bishop McNamee. The carefully cut and carved stone to the walls of this church at Cloonagh is unusual in a twentieth-century building, even a public high-status one such as a church. While it was built in the thirties, it reused stone from a earlier three-storey country house, Derrycassan House, the former seat of the Dopping family (later the Dopping-Hepenstal family post 1858), which was located a short distance to the west (overlooking Lough Gowna). Derrycassan House was, reputedly, itself built using stone from the ecclesiastic site on Inchmore on Lough Gowna. The Dopping family came to Ireland c. 1640 and owned lands in Longford from c. 1720 at the latest (Dopping-Hepenstal papers National Library of Ireland). The limestone quoins and voussoirs provide textural and colour contrast to the smaller blocks of snecked sandstone used in the walls. Its height and form make it a significant landmark in the rural landscape of north County Longford, and it is an important element of the built heritage of the area. The present church replaced an earlier Roman Catholic church/chapel that was located a short distance to the north. This was built in 1832 and was demolished after the present edifice was built. The graveyard at this earlier church is still in use as the community cemetery.
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