Shrine and Cross Pillars

Caherlehillan

Early Christian Site

This is probably one of the most important early christian sites we have ever visited. Excavations have revealed activity here in the mid 5th and early 6th centuries. The main early features were an enclosure with a wooden church inside. This makes it the earliest dated christian church in Ireland. There are four wooden posts marking the original post holes of the church. The church was furnished with a wooden altar and there is evidence of a sacrarium on the south side. In the same northeast section of the enclosure is a corner-post shrine, see image left. This 1.9 m x 1.9 m shrine was added around the 7th century and is thought to have been positioned over an earlier lintel-type grave, this is probably the burial place of the founding "Saint".

Standing at the the western side of the shrine are two crossed inscribed slabs, also dated to about the 7th century. The tall 1.15 m high slab bears a linear latin cross with c-scroll terminals and a roundel beneath the cross. The smaller broader slab is inscribed with a maltese cross pendant with a grooved stem. This is believed to represent a flabellum, the liturigical fan of the early eastern church. Above the pendant is a stylised peacock which has strong association with the flabellum. The style of decoration on these slabs and two other fragments found here plus the presence of B-ware pottery found during excavations suggest a strong link between the Mediterranean and Caherlehillan. Over 100 graves were found in the enclosure including both stone-lined and dug graves. We were thrilled to have finally visited this amazing early christian site. Strongly recommended.

Detail

Corner-post shrine with enclosure wall behind

Post holes

Situated: From Glenbeigh head west on the N70 for about 15 kilometres then take a slight left , just after the garage and restaurant. After 3.8 klms take a left. The site is in the field on the right just before the farmhouse.

Discovery Map 83: V 5721 8357. Last visit Sept 2012.

Longitude: 10° 4' 43" W

Latitude: 51° 59' 10" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

Previous-----Home-----Next Page