What’s left of the abandoned medieval village of Newtown Jerpoint lies just outside the Irish town of Thomastown, in Kilkenny. The ruins of Saint Nicholas’ Church, which dates to sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries, still stand. Local legend has it that Saint Nicholas—a.k.a Father Christmas, the inspiration behind Santa Claus—is buried within a cracked, carved tomb in its grounds.
According to local tradition, two Norman crusaders nabbed the saint’s remains while heading home to Kilkenny from the Holy Land over 800 years ago. Saint Nicholas’ supposed tombstone depicts a cleric with the heads of two knights peering over his shoulder, which represent the knights who carried the bones. Though it’s true that Norman knights from the area were part of the crusades, the theory that they stole and relocated Father Christmas isn’t widely accepted by non-locals.
Newtown Jerpoint existed until sometime in the 17th century. Though it was once a bustling village with over a dozen taverns, the loss of its toll bridge and the re-routing of the local road eventually caused its residents to abandon it.
Now, the ruined church and tomb exist within the privately owned Jerpoint Park, a working farm that offers tours, fishing, and sheep dog demonstrations.
Know Before You Go
Jerpoint is just 2.0 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Thomastown, and 15–20 minutes from the city center of Kilkenny.