St Berrihert's Kyle, Cross slabs, High Cross, Bullaun

The ecclesiastical enclosure at Ardane in the Glen of Aherlow, is located in a small wooded area surrounded by a marsh and rough meadow. The enclosure is defined by a low earth and stone bank and is known locally as St Berrihert's kyle. The site is named after St Berichter, a saxon saint who may be the founder of the monastic site at Tullylease in county Cork. Inside the southern section of the enclosure is a modern oval shaped stone structure built to protect the cross slabs and other antiquities found at the site. There are 72 cross slabs, two wheel crosses, the head of a high cross, pictured below, the base of a high cross and a bullaun with a cursing stone.

Cross slabs

Tread with care

The modern structure, built in the 1940s is very crude, but takes nothing away from this really special place. There is an assortment of votive offerings left by modern visitors to the kyle. Each year St Berrihert is celebrated locally on the 18th February, when a pilgrimage takes place at the site. The area was badly overgrown and in need of maintenance, but just as I was leaving an O.P.W. crew arrived to cut back the vegetation. On the eastern side of the wall there is a small wooden gate that leads to the quite magical St Berriherts holy well located about 170 metres to the southeast. I am looking forward to my next visit already.

Cross slabs

Bullaun and cursing stone

A total of nine slabs have been set in small cairns and placed on the outer bank of the enclosure. These 'stations' run around in a northerly direction from the gate that leads to the holy well. Defined by a line of small boulders within the outer bank is a Cillín, a graveyard mainly used to bury unbaptised infants and the stillborn. Pictured above and below are three of the 'stations'.

Embedded in the east side of the modern enclosure is the head of a high cross. The 85 cm high sandstone head is just over a metre wide, at the centre of the west face is a marigold motif inside a small ring. A large outer ring is decorated with a key pattern. The arms appear to extend out from the inner ring behind the large ring. Three of the arms bear figure sculpture. The north arm features two men wrestling or embracing. This scene appears on a number of high crosses and is open to interpretation. Harbison suggests it may represent the Kiss of Judas. Which would fit with the iconography on the other two arms. The south arm is interpreted as the Mocking of Christ and the top arm is either the Ascension or the Second Mocking of Christ. The east side of the cross, pictured below left is quite plain. A second cross head, bearing a latin cross within a double circle, is embedded in the wall to the north of the high cross.

High cross exterior view

The other cross head

Bullaun/Cursing stone

Lying below the cross head is a large bullaun stone, resting in the buallun, at the southern end of the stone, is a large curing or cursing stone, see image below. The rectangular stone is covered in votive offerings left by visitors to the site.

Situated: From Cahir head west on the R640. After 1.5K go onto the N24 at the roundabout. After about 5 kilometres turn left onto the L3102 (Signpostd Rossadrehid). After about 6.5K turn left at the crossroads. Go about 200 metres to the field gate on your left.

Discovery Map 74: R 9474 2872. Last visit Sept 2020.

Longitude: 8° 4' 38" W

Latitude: 52° 24' 37" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Cursing/Curing stone