Photogrammetry Project: Saint Manchán’s Church, Lemanaghan: Part 1, History & Context

The second part of the photogrammetry project  involved the capturing and processing of a larger object, conceivably something that was outside, like a statue, or an interior area, like a room. Since I had already captured an object in my first task at the museum with the Bronze Age ‘food bowls’, I thought that it might be interesting to attempt capturing an area this time round. From capturing the Bronze Age bowl at the National Museum in Dublin, I knew that it was imperative to incorporate all sides and all aspects of an object so that the processing and rendering software, namely Agisoft’s PhotoScan, could triangulate the images, or stitch them together for alignment in order to create a three-dimensional figure. I was also aware that it was important to have at least a 60% overlap between each image. I extrapolated from this information that the same must be the case for the capturing of an area – photographs of all sides and 60% overlap for alignment.

St Manchán's Church, South Wall and East Gable
St Manchán’s Church, South Wall and East Gable

As my object of study, I chose Saint Manchán’s Church, Lemanaghan. This site can be found on the R436 Ballycumber to Ferbane road, County Offaly. <http://www.offaly.ie/eng/Services/Heritage/Archaeology/Monastic_Sites/>. According to the Offaly County Council information page about local monastic sites, this monastery had recently undergone a programme of conservation from 2000 to 2010. The Lemanaghan conservation plan can be found online at the following link: <http://www.offaly.ie/eng/Services/Heritage/Documents/Lemanaghan_Conservation_Plan.pdf>.

Site Map of Church and Surroundings
Site Map of Church and Surroundings

Information about the Church:

As it now stands, the church is rectangular, measuring 19.4m x 7.5m. (63’6” x 24’6”) (Lemanagan Conservation Plan, 24). It is roofless, and by 2001 had a vigorous ivy growth on all walls. The monastery at Lemanaghan is said to have been founded in AD 645 (41), with the construction of the earliest section of the church circa AD 900-1100. An extension of the west facing wall of the church was then added c. 1200. Another addition to the eastern wall was constructed sometime in the 17th Century. In summation, the Conservation Plan has established the site at Lemanaghan as:

• A sacred place of great antiquity
• A place containing buildings of architectural significance
• A place rich in documentary history and archaeological potential
•A place where there is a long tradition of devotional practice
•A place ‘apart’, possessing a strong sense of being untouched by the modern world
(9)

manchan
St Manchán’s Church, Facing West

History of Manchan and Lemanaghan:

Manchan, an early-christian monk, founded the monastery at Tuaim-nEirc (now Lemanaghan), an island of dry land surrounded on all sides by the red bogs of the region (Bog of Allen) (O’Brien, 180). Because of his deep knowledge of the scriptures, Manchan was often referred to as the ‘Jerome of Ireland’. According to local tradition, Manchan was a tall, lame old man. The natural spring well situated beside the monastery would have provided the monks- and the community living in the area before their arrival – with a source of clean water. It is possible that this well was once a focus of pagan rituals (181). To succeed in establishing his monastery amongst the people of this region, Manchan had to ‘convert’ their most important spiritual places, and so in christianising the well at Lemanaghan, Manchan would have enabled local people to accept the new religion without leaving behind their long established symbols of worship. Manchan perished in the epidemic known the Yellow Plague of 664. Those who succeeded him took the title of ‘Abbot of Liath Manchain’. During the twelfth century, the monastery is said to have experienced a Golden Age, with many abbots governing the site (and many of whom were probably selected from the sister-monastery at Clonmacnoise (183). This period, it was said, was when the construction of the church proper first occured, and had a “beautiful Romanesque doorway’ (183).

Saint Manchán with His Cow
Saint Manchán with His Cow

Works Cited:

O’Brien, Caimin. Stories from a Sacred Landscape. Offaly County Council. 2006.

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