Timahoe is a small, quiet village in County Laois, 12 km south of Portlaoise on the R426 road, near the famous Electric Picnic town of Stradbelly.
The village is situated in a wide valley rich in fertile soils. The houses are situated around a large circular green area called The Goosegreen. There is a church, a primary school and a communal building in the village.
Timahoe (Irish: Tigh Mochua: ‘House of Mochua’) The village takes its name from the founding of a monastery here in the 7th century by Saint Mochua, who died in 657. In 1142 the monastery was burnt down and rebuilt by the O’Mores family.
During the Reformation, the monastery was nationalized and handed over to Sir Thomas Loftus and later in 1609 to Richard Cosby. It was probably this family that transformed the medieval church into a castle by building the remains of a 15th-century church with a presbytery (currently unavailable) into a fortified building. The monks operated in this area until the mid-17th century, the last of them died in 1650.
Currently, the only remnant of an early monastery founded by St. Mochua is a very well preserved Round Tower. The round stone tower, one of the prettiest in Ireland, was built in the mid-12th century. The tower rises almost 30 meters and is over 17 meters wide at its base. Its walls are almost 2 meters thick.
The tower stands in a park near the pedestrian bridge over the Bauteogue River in the very center of the village. Nearby, the former Church of Ireland is now used as a library, and a dilapidated 17th-century castle contains pieces from the 15th-century church.
It is one of the widest Round Towers in Ireland. It is unique because the door to the tower located 4.9 meters above the ground is made in a rare Romanesque style for this type of building. The Timahoe tower has double Romanesque doors with elegant ornaments, including the heads of the entrance pillars – they are carved with human heads with interwoven hair. And on the third floor of the tower there is also a Romanesque-style window.
The unique carved door makes it the most elegant round tower in Ireland. Nobody knows why the Timahoe monks carved such a beautiful door.
Near the tower there is a contemporary sculpture by the artist from Laois – Michael Burke. A sculpture entitled Mochua’s Desk depicts Saint Mochua and his three animals in the famous story of the Saint. The rooster that woke him up, the mouse that bit his ear when he fell asleep while praying, and the fly that landed on Mochua’s head while reading his prayers.
In the old days, the round tower of Timahoe was a beacon for travelers looking for a monastery. Currently, it is the biggest attraction of this quiet village.
In Ireland about 120 round towers are thought once to have existed; most are in ruins, while eighteen to twenty are almost perfect. While in County Carlow only one round tower can be found in St. Mullins and it’s only 1 meter of preserved wall.
Location of Timahoe Round Tower: