Hidden "Face of Christ" Carving Discovered in Ireland

Andrei Tapalaga

A stone from the 13th century that the locals believe represents the face of Jesus ChristBallymore Heritage Group - Seamus McDermott/Facebook

An incredible discovery was made yesterday at St Owens, Church of Ireland, in Ballymore. The church was built in 1827 and was recently refurbished with help from the local community. Local historian Seamus McDermott was wondering around the sight when he stumbled upon a simple 13th-century building block, but on the back of it was carved what seemed to be the face of Christ

McDermott went out to take some photos of the old headstones in the graveyard. A piece of stone that looks to have come from the ruined St Ownes’ Church window. The historian mentioned that a much older St Ownes Chruch existed, but had collapsed due to negligence, this is why the new church was built and some parts from the old church were used in building the new church

"It was an amazing find. As I say we looked at it dozens of times, and didn't see it."WEx - Seamus McDermott

“There was a survey done in the graveyard some years back, in the mid-1990s, and they found this stone that was part of an ogee window of the 13th century church that was on the site,” (Quote by Seamus McDermott)

The stone measuring approximately 12 inches by 8 inches, is said to have been seen before by other people, but no one actually saw a face on the stone. McDermott describes that the face recently appeared on the stone: 

“It was an amazing find. As I say we looked at it dozens of times, and didn’t see it. Loads of people looked at and didn’t see the face at all and suddenly it just appeared there.” (Quote by Seamus McDermott)

The church from which the stone originates is one of the three to have existed at one time during the 13th century in Ballymore. There are over 700 churches in Ireland still standing and a bunch more that have fallen to decay.

An old manuscript shows that it is very possible for the stone to be from a church dedicated to St Thomas during the 13th century and rededicated to St Mary in 1428

Taking into consideration the survey maps, a later church from the 16th century is believed to have existed. The historian speculates that the ruined structure of this 16th-century church was used to build St Owen’s church in 1827. 

Despite the speculations about the face appearing all of a sudden on the stone, it is interesting to see a hidden face carved on a stone that was sitting on top of the window church, making it impossible for anyone to see. This carving could have been a blessing but at the same time a secret hidden from someone, denoting that the stone may have had a different shape once. 

“I moved it out from where it was and I was taking photographs of it — and then, whatever way the sun suddenly caught the side of the stone, the face showed up,” (Quote by Seamus McDermott)

St Owen’s church received a grant of around $100,000 from the Heritage Council to restore the tower of the church and keep it preserved for as long as possible. Who knows, it is possible that more secrets are hidden around the site. 

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