St. Mary's Church in Gowran dates back to the late thirteenth century and served as a collegiate church, with clerics living in a community but not under the rule of a monastery. The Butler family, who were patrons of the church, are commemorated with elaborate medieval tombs for many of their early family members. The impressive ruins were adorned with stunning stone carvings by the Gowran Master, whose work has been celebrated in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney.
Although the church was partially reconstructed in the early 19th century, it continued to function as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970s, when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today, the restored section of the church houses a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries. Visitors can take a free, in-depth tour in the company of one of the church's engaging guides.
A visit to St. Mary's Church in Gowran is an opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich cultural and religious history of the region. With its impressive ruins, elaborate tombs, and unique stone carvings, it's a fascinating destination for history buffs and art enthusiasts alike. The knowledgeable guides provide insightful commentary, making it an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.