Medieval Churches, St Moninna's Grave

It is not difficult to to figure out why Saint Moninna founded a nunnery here in the 5th century. The Killeavy churches are beautifully situated on the eastern slopes of Slieve Gullion. "Cill Shléibhe" in Irish means Church of the Mountain. Although giving the appearance of being one long church, there are actually two churches from different centuries built back to back in an east-west alignment. They were joined together by later walling. The western church dates to the 12th century and has a wonderful cyclopean doorway which may date to the 11th century.

Unfortunately the western wall was in the shade on my visit and I was not happy with the photo of the doorway. The image below shows the doorway from the inside. Standing against the outer eastern wall of the old church is a large cross slab, that may have been a grave-marker. The slab, pictured left, bears a circle with a simple cross in the centre carved in relief. The larger church is dated to the 15th century and has an eastern window with carved masks as label stops and another head at the apex which may be a bishop. Lying to the north of the graveyard is a large granite stone believed to mark the grave of Saint Moninna. She had previously founded a convent at Faughart. If you look up the mountainside from Killeavy churches you can see a white structure about half way up the mountain, this is St. Moninna's Well, a lovely well dedicated to the founder, with spendid views of the Armagh countryside.

Walls between the churches

West Church

Cross slab

Cyclopean doorway

St Moninnina's Grave

Situated: Take the M1 north. Before Newry, take the Jonesborough exit. Take the first right to Meigh. Go straight through. Drive 2 1/2 kilometres and take a left at the crossroads. You will come to a T-Junction. Killeavy churches is directly in front of you.

Discovery Map 29: J 040 221. Last visit February 2011.

Longitude: 6° 24' 30.91" W

Latitude: 54° 8' 14.38" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

East gable, west church

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