St. Mary’s Collegiate Church Gowran (Gaelic/Irish: Eaglais Mhuire) is one of the hidden treasures in County Kilkenny. It is a beautiful church with a fascinating history.
Also known as the Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption. It is a church in the center of the town of Gowran, County Kilkenny.
The site is a National Monument in the care of the Gowran Development Association (GDA) and the Office of Public Works (OPW).
The church and its family connections have been of huge importance to Gowran and further afield over the centuries.
The church is a collegiate church, which means that the priests or chaplains attached to it lived in the community together. The present church was not a monastery or an abbey. However, experts believe the church was built on the site of an earlier monastery.
The presence of an Ogham stone on the site, which is on display in the chancel, suggests there was a place of worship here dating back 2000 years to Celtic times or beyond.
The oldest monument in the Church is the 3rd / 4th century Ogham Stone.
Found on the site during the reconstruction of the Presbytery in 1826. The Gowran Ogham Stone has survived to this day due to the fact that it was used as a building stone in another part of the Church and lay intact for centuries. The meaning of the Ogham stones was not fully understood in the old days. Many of these stones throughout Ireland were used as building stones, gate posts, and even broken up to build or fill roads. The Ogham stones were also tombstones or monuments. The presence of this Christianized Ogham Stone would suggest that this place was a place of worship in pre-Christian times before St. Patrick came to Ireland in 432.
The church in Gowran as we see it today has changed over the centuries.
Renovation works are carried out inside and outside the Church to this day.
The church grounds and gardens are open to tourists all year round free of charge. The presbytery is open to visitors during the summer months of May, June, July, and August. Two full-time guides are employed to operate the tours free of charge.
There are many interesting objects in the presbytery of the church, such as Gowran Ogham’s Stone, the Image of Ralph, images of James Butler, the first Earl of Ormonde and his wife, Lady Eleanor De Bohun, the Tomb of Knight Butler, Agar Monument, a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to Aubrey Cecil White from Gowran, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916, Toler Aylward windows and many more.
Location of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church Gowran:
Below are photos I took in July 2021.
Below are photos I took in February 2018.