EARLY CHRISTIAN ANTIQUITIES

From A Hand-book of Irish Antiquities by William F. Wakeman

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L ONG had it been considered as an established fact, that the churches of Ireland, previously to the twelfth century, were altogether constructed of wood, or wattles daubed with clay; and that consequently there remained in the country not a single example of church architecture of a period much antecedent to A. D. 1148, in which year died Malachy O'Morgair, who is stated to have erected the first building of stone which had ever appeared in Ireland. The well-directed labours of one true antiquary,--who, leaving the beaten track of what was miscalled investigation, sought among our antiquities themselves for evidences by which their era might be determined, and in our hitherto neglected manuscripts, for notices relative to such structures as were in use at the time of their composition,--have lately shewn how little a question, so interesting to every lover of Ireland, was understood, even by the most judicious writers of the many who had dwelt upon the subject.

With Dr. Petrie, indeed, rests the honour of having removed the veil of obscurity which had so long shrouded the subject of our ecclesiastical antiquities, and to have shewn that Ireland not only contains examples of church architecture of the earliest period of Christianity in the kingdom, but also that they exhibit many characteristics of unrivalled interest. Following Dr. Petrie upon a subject which he has taken so much care to elucidate, we could not hope to bring forward much new matter; and, even were it in our power to do so, the brevity of this volume would preclude more than a general sketch. We shall treat the subject broadly, pointing out the more striking features of what may with justice be styled our national architecture, but leaving its more minute, though not less interesting details, for the future study of any who may wish to pursue the inquiry.

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