Aughagower Round Tower in Co. Mayo

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Aughagower round tower was built between 973 and 1013 AD. It is 16m high and well preserved up to the fourth floor and open to the sky having no roof.

Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, built 32 round towers across Ireland and the one in Aughagower was among them. The squared and hammer dressed blocks used to erect it and the semi-circular headed doorway are two architectural features that typically belong to the masonry of the Middle and Late period.

The original round-headed doorway faces East and stands at 2.2m above the present ground level. It is about 1.5m high and 65cm wide.

In recent centuries a second doorway facing North-West was inserted at ground level; it is 1.6m high and 75cm wide.

There are three theories to explain why the Round Tower was built in Aughagower.

  1. The Irish word “Cloigtheach” means bell-house. It is believed round towers weren’t proper belfries, but it is easy to imagine a monk climbed the floors and ring a handbell calling the monks to prayers from the fields. Also, in the towers valued treasures such as the bell, manuscripts, ornaments and chalices could be protected.

  2. Round Towers could be used as watchtowers or refuge for the monks and local people to take refuge during the Viking invasions. The Northmen landed here induced by the wealth of the monastery of Aughagower.

  3. A branch house of Aughagower was built at Oughaval, a townland near Aughagower. In Aughagower was the head church of the Kingdom of Umhall. People from these two villages quarrelled for this and the downgrading of Aughagower as Bishopric was proposed. People of Aughagower didn’t accept this and built a round tower to show their supremacy and to give evidence Aughagower as a great centre of Christian learning.

It is believed the tradesmen who erected the Round Tower and the Abbey lived in a townland in the area of Mountbrown called Creggannaseer which in Irish translates “the hillock of the craftsmen” (Creagán na Saor) and gives evidence of this.

The Legends of the Capstone

On top of the tower, there was a capstone. This well-cut stone is 60cm high and 30cm in diameter. Its weight is around 45 kg.

A hole was carved at the apex of the cone. It is 7 cm deep and 2.5 cm across. It is believed it was the base for a cross seen from afar when the cap was in position on the top of the Tower.

There is a legend connected with the fall of the stone.

The first version says the capstone, having been struck by lightening with such a force, landed on the hill of Tavenish, half a mile distant where an enterprising local woman found it and picked it up. Then she wrapped it up in her apron and took it to the church where it is still to be seen today.

Another version of the legend basically added the time when this fall occurred: the night of The Big Wind.

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