Medieval Wonder: The Cantwell Fada at Kilfane Church

The Medieval Kilfane Church - The Irish Place
The Medieval Kilfane Church with its castellated belltower which is home to the famous 'Cantwell Fada' effigy.

Kilfane Church houses the astonishing Cantwell Fada.

The word Kilfane is believed to derive from Saint Pháin or Chill Pháin and the Church dates from the thirteenth century.

Though it now largely lies in ruins, it is well worth a visit if only to admire its medieval treasures and soak up the wonderfully peaceful atmosphere.

Serene Setting

Kilfane Church ruins are approached through a pretty grove of trees and include the effigy/statue of a medieval knight.

It is adjoined by the remains of a bell tower and presbytery, fortunately it is still possible to make out where the consecration crosses were once placed.

Remains of the altar with statue recesses on either side in Kilfane Church - The Irish Place
The remains of the altar with statue recesses on either side.

Medieval Treasures

Medieval Sedilia and Ogee framed doorway in the south wall of Kilfane Church - The Irish Place
The Medieval Sedilia and Ogee framed doorway in the south wall of Kilfane Church.

Both the south and north walls of this long, rectangular building feature original doorways topped with ogee stones.

In addition, the interior walls hold a number of fascinating objects – these include the vestiges of an ancient altar, a book stand, piscina and several recesses.

The thirteenth-century sedilia (the seat where the priest would once have sat) is situated close to the altar and is thought to originate from an even earlier church that once stood on the site.

Despite its great age, it is still possible to see residues of medieval paint on this seat.

The Longman of Kilfane

Effigy known as 'Cantwell Fada' in Kilfane Church - The Irish Place
The magnificant effigy known as ‘Cantwell Fada’ in Kilfane Church.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature at this site is the beautifully carved depiction of a Norman adventurer.

Skilfully hewn from a single huge slab of limestone at some point between the late thirteenth and the early fourteenth century.

This (literally) larger than life piece depicts a tall, thin man in full battle regalia.

It features a coif covered skull cap, chain mail armour on his torso, a surcoat and sword belt and a sword and shield.

The shield is particularly significant, because it bears the coat of arms which gives this mighty figure his name: the Cantwell Fada (meaning long man).

Norman Lords – Thomas de Cantwell

It is believed by many that this impressive carving is a representation of Thomas de Cantwell (who died circa 1320).

Although it’s possible that it depicts another member of the same family.

The Cantwells were an influential Norman family of nobles who arrived on Irish shores at the end of the twelfth century.

They were rewarded for their loyal service to Theobald Walter (the first Chief Butler of Ireland) by being made Lords of Kilfane and the surrounding area.

The Cantwell Fada Knight

In addition, because of the unusual cross-legged stance of the Cantwell Fada knight carving/effigy at Kilfane Church, some experts posit that this statue may well have acted as a sarcophagus stone for a crusader.

View from the top of the Bell Tower over the remains of Kilfane Church - The Irish Place
A view from the top of the Bell Tower over the remains of the church.

Where is Kilfane Church?

  • To find Kilfane Church and the wonderful Cantwell Fada knight statue, take the R448 (north) heading to Dungarven via Thomastown.
  • After approximately four and a half kilometres, look out on your right for the sign to the church (opposite the Long Man public house).
  • Take this right turn, and continue up the narrow track until you come to a car park situated across from the rather more modern Church of Ireland.
  • Opposite this church you will see a little black gate – go through this and follow the path that leads through the trees to the medieval church ruins containing the effigy.

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