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The Dating of the Church


We need to find out if the Dungiven Pirory is an example of an overt statement of power.

So did the OíCahanís build the church after their rise to power, or was it already there? The only thing to do is look at the elements of the Churchís architecture in helping us to understand the mechanisms by which the reform movement was established in areas such as Dungiven.

Irish Romanesque style was established around 1127-34 at Cashel, followed by many churches over the next two generations it is characterised by chevrons, decorated chancel arches and doors - but these are gone from our original building so perhaps our church was built before this date.

If we are to take it that the Church was built with the coming of the Augustinians ( after 1130ís) then we must explain the absence of Romanesque architecture. We might explain this ether through geography or through chronology

In the first, the men of Derry

1) might not have heard of Irish Romanesque
2) could not build it;
3) the style did not reach there.

Yet them being isolated sits oddly with their importing a new Continental Order in the first place; to be aware of the reform does not look like isolation. It also seems unlikely that the Augustinian builders of the abbey chose to build in a style which dissociated themselves from contemporary work. The chronological argument, as I said before, is that the first Augustinian Abbey was founded in the 1130ís in Bangor and we must remember that the OíCahanís had not established their control until the mid 12th century.

So we can dismiss the 1100 date for the introduction of the Augustinians to Dungiven but is more likely the date for the first stone Church at the site. Along with the fact that itís affinities of the pilaster strips and scalloped capitals might refer more to English building of around 1100.

If that is the case, it is not built as a victory symbol by the new OíCahan Lords. Instead they must have given a second-hand church to the monks as OíCahan Lords came to power in the mid 12th century.

Q.. Could it be lack of resources that produced such a basic church?
Q.. Did the Dungiven monks not have the land or money to afford an Irish Romanesque structure ?

If so, this reflects badly on the OíCahans as patrons, even if we identify the Augustinians with the more economical end of reform. Either way, they look as though they were buying themselves into the reform movement at a low price. Nevertheless the one thing this does show is that political upheaval need not necessarily result in the stagnation of building projects Ė indeed if church building becomes a political weapon at times of disruption we often see an increase in the number of churches built.

Therefore the building of churches was affected by the political manoeuvrings which shows why there were sources of patronage for a particular church.

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