[Unnumbered page, hand of George Petrie:] Letter to Mr. O'Donovan in reply to some statements in his letter dated Gort November 10th 1838, by George Petrie.

21 Great Charles Street, Dublin,
20th November 1838.

My dear John,

I have just now finished the reading of your excellent letter on the Architectural remains of Kill-Mac Duach, in which I see but little to object. There is however a point or two on which I wish to make a few remarks.

First, you say that you wish that I should put to the crucible, your assertion, or opinion that there is not a single church to be found in Ireland, dedicated to the virgin, of an earlier age than the 12th Century. Now my dear friend, so far from my wishing to put this opinion to the crucible, it has been for many, many years exactly my own. Yet I would not lay it down, dogmatically, as a fact incontrovertible, till every shadow of evidence which could throw a doubt upon it be removed. Now in this case of the Church of Killmacduach


we have to prove from its architectural features, for we have no historical evidence to appeal to, that it is not earlier than the 12th Century, or as you say the 13th. Now I say that this cannot be of the 13th Century, and if of the 12th, it must be of the very commencement of that age, and I am strongly inclined to think that it is (at least) a century earlier. And I have not a shadow of a doubt that it is considerably earlier than any portion of the Abbey of Ballintober with which you, from a comparison of doorways, make it coeval. Now as to the plain Roman-arched doorway it actually proves nothing, for the original doorway of the church on Ireland's Eye, which was clearly coeval with the church called Keeran's house at Glandalough, had such a doorway. But the window, which you incorrectly call gothic, but which is properly a lancet window is a much more troublesome feature to get over, and I confess that I should be afraid to assert


that it was not earlier than the 12th, not to say the 13th century For, in the first place, it exhibits, on the outside, the "long and short" masonry; next, its sides incline - these, by the way, are features which you have not noticed, but on the contrary state the breadth of the window externally as 73/4 inches, when in fact it is 8 at bottom and only 6 at top; and lastly this window is exactly similar in style, as I already remarked, to the original window of the church on Church island in Lough Key, and many many others which it would be daring in the extreme to attribute to such a late age. Now you will probably say that this is over cautious, but I think we cannot be too cautious in coming to fixed conclusions. In this case we should wait till we ascertain if there be any other churches in Ireland, the ages of which are not known historically dedicated to the Virgin; and if such be found, their architectural features must be all examined. I only know


of one more, which is in the great island of Arran, and constitutes one of the group of (the) Seven Churches of Killenda ([Hand of J.O'D.:] No! no! the Church of the Virgin is not on the Great Island of Aran but on the middle island and it is not many centuries old, being built in the Gothic style. J. O'D). But it is too much ruined to prove anything either way (It is in good preservation, JOD). If however, there are churches of undoubted primitive age dedicated to other Roman divinities, as the Saviour, the trinity, John the Baptist, St Paul &c (John the Baptist is not a divinity. JOD), we should have no right to conclude that they omitted the blessed Virgin, and particularly when we find so many wells under her protection. For we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that these wells were always sacred, and it is difficult to suppose that in so many instances these old patrons were removed, to make way for the new one. Now it is a fact that one of the oldest churches at Glandalough is called the Church of the Trinity another St. Saviour's, and one at Killmacduach the Temple of John the baptist. And on the age of this church I will indeed put your opinion to the Crucible, for I differ with you entirely and cannot possibly imagine on what ground your

Windows in Church of St. John the Baptist, Kilmacduagh.
2 f. high each. 9½ inches broad.
Windows in Church of St. John the Baptist, Kilmacduagh (Petrie)

conclusion was formed. What! perhaps 500 years old! Why it is beyond a question, in my opinion, as old as any of the Churches there, judging from its architectural features, of which by the way you say nothing. But will you, can you say that these two windows are only 500 years old? [On an unnumbered sheet:] {See also Vol. of Sketches}

If you do my friend, I am afraid we shall never agree on such matters! Remember you say that this church, Temple-murry, and Seancloch are evidently of the same age!!! aye remember that.

In your remarks on the Monastery church I see little to object to, but I wonder with such a well marked example of the style of the early (or rather middle) part of the 13th Century before your


eyes, you could suppose this church and those of John the baptist, Mary &c are of the same age. As to pointed and semicircular arches occurring in the same building it proves nothing as to its age; it is the mouldings, stone work, &c that afford the hints [?] , as in this church of Muinter-Hayne in which they are well marked.

Now a word or two about the age of the cathedral and Clogcas before I conclude.

