Séipéilín Ghallarais

Having dabbled in dry stone walling, the masonry work that must have gone into building the Gallarus Oratory impressed me no end. It has been described as resembling an upturned boat, the metre-thick sides and gables curving towards the ridge. Each of the sandstone blocks has been dressed on every side to fit perfectly with its neighbours. The courses would have laid sloping to the outside to prevent ingress of water. There is no mortar visible from the faces but may have been used in the internal construction of the walls. No one knows for sure as the building has never been restored. One question I ask myself is: were the stones cut on the ground or in situ after laying.

What the building actually was used for is also a mystery. When it was “discovered” in 1756 local tradition was that it was a funerary chapel built by a local chieftain. Since then there have been various theories that it is early Christian, a 12th-century Romanesque church and a shelter for pilgrims.

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