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Early Christian Monastic Sites C.5th.

Monasticism in Ireland started with the coming of Christianity i.e. St. Patrick. This simply means that MONASTERIES were built to accommodate the monks. These MONASTIC sites consisted of WALLED enclosures, within which the MONKS built their INDIVIDUAL CELL'S / HUTS, and most importantly of all, the ORATORY / SMALL CHURCH where they worshipped.

The first monasteries were probably built of CLAY / WATTLE and DAUB, ( Rem. The IRON Age ), but on the West coast of Ireland and on the ISLAND'S off the Irish Coast, they HAD to use STONE, as TIMBER would have been in short supply.

You will know that these Monastic sites were the places of both worship and LEARNING, ( i.e. the UNIVERSITIES of their time ), and in all cases were FOUNDED / SET UP by a local SAINT.

The first MONASTIC SITE we will deal with in KERRY, is to be found near DÚN BEAG, ( this site is just across the road, on a hill side, looking out towards the Blasket's  and Skellig Micháel ( islands ), and consists of  WALLED ENCLOSURE'S. All of the buildings, CLOCHÁNS and ORATORY, ( the remains of a small church similar to that of GALLARUS ORATORY ) are built within the ENCLOSURE. Stone was the important building material, all along the WESTERN Sea Coast, as there were few if any trees for building so stone, and DRY STONE WALLING  were used in the CONSTRUCTION. On this site there are CLOCHÁN'S / BEEHIVE HUTS, two of which are still intact, ( the third lacks its original roof ). The Bee Hive Huts are TIED into the various INTERIOR and EXTERIOR dry stone walls, which sweep around the site, dividing it into two or three separate enclosure's. The entrance doorway's to the CLOCHÁNS, are narrow and have the, "sloping jamb ", style of DÚN BEG .This was primarily to limit the effects of the WEATHER, on the monks who occupied these ENCLOSURES, ( the ATLANTIC winds and rain which come straight in from the SEA, from AMERICA ) .The DOOR WAY / ENTRANCE to the BEE HIVE HUTS, are  " facing away from the Weather" , i.e. the EAST, and one has to crawl on your hands and knees to enter them.

While the ENCLOSING walls are built on the CLINKER style, ( Refer to CATHAIR GEAL ), the CLOCHÁNS are CORBELLED, and of solid stone . This of course means, that as the walls rise, they SLOPE INWARDS until they meet, and can be CAPPED by a KEY stone which holds the entire STRUCTURE together, ( Refer to NEW GRANGE ). You will also see a CROSS inscribed SLAB near to the enclosing / encircling wall which has a KOPTIC style cross INSCRIBED / Carved into one face of it.

The stones used  in the beehive's are not completely "dressed", i.e. were not shaped / KNAPPED  so as to fit into place, but were used almost , " as is " except for both their inner and outer faces. Each COURSE of stones is TIED in, ( i.e. as all of the courses / layers are placed HORIZONTALLY, one on top of each other, every so often, one or more stones are placed at right angles to the horizontal course, thereby TIEING in both outer, and inner wall's together, as in CAVITY WALL'S today ).

I am sure that you have noticed that there is a distinct lack of GABLE ENDS. Well, as you KNOW, if you are building a roof of STONE, then the last thing you want, is your roof to FALL IN. This method of building, i.e. CORBELLING, eliminates this, for obvious reasons. ( see NEW GRANGE if--? ).  The entrance doorway, is as mentioned above, both narrow and small, and has the SLOPING JAMBS traditional to EARLY IRISH Architecture.

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