First then I differ with you as to the size of the former, which you suppose to have been originally about 75 feet in length, i.e. the present length of the Nave, from the west gable to the Arcus triumphaiis. But you should have added thereto the length of the choir also, which was probably about half that of the nave, making in all, about 100 feet, which is I believe the present length of the church. And here I may mention a great imperfection, which I forgot to state in my former critical epistle, in your rules applicable to the primitive churches of Ireland. You should have stated that when the church was a


Damliag or important church, not a mere oratory, it consisted of a nave and choir, with an Arcus triumphalis between. This is (a) general rule, and it is pointed out as a feature in the great church of Kildare in St Brigid's life by Cogitosus. I do not mean, however, to assert that the present choir of the church of Killmacduach is the original one. I know that it is of the latter part of the 14th or early part of the 15th Century. But I do not concur in your conclusion that this Church must be a century or two later than St Colman's time, because it is so large, nor for any other reason which you assign. The architectural features in the ancient portion are decidedly the same as those found in the Churches of the 6th and 7th centuries, and that churches of this size were erected in those ages we may rest assured from the example still remaining in the great church at Glandalough, not to speak of others, and here by the way let me remind you that, according to the ancient life of St Kevin this Church was dedicated to the SS. Peter


and Paul. And it has just occurred to me that one of the Churches in the same place, and of undoubted primitive antiquity, was dedicated to Our Lady! See what a papist I am growing. Well, you say that by comparing this Cathedral with Bishop Mel's Church at Ardagh, "one must come to the conclusion that they do not belong to the same age, the difference of size was so very great, and still both were Cathedrals". Why you yourself acknowledge that there was a difference of 200 years between their supposed founders, which I think quite sufficient to account for the smallness of the one and largeness of the other. For it is not to be expected that St. Mel, a stranger, a Briton, who settled here in the earliest age of the church, and who as Jocelin states, was so poor that "like St. Paul he got his livelihood by the labour of his own hands". I say it is not to be expected that (he) should have had the means or had a necessity for erecting a church, like that built by a monarch


in a superstitious age for his near relation and spiritual friend. Besides, though St. Mel was of the Episcopal order, he was evidently also only an abbot over a few monks, and we do not find other Bishops of Ardagh till after (the) establishment of Sees in the 11th Century.

Now I also think your point on the difference in the two accounts of the erection of St. Colman's church, to be very inconclusive and somewhat strained; for I think you will concur with me in thinking the Scoliast of Aengus an older and better authority than the fabricator of the Donegal MS. which bears abundant evidences of its modern manufacture throughout. The one is circumstantial, the other vague. But even (in) the latter the passage appears evidently to me to apply to the cathedral church and no other; and its being called a Cella proves nothing, for as Colgan remarks "the Ancients were accustomed to call great churches" {so they had great churches} "even Cathedrals Cellas".


Aye indeed were they, and half the great churches in Ireland, that is those with nave & choir, were called Cellas. I think therefore that this point which you have attempted to make is weak, and your observations that the two little churches called Kill (Temple) mac Duach and Temple beg Mac Duach are according to tradition the only churches erected by Mac Duach himself, and not I think in your usual style of philosophical investigation. You are attaching too much weight to tradition. Was not the cathedral called Temple mor Mac Duach, not the larger of the two churches you have spoken of. If not, according to your own theory as laid down on former occasions, the larger of these churches was The Temple mor. Yet this you say, according to old men who remember to have seen parts of it, was but a small building. Why my friend, if I do not greatly err, I am one of the old men who saw the whole foundation of it, and sketched & measured it too, and its length was 10 f. 2 inches, and its breadth 5 f. 2. Was this then a Temple mor? No, they told me, and I believed them, it was The tomb of Mac Duach!


Perhaps I am in error, in confounding one thing with another, but I heard nothing of this Temple Mac Duach that you speak of, and you appear to know nothing of this tomb, which certainly occupied the site of your ground plan of that church, or (was) at least very near it. In the plan of the localities of all the other churches I find you right, but here we disagree. In short my dear John, I think you have failed to prove the point you desired, that the great Church of Killmacduach was erected two centuries after St Colman's time, and I still cling to the opinion that it, as well as the coeval round tower, were erected by Guary either in the life time of the Saint or shortly after. I know of no building in Ireland with their architectural peculiarities, which could, with any show of reason or authority, be referred to a later age than the 7th Century. And before you can convince me to the contrary you must produce some better evidences than your Donegal MS. or your traditional historians.

On your observations on the Round tower I have nothing to remark, except that you are wrong in supposing


it to lean 17½ feet from the perpendicular. This is one of the absurd lies (lienings) of travellers which have passed current for a great many years because no one thought of doubting it, and the only fault I have to find with you is in believing anything without proof! Now I had the inclination of this tower taken by a highly scientific man, Major Patrickson, and he found the inclination to be 4½ feet!!! And this I think is pretty well for a tower to stand with. But let us hope that as you allow it a Century to stand with its inclination of 17½ f. it, may, with St. Colman's protection stand at least three centuries longer. But I wish the roof were repaired to make the matter sure.

My paper is now exhausted or I would write you a few lines on another matter, Ulster, but I shall put this into another letter, and in the mean time believe me ever,

My dear John,
faithfully yours,
George Petrie.