List of Sites
Round Tower at Balla, Co Mayo (Photo: Christiaan Corlett)
The round tower at Balla is one of five round towers in County Mayo, the others being at Aghagower, Killala, Meelick and Turlough. Today the tower stands at a height of 10m but originally would have reached a height of 30m. Built in sandstone the tower has two distinct sections of coursed masonry construction suggesting an early phase followed by a later one perhaps in the 12th century (Lalor, 1999). Evidence for the primary function of these towers is found in the Gaelic word cloicthech, meaning bell house (Edwards, 1996). They would have also been used as a safe location for the relics, books and other valuables. Given their height, they would have afforded an expansive view of the surrounding countryside. The dating of round towers is a controversial subject with suggested dates as early as the sixth or seventh century but the first mention of them in the annals is 950 when a tower in Meath was attacked and burnt by Vikings. Essentially Irish, the architectural influences reaching Ireland from the Carolingian Continent must have played their part. It has been suggested that detached campanili, like those in Ravenna, Northern Italy could have inspired the Irish builders (Harbison, 2000). The only other Irish influenced examples are found in Abernethy and Brechin in Scotland and Peel in the Isle of Man (Edwards, 1999).
Free access to site. No access to the tower
- Edwards, N. 1999, The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland, London, pp 127-128.
- Harbison, P. 2000, The Art and Architecture of Ireland, Dublin
- Lalor, B. 1999, The Irish Round Tower, Origins and Architecture Explored, Cork, pp 189-191
Check out the following sections of the website for related information:
Mayo Sites and Artefacts
1. Mayo Abbey
Mayo - Vestvågøy - Mid-Argyll
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