1991:061 - 'Teampall Bhaile na Cile', Oileán Ghorumna, Galway

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Galway Site name: 'Teampall Bhaile na Cile', Oileán Ghorumna

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Erin Gibbons, Tír an Fhia, Leitir Móir, Co. na Gaillimhe.

Site type: Graveyard and church

ITM: E 486475m, N 722030m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.236507, -9.700617

Muintearas, An Togra Oideachas Gaeltachta have sponsored a graveyard clean-up and church conservation programme at Baile na Cille, Máimín, on the island of Gorumna in Connemara. The project began in June 1991 and continued until June 1992. It is supported by a FAS training scheme. Gorumna is part of an archipelago of islands known as Ceantar na Oileáin. These islands are linked by a series of bridges to the mainland of south Connemara.

The church is one of two medieval churches on the island, the other being Trá Bán Church. The latter is located to the south-west of Loch Bhaile na Cille in the south-west of the island and north-east of Cuan Chuigeal. The deserted village of An Sean Bhaile is situated to the south of the site. The church is represented as an ‘Abbey’ on Ordnance Survey maps.

The church consists of a rectangular building orientated east-west with gables intact. The west gable was in a dangerous condition before work began and the north and south walls have been robbed of much of their original stone work. Medieval fragments of the north doorway, window frames and altar had been re-used as grave markers and fill throughout the graveyard which encloses the building.

Features which remain intact included a 15th-century window in the east gable, part of the foundations of the altar, two chamfered limestone corbels on either side of the altar, a medieval type coffin-shaped grave slab, a 16th-century doorway in the west gable and the threshold of a doorway in the north wall.

Features which occur on the west face of the west gable include two wall presses. Above the relieving arch of the doorway a series of joist holes occur. Some distance above the joist holes a small single light window occurs. The west gable is of interest as it had not been keyed into the main fabric of the building and its stonework and masonry differ from the rest of the church.

An excavation was undertaken in the area west of the west wall and traces of a western extension were uncovered. A trench was also opened up along the outer face of the north wall. This was excavated to below foundation level. Shell midden material was uncovered here.

Local seanchas relates that saints from Arainn erected the first church here in one night. Other stories relate that St Fechin erected the first church on the site.

In summary, the present church appears to be 15th-century in date with an extension added in the 16th century. This extension may be interpreted as a possible ‘Priest’s House/Priest’s loft’ feature. Midden material occurring below foundation level suggests possible site occupation prior to the building of the church and seanchas suggests Early Christian associations.