Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk. It’s really great that our travel restrictions have been lifted and we can travel the length and breadth of Ireland.
I can promise not too much walking , but boy will it be worth it – come with me today for a stroll through the ancient monastic site of Monasterboice in County Louth.
Its a really beautiful day in Ireland – blue skies and not a cloud , so its perfect for a visit to this incredible site.
Located about a fifteen minute drive from the famous Newgrange monument, the village of Monasterboice is often overlooked , but believe me this is worth a detour.
With the help of good ol’ GPS, we drive through a series of winding narrow roads until we see the little car park that will lead us to this wonderland , lets park and cross into the old monastic settlement.
The name Monasterboice comes from the Irish “ Mainistir Bhuithe “ or monastery of Buithe, or Boyce , who was the saint that is said to have founded the monastery here in the late 5th century. In fact little is known about the monastery except for the remains that we can now visit.
The first thing that we can see towering above the site is the ruins of a round tower . This one stands at about 28 metres high and dates form around 968 AD. These towers were used as bell towers and as a lookout for the Viking raiders who plundered so many of the Irish monasteries. I’m told there are steps inside ,it would be amazing to climb to the top, but sadly its locked !
There are two ruined churches , but the real highlights are the THREE high crosses, two of which are simply spectacular . These crosses are regarded as Ireland’s greatest contribution to European sculpture.
Lets take a look at the 5.5 metre high Muiredach’s cross, which is regarded as the finest of all high crosses.
Named after the abbot of the same name, Muiredach Mac Domhaill , who died in 923 the cross is richly decorated with carved decorations depicting stories from the old and new testaments of the Bible, as well as beautiful interlaced carvings. I can actually touch the story of Moses striking the rock and beneath we can see scenes from the life of David. On one side of the cross there is an image of the hand or “ the hand of God” . Local tradition says that if you stand under the hand, God will answer your prayers.
Not far away is the taller west cross ,that dates from around the same time and stands at over 7 metres high ! Can you see how time has eroded the shaft at the bottom – there is another local story that emigrants chipped away tiny fragments from this cross to keep them safe as they travelled abroad and to keep a little piece of home with them .
There is a third and less ornate North cross close by and an ancient sundial that was used by the monks to mark the passing of the day .
The whole site is about an acre in size and surrounded by a sturdy wall. Nowadays is used as a graveyard ; what a peaceful and historic place to be laid to rest . But what always has me in awe is the way we can walk up and touch these crosses that were carved by hand so long ago. I love the way that as the sun passes through the skies its rays light up another panel on the cross and bring to life the stories of scripture. It’s living history and living faith . Its clear to see where we take our inspiration for our range of Celtic Jewelry and for your consideration I will attach some pictures of these also.
Lets soak up the sunshine and head back to the car , and I do hope that you enjoyed coming with me today to this amazing place.
Stay well , Stephen