St Coman’s Church

The final case study is that of St. Coman’s, Roscommon Town, Co. Roscommon. Unlike the other examples in this thesis which represent large scale use of the cadaver sculptural form, stone CRC1-A is a modest headstone with a simple cadaver motif.

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The current church, built in 1775 comprises a three bay nave with castellated tower to the west with clocks on all faces. It was built on a site that was a centre of worship since the 6th century (St. Comans; Siggins 1994) and is “the first church dedicated to St. Coman (Kerrigan and Siggins, 2), for whom Roscommon was named. The current site was said to also be the site of St. Coman’s Abbey and evidence for its early Medieval occupation are present not only in the form of an ancient cross slab (recorded by George Petrie in 1863 as being 9th century in date) but also in the form of repurposed structural elements used to construct a south facing doorway (now boarded up) and windows in the tower. Evidence for it’s 17th century occupation are also identified in the form of two memorial plaques located on either side of the doorway dated to 1696 and 1723 respectively.

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Roscommon limestone meant that a skilled workforce of masons resided in the area which is likely the reason for the rich and diverse symbolism to be found at St. Coman’s. Motifs ranging from the crucifixion and passion, mortality and trade symbols can be seen throughout the historic graveyard.

A headstone depicting a cadaver motif was erected for Paterick Tormey who died in 1715. The stone is rectangular in shape and is a typical Upright stele style headstone with curvilinear top. The stone was executed in false relief and has an incised inscription. The border of the stone has a C-Scroll design. An IHS monogram is located on the top portion of the stone above which two cherubs can be seen in the left and right corners respectively. Below this is the dedication to ‘Paterick Tormey’ under which is depicted one of many mortality symbols to be found at St. Coman’s. The lower portion of the headstone depicts the figure of death with a spear in its left hand, impaling a skeletonised figure in a shroud. Above the shrouded figure, a simple linear hourglass is depicted, the appendage of which usually signifying the hour of death in many mortality scenes. Though hourglass motifs are quite typical of the 18th century, death carrying a spear is rare (Siggins 2006, 42). The shroud is a basic design, similar more to that identified at Triskel Christchurch Co. Cork and is bound above the head and below the feet of the figure by a simple rope.

Unlike other examples of the cadaver motif, the shrouded figure in this example does not draw the shroud across his genital region or cover it with its hands. The figure appears recumbent with arms laid on either side of his body fully exposing itself to the world. No details of serpents or toads are included in this stone which is in keeping with  the other examples of the cadaver motif on headstones which simply omit this element.

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St. John’s Co. Sligo (L) dedicated to Abraham Martin, and Templeboy Old (R) dedicated to Arthur Flannelly

It represents one of three examples brought to the attention of the author during involvement in the Roscommon Cross slab Project, a citizen science project aimed at teaching the public how to apply photogrammetry to ongoing local heritage initiatives. The headstone was in generally poor condition with the motifs suffering from considerable weathering. The stone is also at risk from biological colonisation. No structural damage was observed upon inspection.

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The 3D model of this headstone is available via Sketchfab.