Vol XVII, Centenary Edition, 1991 – A Medieval Tomb-Slab from Graney
A MEDIEVAL TOMB-SLAB FROM GRANEY
A cross-decorated granite slab is presently preserved by Mr. Frank Foley, who lives near the site of the medieval nunnery at Graney, south of Castledermot. He got it some thirty years ago from a local farmer, Mr. George Stephenson, but is uncertain of the circumstances of its discovery. However, Mrs. Dorothy Leonard, of Knockpatrick, remembers having been told by Mr. Stephenson that it was found in a ditch in a field to the east of the road beside the nunnery site.
When placed upright, the slab is now 75 cm. high, 20 cm. thick and has a maximum width of 37 cm., narrowing to 31 cm. at bottom. The back of the slab is rough, but the sides are dressed smooth. When seen from the front, however, the right-hand edge of the stone appears to have been worn rather than chamfered and the top right-hand corner has been broken away. The carefully- dressed front face of the stone is decorated with a ringed cross on a stem. The cross is equal-armed, its limbs expanding noticeably near the extremities but not, apparently, extending out beyond the circle. Beneath the point where the stem meets the circle there is a curious round “boss” from which a ribbon-like tab is appended diagonally on each side. These tabs suggest that the “boss” may imitate some decorative round objects made of woven material, the purpose or significance of which is not immediately apparent. The bottom of the stone is uneven, so that we may presume that the stem continued downwards on another, narrower part of the stone which has been broken away (Pl. 1).
The shape of the encircled cross might initially suggest an early Christian date for this stone, but the wedge-shaped outline of the slab makes it almost certain that it is a gravestone of the Norman period, dating from the thirteenth, or perhaps from the fourteenth, century. Its decoration is not easily paralleled, though something similar to the “boss” is found in roughly the same position on a gravestone at Mellifont, Co. Louth.1 The probability that it was a gravestone of thirteenth/fourteenth century date, and found in a field at Graney, makes it likely that it was originally associated with the nunnery there.2 But the lack of any inscription on the stone prevents us from knowing whether it covered the grave of some high-ranking member of the community, or of someone connected with the nunnery, such as a member or descendant of the family of Walter de Riddelesford, who is credited with having founded the nunnery some time around the year 1200.
I should like to thank the Hon. Editor for having told me of the existence of this stone, Mrs. Dorothy Leonard for having brought me to it, and Mr. Frank Foley for his kindness in letting me inspect and photograph it.
1. F. Bigger. “Mellifont”. Journal for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead, Ireland. III. 1895-97. p. 321. With Fig. 1
2. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock. Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland. 1970. pp.311,317.