09 August 2016

Kilteel Castle - Priory of the Knights of St. John in Ireland

In the village of Kilteel six miles north of Naas at the foot of the Wicklow mountains is Kilteel Castle.

It was built in the early thirteenth century by Maurice Fitzgerald for the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. The site upon which the castle was built was once a monastic settlement.

It's most notable resident was Sir John Rawson who was the last Prior of the Kilmainham house of the Order before King Henry VIII dissolved the Order.

In 1511 he was appointed Prior of Kilmainham; this was a position of considerable political power, entitling him to sit both in the Irish House of Lords and on the Privy Council of Ireland. In 1517 he became Lord Treasurer of Ireland.

During the second siege of Rhodes in 1522 Sir John was the only knight from Ireland that responded to the Grand Master's request for knights to come to defend Rhodes. After the Siege, Rawson returned to Ireland where he continued to serve as Prior.

When Henry VIII decided to dissolve the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and after lengthy negotiations Rawson in 1541 surrendered the Priory of Kilmainham in return for a payment of 500 marks and the title of Viscount Clontarf  and the lease of the castle was given to Thomas Alen and his wife.

In 1669 Col. Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyreconnell became the owner of Kilteel. He then sold the castle to Sir William Fownes of Kilkenny where it remained in his family until 1838 when it was sold to the Kennedys of Johnstown-Kennedy.

Today the castle is a designated National Monument. It consists of a tower house dated to the fifteenth century, another projecting towerhouse with a spiral stairs and two further rooms at the gate-way.

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