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Penal Mass House, Kealties


The substantial remains of a penal mass house, or early Catholic church, lie under a covering of bracken and brambles. The thick sturdy stone blocked walls of a rectangular building are still discernible. This place of worship was built in 1780 and was originally thatched. Although Penal Laws, forbidding Catholics to worship were still in force, from the 1750s onwards mass houses were being built. Previously people had had to worship in secret open air locations, at risk to themselves and to their priest. This building was eventually replaced by St Patrick's Church in Rusnacaheragh, built 1820/30, and still in use.

There is a small walled path leading to the site.

Nearby site

Standing stone

Related sites

Mass rock, Beach

Mass rock, Glanalin

Kealties: caolta - narrow strip of land
In a field just off the main Durrus to Kilcrohane road - marked Penal Mass House on OS map

I've driven past this site almost everyday for nearly 10 years and never noticed it before but once you can see it it becomes obvious! it lies in a field close to the main road and is now obscured by a hearty growth of bracken and brambles but the remains of stone walls can clearly be seen. I was surprised how big the rectangular building was and how large the chunks of stone. It's possible to walk around the exterior but the inside is now too overgrown.

Very close to the building,on the western side, there appears to be a slender, pointy standing stone.

On my second visit, the bracken had died down and the interior was more visible. It's a large rectangular space and there seems to be a slender aisle to the north. Lots of large stones lie jumbled to the east and west. I discovered a small pathway, beautifully walled and now tree lined that winds along the ridge then down through the field. This must have been the original entrance. It feels almost ceremonial, as though the stations may have been said on approach.