Glendalough’s Round Tower

Upon entering the Glendalough site via 360cities, I am greeted by what looks to be an ancient graveyard surrounded by stone tombstones and precise architecture complementing them. Looking around, my eyes land upon a large tower of sorts, which reminds me of medieval architecture that I once saw in books and cartoons. Upon further research, I learn that this is called the “Round Tower”; however, despite its bland name, it is anything but simple–the tower, in its gorgeous stone build with open windows and a pointed top, served an important purpose in history.

The Round Tower was used originally as a bell tower, which was the purpose of all the other round towers in Ireland. However, it also ended up being used as refuge by monks during monastery attacks, along with others for storage and lookouts. What is very special about this tower is that the door is 3.5 meters above the ground, which helped those seeking refuge to help from within and also evade searches from attackers and those they are hiding from. Looking at the condition of this tower that is over 1,000 years old, it is obvious that it has served its purpose well throughout the centuries, looking at near perfect condition even until now. (

In “That the Science of Cartography is Limited”, poet Eavan Boland writes, “–and not simply by the fact that this shading of/forest cannot show the fragments of balsam,/the gloom of cypresses,/is what I wish to prove.” This is very reminiscent of the situation of this round tower. From the outside, all we can see is an old tower used by outdated material, wondering when it will crumble. What we fail to see, at first glimpse, is the many lives that this tower has saved, almost as if each life saved has added to the history and lifespan of this tower. That no matter how it looks, and its business in a graveyard, it had served an important purpose in historical Ireland and continues to do the same now as a bell tower.

1 Comment

  1. This was a great post, Maira! I really enjoyed your connection of the Glendalough round tower to the Boland poem, and I thought the line you chose was really fitting for the scenery. I agree with you that at a second impression we realize just how important this tower may have been to people in history, and that it has served its purpose. Its super interesting how geography can connect people through any period in time!

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