Tag Archives: Slaine

Travel: Monasterboice, Land of High Crosses

Ireland 2007–Monasterboice

Just click on the pictures to go to the album and each picture has more information in the caption.

Monasterboice is now just a cemetery but it has a long history. Founded first in the 4th century by St Buite who died in 521, it has seen many incarnations. It laso had significance to Mellifont Abbey. The tower and the High Crosses date from the tenth century though the tower might be even older. The original abbey is long gone but there are remains of two 14th century abbeys. Over a thousand years of use here, and there is still significant detail left. I can only imagine how majestic these crosses were in their virgin state. I did not know before that the reason there is the round circle on the crosses is that the versions made of gold and jewels would start to bend under the weight of the design and the circle was a support structure to hold up the arms of the cross.

The day was wettish, trying to rain and leaden. The skies in the pictures appear missing for this reason. The moisture did bring out the text of the stone and add rich colors. There might have been on or to other people in the cemetery but really we had it to ourselves, which was nice for exploring. The crosses hold great detail, in stories and early Celtic/Irish design.

The tower, it is believed, was used for protection when the Vikings came by. It is still over 100 feet high and no longer complete. As well, over time, dirt has built up around the base and the once elevated doorway is now about 6-8 feet above ground. Of course this would have been used for storage and for a lookout as well.

Monasterboice was our last stop around the Newgrange area. It wasn’t far from the towns of Drogheda, (Pronounced Droda but you’d hear different pronunciations depending on whether the person was saying the Gaelic or the English version.) Tara or Slaine.

We never did get any pictures of Slaine (two weddings booked in the castle and there after dark for dinner the second night), and though we drove through Kells the night before it was too late for the tourist center. As it was now Sunday we would have had to hang around till 2 pm to get in and as it turns out, there are two Kells in Ireland. The other is in the southwest and neither house the Book of Kells, which I regret not seeing.

By this time we were getting a better sense of driving about and learning to just stop and ask directions, especially when we’d be at a corner that had signs pointing east and south at the same time. Signs for touristy things (landmarks, historic sites, beaches) were in brown and helped a lot in finding places. Towns were in white (w/black lettering) or green (w/white lettering). It seems the secondary routes were the white signs. The roundabouts, on the other hand, never really did get easy.

Next, Belfast to Ballycastle.

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St Peter & Paul’s Cathedral, and Old Mellifont Abbey

First posted Oct. 31, 2007. I’d like to get back to Ireland this year.

I find beauty in stone and architecture, in details and the juxtaposition against sky and flora. St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral was in the town of Trim and not far from the castle. Trim was a very important center at one time. We happened upon the cathedral and just stopped. I loved the sense of age, the details still visible, and that the cemetery was still in use.

The days are blurring together but we arrived in the Newgrange/County Meath area on the Friday evening, then spent Saturday and part of Sunday bopping about before we went north. I can’t remember if we did Trim on Sunday or if it was one of the last things on Saturday. The time of day and that the castle was nearly closed when we hit it makes me think that the cathedral was the last place on Saturday.

We then wandered back to Slaine (that we never did get pictures of nor see the castle because it was booked for weddings). We ate at “the Old Post Office” but had drinks at the pub across the street first until they had space for us. There was a guy playing music but it was 80s tunes. Alas, N.A. rock made its mark everywhere, when we wanted Irish traditional.

So on Sunday, after saying so long to Irene of the Roughgrange B&B right near Newgrange (she was lovely and very friendly) we moved on to Old Mellifont Abbey, a cistercian monastery first founded in 1142 AD by St. Malachy. Of course, it was constructed and expanded over centuries and there were even ruins of one of the old houses on the hill. The rain spittered and spattered but never did more than that.

The detail in the columns were amazing and the sense of age was powerful. I got in trouble at the visitor center for saying we have such little history in Canada. I amended it to say architectural and civic history, because we do have history. But the artifacts of the first Nations were mostly of wood and leather and just as all the places no longer have their roofs in Ireland, we have very little (especially in western Canada) that goes back more than two centuries at most.

The sense of people living, adapting, changing through all those years is stunning. Nature is amazing and what humans have done, both good and bad, awe inspiring too.

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