The Gallarus Oratory dates from the 7th or 8th century, is a beautiful example of an early Christian church using corbelled stone, and overlooks the harbor at Ard na Caithne (also called Smerwick) on the Dingle Peninsula. The masonry is gorgeous – the stones are cut on every side and each end so as to fit perfectly together. They outside facings that follow the slant of the wall are smooth and the stones are positioned on each level with their edges projecting inward by small increments as the wall rises. They are positioned at a slight angle, lower on the outside than on the inside, allowing rainwater to run off. There’s also a beautiful cross-slab at the east end in a bed of stones, beside the oratory.
I’ve been here many times and it is always a moving experience – and it’s always a different experience depending on the weather, the clouds, the time of year, the time of day, and the light. I’ve experienced early morning and late night ceremonial activities in this small, quiet place – some in silence, some with a dozen or so local people singing in Irish and holding long, slender candles. Students loved seeing this place and learning about the dry stone building techniques and musing about the people who once lived here and would have built and used this beautiful and highly functional structure. It was a lovely, reflective end to a wondrous day.