Enniscorthy Castle is home to a rare piece of medieval graffito, incised in the dungeon wall – a 1m tall figure with sword in hand.

In 2012, Enniscorthy Castle was successful in securing Heritage Council funding to undertake research into the rare medieval wall art that is visible in the dungeon of the Castle.

Dr. Rory Sherlock was engaged to undertake research into it origins, possible date, and conservation. The history of halberdier posed more questions than answers, and it was our intention to attempt to ascertain its origins, date, and best methods for conservation.

We are also aware of an archaeological report that talks about the possible Anglo-Norman castle’s ditch, and the question has now been posed as to whether the dungeon of the present castle is actually set within that ditch as the dungeon is set into bedrock that would have required considerable effort to dig it out. This again could impact on the reasons for his location in this site.

Following initial analysis, it became obvious that the wall art has considerably more detail than originally thought e.g. buttons on its ‘tunic’, cheeks and a mouth, and hachured clothing. However, from an analysis of other wall art, these would have a very prominent placement in any site, whereas this figure is in a dungeon.

It is unknown whether there was other wall art throughout the castle that has now been lost, or whether he was the only piece created. It is now obvious that he is more than a mural, his clothing is in fact engraved, and with some considerable skill, but again, further consideration will have to be given to comparing him to other sites both nationally and internationally.

In 2022, we were pleased to again receive Heritage Council funding to undertake a digital survey of the Swordsman. This included 3D Laser scan, 3D photogrammetry, and 2D RTI imaging. The results of this scan will allow us to monitor the condition of the Swordsman over time and bring more detail to light.

The scan enabled us to commission a 3-D print of the figure through 3D Printing Ireland. This print shows greater definition in the etching and has been hand painted to replicate the colours on the original. Having the 3-D print enables us to interact more closely with the image and creates increased access to the Swordsman for larger groups and those unable to navigate the dungeon space.

We will be able to conserve the figure for future generations to study and enjoy.

Link to Dr. Sherlock’s 2012 Report

Link to Digital Survey Results

This project was completed with Heritage Council Funding.