Glossary - Round Tower

Round Towers are found all over Ireland. They are very tall towers associated with early monastic settlements. Their purpose is one of much debate: were they bell towers, look-out towers or were they defensive structures, built to protect the sites relics and books during Viking raids? Maybe they were all three! The high-set doors certainly give the impression that some element of defense was considered in their construction.

Internally they had four or five floors, each accessed via a ladder from the floor below. Not every floor had a window, but the top floor usually had four windows which aligned to the cardinal points of the compass. The one at Kells (County Meath) unusually has five windows on the top floor which point at the five gates to the town.

Not many of the eighty plus examples left are full height these days. Many crumbled and were taken down for safety purposes. Some, however, are still very impressive inded with Kilmacduagh (County Galway) reaching an incredible 35m tall.

Originally all of them would have had a conical roof and those that still possess this feature give the impression of being ready to blast off into space.

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