Castledermot Index


Castledermot (15km south-east of Athy) originally called Diseart Diarmada, and later Tristle-Dermot is a must for historians. The town contains a 14th century Franciscan Abbey, a Hibernian-Romanesque arch, a 10th century round tower, two 9th century high crosses and a number of ancient stones and grave slabs.


A step through a gateway at the southern end of this straggling town takes visitors back 800 years.  In an instant one enters into the stillness of the Franciscan Abbey which was founded in 1302 by Thomas, Lord Offaly, with the help of the de la Hoyde family who were its benefactors.

Castledermot Abbey

Castledermot AbbeyThe Abbey was plundered by Robert Bruce in 1317.  Later, in 1541, the friary was suppressed.  Only the walls of the church remain, which was originally a long rectangular structure with a doorway, a pair of lancet windows in the west wall and a tower on the south side.  The north transept was added to it later and this is probably identical to the chapel of St. Mary built by Thomas, Second Earl of Kildare in 1328.   Attached to the ruins of the church is a square building known as the Abbey Castle, which possibly dates from the 15th century and would have served as accommodation for the monks.  The ruins are set back from the main road by only two or three feet, which makes it all the more remarkable that they have survived for so long.  The solid stonework is well preserved, seeming as secure and strong as the day it was first constructed.
- The key is available from the caretaker’s house next door.



A short walk from the Abbey is St. James’s Church of Ireland.  An attractive tree lined avenue leads from the main road to the churchyard.  Inside there are a number of historical features which go back even farther in time then the Franciscan Abbey, to the 12th and even to the 9th century.

Hibernian-Romanesque Arch
  St. James’s Church lies on the site of a monastery founded around 800 by the father of St.Diarmuid, after which Castledermot takes its name.  The monastery was raided by the Vikings in the 9th century, but continued its existence at least until the 12th century. All that is left today is a splendidly reconstructed Romanesque doorway, which came from a church that has since vanished, a 10th-century Round Tower, 66ft high with granite base, and two magnificent High Crosses, probably 9th century.


The round tower stands on the north side of St. James church, to which it is attached by an ancient narrow and high passage 8’ in length. The masonry consists of rough unworked granite boulders.  The spaces between them are filled up with common quarry stores embedded in the mortar. The height of the tower is 66.5’ and the walls at the base are 3.5’and are inclined upwards.


Richly carved with depictions of the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, the Sacrifice of Isaac, these High Crosses are among the best preserved of the granite crosses in the Barrow valley.  The North Cross shows David with his harp, one of the few images from this time of an Irish harp.  The south cross's east face is richly decorated with abstract Celtic design.

Also in the churchyard are the foundations of a medieval church and a number of well preserved early Christian and medieval grave slabs.

South Cross East Face


  Heritage Trail Options

Link to Kildare Community Network
Network Link