Clonmacnoise whispering arch

Whisper into one side of this ornate doorway and the architrave carries the sound to the other side.

This ornate Gothic doorway dating to the fifteenth century is apparently a popular spot for wedding proposals. Folklore has it that the doorway once had a very unusual use: Lepers would stand at one side of the doorway and whisper their sins into the half pipe in the architrave. The priest would stand at the other side of the arch, far enough away to avoid infection, listening to the confession emerging from the architrave.

Like all whispering arches, sound skims around the inside of the curve because of the geometry – see below for a simple model of sound as a snooker ball bouncing around a circular table. Being a half-pipe probably helps keep the sound close the arch.

A whispering arch

Location

See Heritage Ireland for more details about visiting.

Author: Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

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