02 August 2021

Cratloe Moyle Castle is
difficult to visit but is
a roadside landmark

Cratloe Moyle Castle is close to the N18, between Bunratty and Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

On the road from Ennis or Galway to Limerick, I have often noticed the ruins of a castle in Cratloe, on the north side of the N18 road, half-way between Bunratty and the tunnel at the Shannon.

I have wondered about the story of Cratloe Moyle Castle, but it is dangerous to stop at this point on the road and almost impossible to visit or view the ruins. Yet this one of the most noticeable late mediaeval ruins in the area, although it is overshadowed by neighbouring Bunratty Castle.

The area of Cratloe is first mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, which record that in 376 AD, Crimthann mac Fidaig, King of Munster and High King of Ireland died in the Cratloe area from poison administered by his sister, Mongfind, who wanted her son, Brión mac Echach Muigmedóin, to be High King.

Mongfind soon died too, as she drank the poison to convince the king to take some. In the end, however, Brian had to settle for the Kingdom of Connaught, while the High Kingship went to his half-brother, who was later known as Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The territory of the MacNamara Clan was invaded in the ninth century by warriors from the Kingdom of Aileach in Ulster. The invaders chopped down oak trees in Cratloe Woods and brought them back to Ulster for the roof of the Aileach Royal Palace. Cratloe Woods have since been known for their oak trees and this wood has been used in many important buildings throughout Europe.

An army led by Gerald Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, marched on Thomond in 1510 and was met and defeated near Cratloe by an army of the O’Brien, McNamara, Sil-Aedha and Clanrickard clans led by Turlough O’Brien.

Cratloe is the location of several ruined castles and tower houses. The most notable is Cratloe Moyle Castle, a striking 16th century tower house. It is sometimes known simply as Cratloe Castle, although it is only one of four castles in the Cratloe area built by the MacNamara clan.

This tower house, on a small rocky outcrop, is five storeys high with three large halls, one over another, and it rises to a height of about 65 ft. There are traces of bartizans on the north-west and south-east angles. The ground floor has a beautiful fireplace and some blocked up windows.

Cratloe Moyle Castle was probably built in the early 16th century, although some sources say it was built as late as 1610 for its construction. It is said to have been built by Sean MacNamara, son of Donnchadh MacNamara who lived in the early 17th century. However, this is unlikely as the castle is mentioned in many documents before his time.

The castle was owned in 1570 by Sean MacConmara, son of Tadhg MacConmara and later passed to the chiefs of MacConmara or MacNamara family. It is possible that Sean MacNamara, son of Donnchadh MacNamara, carried out some of the later renovations or building work in the castle in the early 17th century.

John MacNamara was the last of the main line of the MacNamaras. He died about 1780, and had no sons to succeed him. He was probably the last person to live in Cratloe Moyle Castle. The Cratloe Moyle estate was then bought by George Quin of Quinsborough, near Limerick, and the patrimonial lands passed totally out of the hands of the MacNamara hands after almost 700 years continuous possession.

Cratloe Moyle Castle was bought by Bob Traynor, an Irish American, in 1973. He later sold the surrounding land to Bearing Components Ltd but he retained the ownership of the castle.

Access to the castle is difficult today because of the configurations of the N18, but I understand it is full of litter and the walls are daubed with graffiti.

Cratloe Moyle Castle is a 16th century tower house built by the MacNamara clan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
65, Church of Saint Spyridon, Corfu

Inside the Church of Spyridon, the most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is a public holiday in Ireland. But as the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning before the day gets busy to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week’s theme is seven churches on the Greek island of Corfu, and my photographs this morning (2 August 2021) are of the Church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu.

The tower of Saint Spyridon is the tallest on the Ionian islands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Saint Spyridon is the most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu. The church was built in the 1580s to house the relics of Saint Spyridon, who, according to legends, has saved the island four times from Ottoman invasions.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Assia, a village in Cyprus. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He was the Bishop of Trimythous, near Larnaca in Cyprus, until he died in 348 AD. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was moved to Constantinople. After Constantinople fell in 1453, the relics of Saint Spyridon and Saint Theodora were brought to Corfu.

The relics of Saint Spyridon were later housed in a private chapel owned by the Voulgaris family. This church was demolished in 1537, and the saint’s remains were moved to a new church built in the 1580s.

The church, just behind the Liston, is a single-nave basilica and the bell tower, the highest in the Ionian Islands, is similar in design to the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice. Inside the church, in a small chapel to the right of the iconostasis, the remains of Saint Spyridon are kept in a double sarcophagus.

The ceiling was originally painted by Panagiotis Doxaras in 1727. But his work decayed over time and was replaced by later copies. Above the west door of the narthex, the imperial coat of arms of the House of Romanov stands as a reminder that the church was under the nominal protection of Russia from 1807 until 1917.

Spyridon, or Spyros, is a popular name throughout Corfu. Saint Spyridon’s body is carried around the town of Corfu four times a year to celebrate his miracles. His feast day is on 12 December.

Saint Spyridon is buried in a double sarcophagus behind the icon screen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 14: 13-21 (NRSVA):

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17 They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18 And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.’

The front of the marble iconostasis resembles the exterior of the entrance of a baroque-style church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (2 August 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Nippon Sei Ko Kai [the Anglican Church in Japan]. May we work alongside them in partnership to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The people of Corfu come to the church to have children baptised, engagement rings blessed, for weddings, and to pray and light candles every day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The tower of Saint Spyridon Church is a landmark in the heart of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)