Sundials in Ireland - Ancient Monastic Dials

Emlygrennan Co. Limerick

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Satellite image courtesy of Google Maps ©
The remote graveyard of Molua in Emlygrennan Co. Limerick  ( St. Lua the 'mo' is Gaelige for 'my' - an affectionate way of refering to someone) has some simple field stone grave markers, other more modern engraved headstones and an ancient Christian Monastic Sundial.  In an adjacent field there is a holy well dedicated to St. Molua. It is said that the stones from the old St.Molua monastery were used to build part of the wall around the graveyard in the 19th century. No other traces of the monastery are visible.

Sundial Side
photo courtesy John Tierney ©

Reverse Side
photo courtesy ©
Located in the old graveyard is an ancient  vertical stone goblet-shaped sundial. There are ten other examples of this type of dial in Ireland, dating to the early medieval period 7/10th centuries. Two others have been 'lost', another two have survived in Wales and a fragment of one is to be found on the Isle of Man.
The sundial was identified as part of a community graveyard survey funded by Ballyhoura Development CLG and Limerick County Council via Rural Development Funds. It was given a mortuary monument number LI-STML-0048 as part of the survey. See
The eroded dial face is obscured by lichens but it would have had at least 4 four equal sections divided by grooves that radiate from the gnomon hole  Other time lines may have been painted on the dial face. The shadow casting gnomon is missing.

The engraved temporal lines on these sundials were designed not to measure the passing hours but to mark the times when canonical prayers should be said viz Dawn(Prime), Mid-morning(Terce), Mid-day(Sext), Mid-afternoon(None) and Evening(Vespers).

Monastic Prayer Times

St. moLua was an Irish monk who lived in the late 6th early 7th century and who like Columba and Gall before him trained in the monastery at Bangor, County Down. A fervent follower of monastic life and fired with missionary zeal, he left his native land to preach to the pagans of Scotland. He landed on the island of Lismore, in Loch Linnhe, where he converted the people of the island to Christianity.

This graveyard is located in a working farm and you access it by crossing a 'soft going' field. You should check to ensure that there are no animals in the proximity before venturing across.

Many thanks to John Tierney for drawing this dial to my attention. Visit his company's web site

Lat 52° 24' 0.4" North    Long 8° 27' 10.2" West

Irish Grid      R 169446    127794

If you know the location of a sundial in Ireland (NOT a mass produced DIY Store garden ornament) please email it to me (Click here to email M.J.Harley) - a member of British Sundial Society
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