Barn Churches are few and far between now around the country ¬ and those that survive have generally undergone a good deal of structural monkeying about. But as the commonest form of early Catholic Church they were both simple and dignified ¬ looking rather like a lot of Presbyterian Churches in the North ¬ and for much the same reasons.
Kildoagh Parish Church is reckoned to be one of the best remaining examples. It is near Templeport, Bawnboy, in County Cavan and is “single cell” like most northern or north-western examples¬ rather T-shaped along the lines of Grange’s very pretty survivor on the Cooley Peninsular in Co. Louth. Further examples are Cratloe, near Bunratty, with its 17th centenary door case, and the one Kinvarragh, Co. Galway. Like all of them it has coursed rubble masonry, rendered in lime plaster, and then thoroughly cemented over in recent times ¬ though Grange has happily escaped this fate.
It has gable ends and six pointed windows with elaborate tracery and the plain sort, called churchwarden glazing on the back windows.
The unique features of Kildoagh Church are its two doors and two galleries, one for men and one for women. This cannot have been that unusual when it was built ¬ in 1796 under the Rev. Dom, Patritius Maguire according to the tablet outside ¬ since they were often double-galleried in the north-west, particularly in Donegal. But it is virtually the last one surviving in that shape.
The Altar is in the middle of the back wall, so that the congregation face each other across an unbridgeable gap. One pew connects the entrance doors but this is only used for funerals, when they put the coffin there.
“A building most moving in its austere dignity and in the testimony it bears to a bygone but vital phase of history; of international importance” runs the survey report on Co. Cavan made by An Fóras Forbartha’s researchers. Something of a cloud hangs over its future. Catholic churches rapidly expanded in size and architectural ambition and the barn has been supplanted for well over a centenary and a half. This one may not escape the fate of the others.
This article and the photograph of the inside of the building
have been taken from the Irish Times Newspaper dated Tuesday 2nd December 1975.
Not only has Elgy Gilespie given her permission to republish this article but she wholeheartedly supports our efforts to preserve this Barn Church.
The photo is credited to William Garner & An Fóras Forbartha.
The photo at the top of this article is from one of the post Cards published and sold in McPartland’s shop in Bawnboy before the 1939 - 45 emergency but still available in the 1950s.
Note the ‘missing’ window in the photo.
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