So ask a religious historian as to why these ancient round towers were built and you will get:
“They were raised to the greater glory of God as symbols reaching up towards heaven to mark in unmistakable fashion the strongholds of the new (Christian) faith, the new centres of Irish civilization.”
Ask me and I say it was to stop cold callers and for hiding their gold. Well ok, they may well have been Viking hoards that were calling but still …there’s no need to be greedy right?
There are only a few counties in Ireland without these great structures. They usually sit nestled in an old graveyard on a hill overlooking the land around them.
They range from towers which are complete, and almost as new looking as they were 1,000 years ago, to others that are merely stumps not more than three metres (9 ft.) high.
The oldest of the towers are believed to date from the last quarter of the 9th century, while the latest ones were built in the 12th century. So some are standing for more than 1,100 years and the latest are nearly 900 years old.
Only one tower, that on Scattery Island, has its door at ground level. Most doors are at least three metres (9 ft) off the ground, for security reasons. The door was entered by a rope ladder, which could be drawn up into the tower in time of danger, as from Viking raiders.
This made the tower a virtually impregnable repository of such monastic valuables as chalices, reliquaries and books. But fire was a hazard, for though the walls and roof were made of stone, the floors and ladders inside were wooden. If the interior was set alight, the stone walls would act as a chimney. Escape would then be impossible for those trapped inside since the windows were too narrow for anyone to escape through.
I think I’ll settle for a nice wee castle thank you, but nothing too big that would be hard to sell on you know 😄
(Photo of this round tower in Mayo was taken in August this year on a lunch break).