Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

The Town of Killabban
Queens County

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A copy of an OSi map of Killabban Village in 1800s
A copy of an OSi map of Killabban Village in 1800s

The Town of Killabban
The Monastic Site

 Killabban Monastic Site

A reconstruction of what the medieval town of Killabban and Norman motte and bailey castle might have looked like, by reconstruction artist Marc Guernon. Killabban (from the Gaelic Cill Abáin, meaning ‘Church of Abban’) is the site of an early Christian monastery, founded by St. Abban around the year 650 AD. He is believed to have been part of the Dal Cormaic Luisc family who were a branch of the Ó Caollaidhe (O Kelly) tribe. Stories of St. Abban describe his journey to Rome as a child. From a young age St. Abban was noted for his religious devotion. St Abban’s feast day is celebrated on 16th March.

Life in the monastery

Killabban has been the site of Christian worship for almost 1400 years. St. Abban’s early church would have been a simple wooden rectangular structure, surrounded by circular enclosures formed by ditches with inner banks of earth or stone, some traces of which can be seen in the boundary around the graveyard and the curving indentations still visible in the surrounding fields today. Some monasteries in Ireland contemporary with St. Abban’s monastery had three enclosures; the inner enclosure housed the church and graveyard and perhaps a high cross, the middle enclosure had the settlement buildings and also had space for any industrial activity and scholarly works, and the outer enclosure had farming activities.

The Town of Killabban

A reconstruction of what Killabban might have looked like in the 7th Century, by Marc Guernon (c)In medieval times Killabban grew to be a thriving town. The Anglo-Normans established a settlement here and by the year 1348 the townspeople (burgesses) were charged 60 shillings per year rent for their burgage (a piece of land owned by the king or lord). A motte – a flat-topped, earthen mound which formed part of an Anglo-Norman wooden castle. - stood in the field beside the church at Killabban.

We don’t know why the settlement declined, but the war stemming from the invasion of Ireland by Edward the Bruce in 1315, and the Black Death of 1348, likely had lasting effects. However, the church at Killabban remained in us. And was even extended in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Killabban Church

The church at Killabban today was built in the medieval period. It’s likely that the nave was built first, before addition of the chancel in the thirteenth century. The chancel was altered in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and an ornate window was added to the east gable. The chancel contains fragments of a stone sarcophagus dating to the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

Conservation Project

In 2914 the local community came together to address the ivy that was threatening to engulf the church. Conservation of the stonework took place each tear until 2021, with support from Laois County Council, the Heritage Council and the National Monuments Service. Conservation by expert stonemasons, engineers and archaeologists means the church is secure for many years to come.


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