Sep 21, 2011

The Wee Ancient Irish Church

In ancient times the normal size of a church was 10 x 15. To give you some perspective, here's a room the same size. Surrounding this wee church in a typical monastery would be monk cells (much smaller), a guesthouse, a refectory, perhaps a school or scriptorium, and a barn for animals and a blacksmith shop. I would imagine the monks all crowded in together for mass, but for the ancient Irish this church was not the only location for worship (thank goodness!) because they worshipped and prayed while they worked and went about their day.

Sign at the historical Nendrum site. Sorry it's blurry but it gives you a bit of an idea of the layout.

When a monastery grew, they did not tear down that wee church and build a bigger one necessarily. They just built more small ones.
Foundation of monks' cells at Nendrum, County Down
Most of these early churches were built from wood and do not survive. In some places, however, the cells and monastic buildings were built from stone. Below is an ancient church in Dingle. Incredible, huh?

Gallarus Oratory front/side

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