Devenish Island

Monastic site

We were so delighted to have finally visited the monastic site situated on Devenish Island. One of the main reasons for visiting was to photograph the beautifully carved 15th century high cross pictured right, but Devenish has much more to offer the visitor. Founded by Saint Laisrén mac Nad Froích (aka St Molaise) in the 6th century, the monastic site was built on a pilgrimage route to Croagh Patrick. The monastic settlement was raided by the Vikings in 837 and was burned in 1157and again in 1360. The earliest stone buildings on the island are St Molaise's House, a small oratory or tomb shrine, and the magnificent round tower. Both of these buildings are from the 12th century and bear romanesque decoration. The oratory was probably built to house the relics of the founder St Molaise, similar to Temple Ciaran at Clonmacnoise which contained the relics of St Ciaran. The bases of the narrow antae on the west gable feature classical romanesque sculpture. The island is covered with earthworks that pre-date the stone buildings.

The first building you come to as you walk up from the pier is Tempull Mor, the lower or Great Church, see bottom image. It is an early 13th century church with a beautiful lancet in the south wall with moulding on both the interior and exterior. In the Northwest corner is a stone coffin known as St Molaise's bed. The building was extended eastwards at the beginning of the 14th century and again by the addition of a residential wing to the north and the Maguire chapel to the south.

On the higher ground to the west, passed the round tower, is the remains of the 15th century Augustinian Priory of St Mary, see top image left. The priory consists of a 28 metre long church with a central tower. All that remains today are the tower, the north wall and the low remains of the other walls. By the middle of the 17th century the monastery lay in ruins. To the south of the round tower is a small visitor centre with some carved stones from the monastery on show.

St Brigid

St Molaise's House (Oratory)

The original Foundation stone for the priory 1449, can be viewed in the visitor centre along with the original head carving representing St Brigid. The one pictured above, is a replica set in the original location.

Cross slab?

Stone coffin lid?

Teampull Mór, the Great Church.

Situated: An island on Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh. I was notified recently that the only access to the island is from Round O Jetty, Brook Park, Enniskillen. Update: The Northern Ireland Environment Ageny run a ferry from Trory Point throughtout July and August. Click here for details.

Discovery Map 17. H 2234 4731. Last visit Sept 2010.

Longitude: 7° 39' 22" W

Latitude: 54° 22' 26" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.

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