Medieval Parish Church

The possible 14th century, nave and chancel, church at Dowth may incorporate parts of an earlier church. It is recorded that a church dedicated to St David existed here at the beginning of the 13th century. During the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, the church was in the possession of the Priory of Llanthony Prima and Secunda in Ireland. The Anglo-Norman, Hugh de Lacy, had granted land and tithes to the welsh monastery in the latter part of the 12th century. The church was dedicated to St Sinnac, a little-known Irish saint. By 1641 the church was recorded as being in ruins.

West gable

The church walls are almost complete. A pointed window in the west gable has a double bellcote over it. There are two opposing round-headed doorways in the north and south walls of the nave and an aumbry is situated in the south wall of the chancel. A memorial to the poet John Boyle O'Reilly is situated against the exterior of the south wall of the chancel. O'Reilly, an Irish Patriot born in Dowth in 1844, was arrested by the British and tried for treason, and sentenced to penal servitude in Australia. He escaped in a boat and was picked up and brought to Philadelphia by an American whaling ship. O'Reilly settled in Boston, where he became a succesful writer and journalist, championing civil rights. He died in Boston, where he is buried, aged just 46. Behind the left hand-side of the memorial is a sheela-na gig. The sheela was hidden behind a wall of ivy for many years, but was discovered during conservation work at the church. The badly worn sheela was damaged during the erection of the memorial in 1903. A medieval font from here was moved to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church at Monknewtown.

Opposing doorways

Netterville plaque

Situated: From Dowth passage tomb head north along to road untill you see the sign for the John Boyle O'Reilly memorial.

Discovery Map 43. O 0251 7377. Last visit Aug 2018.

Longitude: 6° 26' 51" W

Latitude: 53° 42' 13" N

Google Map.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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