by ehistoryadmin on April 24, 2014




The following letter appeared in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Express: ―

Sir ― Allow me to call attention to an interesting discovery recently made in connection with the Cathedral of St. Brigid, at Kildare. As most of your readers know, the important work of rebuilding this ancient Cathedral has been in progress for years, and is now near its completion. In the course of removing rubbish accumulated round the building, the Dean of Kildare recently observed part of a large block of granite protruding from the ground on the north side of the Cathedral. When uncovered he found that it was about four feet in length and oblong in form. The corners have been roughly bevelled off. In one side of this rude granite block a basin or receptacle for water has been hollowed out, and the stone, when erected, is seen to have been a font. I believe that it is in truth the ancient baptismal font of the first Christian church erected on this spot. The material and the rude workmanship, with the fact that there is no perforation to allow the water to pass away prove its extreme antiquity. In these respects it resembles the ancient font of SherlockstownChurch, now in my possession, which must date from the end of the 12th century, though the one at Kildare must be of much earlier date. There are marks which show that the interior was at one time lined with lead. I myself am inclined to think that the stone was originally one of the heathen cup-stones, called by antiquaries Ballans, and that the basin at the introduction of Christianity was enlarged and used as a font, and subsequently again enlarged and lined with lead. There is in our new parish church of St. Michael’s, Clane, a very large and very ancient font of granite, which was discovered built into the wall of the tower of the old church, but has been removed, dressed and handsomely mounted. Most of the very ancient fonts have these characters in common ― they are made of granite, roughly squared or bevelled at the edges, with basins oblong, square or round, unperforated. The font just discovered at Kildare has this peculiarity, that it stands higher than any ancient font that I know of, the basin being at the height of about 3 feet 9 in. from the ground. It was found not far from the site of St. Brigid’s fire-house, where her nuns for centuries kept a fire continually alight.

With regard to the Ballans, or heathen cup-stones, I may mention that there is one of historic fame in this parish on the banks of the Butterstream, opposite to the gate of the old vicarage.

I believe that it is the intension of Dean Cowell to place the ancient font thus happily recovered in a suitable position within the Cathedral, and I am sure that not only members of the Church of Ireland but all patriotic Irishmen will congratulate him on his fortunate discovery. ― Yours truly,

                              W. SHERLOCK.

                                          Canon of St. Brigid’s.

Sherlockstown, Naas, July 10, 1896.

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