Monastic Remains on Devenish Island

Of the monastic remains, that called "The Upper Church" is the most perfect and the most modern, or probably has been re-edified at a later period. The basement story of the tower is groined, and in the ceiling are two apertures, coeval with the building, through which bell-ropes were formerly passed. A small pointed doorway leads to a spiral staircase, by which the battlements of the tower are reached. The masonry—sculpture it might almost be called—is very remarkable: the angles of the architraves being delicately fluted, and finished equally at top as at bottom, produce an effect both light and graceful. At the height of five feet from the floor, and adjoining the entrance to the belfry, is a mural tablet, bearing an inscription in ancient characters. There is a second door-way in the south wall, with an ornamental architrave, above which, in a canopied niche, were the arms of the founder, or of some benefactor to the priory.

The stone used in the building of the tower is a beautiful gray limestone, susceptible of a high polish; one of the varieties found in the district adjoining the lake. The nunnery, or lower church, according to the local nomenclature, is of a more ancient date than the priory, and much more dilapidated. The eastern window, still perfect, is rudely executed, and divided into three compartments, with lancet heads, and banded on the inside; and in the southern wall are two circular-headed windows, of later construction, illuminating a baptistry just below them. The length of the church is eighty-six feet, a fact that in a few years more must be gathered exclusively from the records of its fate. The cell or crypt of the titular saint is wholly unroofed; the side-walls and gable indicate the strength of the cement used in their erection; and from the remnants of the stone roof yet visible, the ceiling appears to have been coved and separated by a void from an exterior angular roof, also of stone, in the manner of St. Kevin's Kitchen, at Glendalough.

The walls of Devenish tower are built of hewn stone; those in the external surface cut into truncated wedges, and some of those used within being neatly hollowed. The mortar has fallen away from the external surface of the walls, but within retains its general tenacity. At a height of twelve feet above the doorway there is a window with a pointed head, formed by two flags leaning against each other; and a little higher, but not in the same right line, is a second window exactly square. In the upper story are four windows (usual in all the others), corresponding to the cardinal points, and above each a key-stone, ornamented with a human head. A projecting course, resembling a block cornice, is carried along the top, and supports a conical cap, or roof, formed by gradually diminishing courses, terminated by a bell-shaped cap-stone. The inside is smooth, and carefully finished, having projecting rests, either meant to support floors, or occasioned by the gradual decrease in the thickness of the walls as they ascend.

Devenish occupies an area of seventy acres, of rich and productive soil. It sustains some black cattle, whose approach is little facilitated by the intervention of the waters through which they are compelled to swim, and sheep, carried over in flat-bottomed boats. A herdsman and his family constitute the population of this romantic abode, and the little cultivation their necessities require varies the tame character of the island. Devenish had long been the property of the Rynd family, but by the union of the heiress of their house with the grandfather of Sir Edward Denny, of Kerry, it passed to the present owner, to whom it produces a rent of £110 per annum.

END OF CHAPTER VII.


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