The monastery of Duleek, with its Celtic cross, is a fine monastery and there is simply no other way of putting it. Nestled in the small village of Duleek, is the ancient abbey standing there, tall and proud with hundreds of years of history behind it. The monastery certainly has many stories to tell…
When you enter the monastery grounds you find yourself in a little graveyard with headstones from this century as well as many from the previous centuries. The graveyard is quite a peaceful place of solace to remember loved ones lost. Here is also the resting place for many people from the Edwardian period, the Victorian period even the Georgian period. The magnificent tombstones believed to house the remains of two gentries dating to 1720 exactly 300 years ago! The abbey, although in ruins itself, is still quite interesting to look at with detailed medieval stonework. The abbey is mostly intact aside from a few walls that have worn away over the years so if you’re ever in the area I would definitely suggest a visit.
The History of The Abbey
A monastery was in Duleek dating back to about the 5th century complete with a round tower as a place of refuge in case of Viking attacks. The round tower, however, is severely damaged caused by lightning in 1147. Shortly after in 1180, Hugh DeLacy, a Norman lord from County Meath, established St Marys Abbey in honor of Mary the mother of Jesus. In what used to be the southern arcade which dates back to the historically 13th century. The tower and the southern isle dates back to the 15th century with the window and the gable date back to the 16th century. Sadly the monastery was closed with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537.
When the monastery closed, the site was used for burials. There are two impressive-looking tombs which house the remains of two gentries, James Cusack and John Bellew. The former was catholic bishop of Meath from 1679 to 1688 and Bellew was 1st baron of the Bellew of Duleek who died of battle wounds he received in the battle of Aughrim. A fun fact: The body of Brian Boru was laid here overnight in 1014 before being transported to Armagh his final resting place.
One of the monasteries prize sights to see is the Celtic Cross of Duleek. This cross stands six feet in height and is sculpted from sandstone. On the west face of the cross there is a crucifixion scene typical for most Celtic crosses. There is also illustrations of the early life of the Virgin Mary and towards the bottom of the cross is a winged biblical figure and the signature beautiful Celtic interlacing knotwork and geometric patterned design reminiscent of the many of the iconic crosses found throughout Ireland.
There is one word to describe the Abbey of Duleek and that is peace. It is a place where time truly stands still. It is a place to pass by the headstones and remember dear friends departed. It is a place to remember the dead people from centuries ago. It is a place to close your eyes and envision the lives these people lived. The times they lived through to wonder what their greatest pleasure were and their deepest fears. What was there place in society, did they ever think that humanity would come this far. It is a place to look at the abbey and Celtic cross itself and remember that these piles of stone and rubble have lived through millennia of history through Viking raids, The Norman Conquest the birth of a republic. Just some things to think about.
We recreate the wonderful detail of the original cross in our Duleek Celtic cross necklace. One of the crosses in our replica cross collection. Learn more on the symbolism and meaning of the Celtic Cross.