Gallarus Oratory, County Kerry

The Gallarus Oratory, standing handsomely amid farmland on the Dingle Peninsula, was the place of worship for early Christian farmers of the area. Shaped like an upside-down boat, the simple dry-stone structure has remained waterproof and in near-perfect condition to the present day.

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History of Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory was built and used by local farmers of the area at an early date, estimates of which generally range from the 6th century to the 9th century. But some scholars date it to the 12th century, based on the shape of the east window. The Gallarus Vistor Centre brochure gives a date of c.700 AD; Lonely Planet Ireland opts for c.800 AD.

Like most of Ireland, the area suffered from attacks by successive invaders. Vikings and Anglo-Normans burned, pillaged and destroyed the settlements around Gallarus and the oratory was abandoned.

What to See at Gallarus Oratory

The Gallarus Oratory has an austere beauty about it, enhanced by its simple architecture and excellent state of repair. It has not been restored, simply because it has not needed it - it has withstood the formidable Atlantic elements for over 1200 years with only a slight sagging in the roof.

The oratory is made only of local stones fitted carefully together, using no mortar to hold together. But small traces of mortar suggest the oratory may have originally been plastered inside and out.

Shaped like an upturned boat, it has a rectangular base and sloping walls that gradually meet to form the roof. It is 8m long, 5m wide and 5m high.

Entrance to the oratory is through a 2m-high, square-headed doorway in the west end. Inside are two projecting stones with holes, which once held a door. The east end has a small round-headed window.

Just northeast of the oratory in a bed of stones is a 1.1m-high slab with an encircled cross and an inscription in half uncial script that reads "COLUM MAC DINET."

For an admission fee, the Gallarus Visitor Centre offers a good gift shop, parking, a 15-minute audio-visual presentation, and a convenient route to the Oratory. It is not, however, necessary to pay admission, as the Oratory itself is actually free. The lane that runs inland from the main road leads in about 200m to a limited parking area, from which a well-tended path leads directly to the oratory.

Quick Facts on Gallarus Oratory

Site Information
Names:Gallarus Oratory · Seipeilín Gallaruis
Categories:churches
Dates:c. 6th-10th C
Status: museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:52.172695° N, 10.349615° W
Address:Smerwick Harbour
County Kerry, Ireland
Phone:066 915 5333
Email:gallarusoratory@hotmail.com
Lodging:View hotels near Gallarus Oratory
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (August 30, 2007)
  2. Welcome to Gallarus Oratory - brochure/ticket from the Visitor Centre
  3. Lonely Planet Ireland, 7th ed. (January 2006), 287.
  4. Gallarus Oratory - Megalithic Ireland

More Information

View of the lovely Gallarus Oratory from the southwest. © Holly Hayes
West side of the Gallarus Oratory, with entrance door. © Holly Hayes
Broader view of the Oratory with surrounding low wall. © Holly Hayes
South wall of the Gallarus Oratory. © Holly Hayes
East end with small round-headed window. © Holly Hayes
Inside the Oratory, looking east to the window. © Holly Hayes
Cross marker with inscription next to the church. © Holly Hayes
Detail of corbel-vaulted masonry on the south wall. © Holly Hayes

Map of Gallarus Oratory, County Kerry

Below is a location map and aerial view of Gallarus Oratory. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.