• The Romanesque font from Bannow, Co. Wexford

    One of the finest examples of late 12th century Romanesque sculpture in Ireland can be found in the Catholic church at Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford. It was moved here in the middle of the 19th century from the medieval church ruins at Bannow Bay, where the Anglo-Normans landed in Ireland in 1169. It stands 86cm high and comprises three parts; a square base, round column and square top. The font is unusual in that it is effectively a cross between a scalloped bowl and a cushion capital. A decorative band (featuring a repetitive triangular motif) frames three faces, whereas on the fourth face the frame is blank; perhaps this face was placed facing the wall of the church. The four faces feature distinctive decoration in false relief. Two of these are identical and are placed on opposing sides. The most elaborate face comprises an elaborate fleur-de-lis-type motif and presumably represents the frontal face.

    The font has been white-washed, concealing the stone itself. However, we can be pretty sure that it was originally carved from dundry stone, as it compares very well to a font at nearby Fethard which is clearly carved from two blocks of dundry. Such dundry stone is not native to Ireland and most likely was imported from the dundry quarries near Bristol in England. The fonts from Bannow and Fethard are so similar they must have been carved by the same stone mason, and it seems quite likely that he too came to Wexford from England witht he coming of the Normans. However, the big question is whether or not the stone fonts were actually carved in Wexford or in England.

    For more, see Archaeology Ireland, Winter 2012.

    1 Comment

    • 1. Jun 6 2013 11:52AM by Tim Palmer

      Hi Chris,

      I have just chanced upon this wonderful site, Here in south and west Wales we too are inundated with medieval Dundry Stone fonts (almost completely unrecognised). None has this design nor anything like it, so I think that your question about whether the design is Irish or English is answered. In Ceredigion (=Cardiganshire) Malcolm Thurlby has pointed out similarities between 4 Romanesque fonts, of which 3 happen to be of local fine sandstone and the 4th is Dundry (my identifications). It looks like the response of local carvers to this interesting new stone that started to come in from Bristol in the 12th C. Does the Bannow pattern also appear on other, local, stones?


      Tim Palmer


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