Movilla Monastic site

Map Reference: J504744 (3505, 3744)

The monastery at Movilla was founded by St Finnian who died in 579. It may occupy the centre of a pre-Christian cult associated with a great tree. By the time it was attacked and burned by the Vikings in 825 it had grown considerably in size and had extensive craft workshops creating a wide range of bronze, glass and other products. In 1135 St Malachy of Armagh introduced the Augustinian Canons.

The ruins at Movilla are of a 13th and 15th century church. Only the east and west gables stand to full height and the south wall is completely gone. There was a three-light traceried east window which is almost completely blocked. Inserted in the centre light is a small round-headed window with inclined jambs.

This window opening is Romanesque in character and presumably comes from a much earlier structure than the present church. The window in the west gable has two lights with trefoil heads and transoms. The church is unusually long and narrow, being 107ft by 20ft internally. Attached to the north wall is an Early Christian graveslab with a ringheaded cross and inscribed ‘Or do Dertrend’. Beside this are a number of 13th century trapezoidal coffin lids decorated with foliated crosses and a sword, if the burial is of a man, or a shears, if the burial is of a woman.

The graveyard contains many interesting memorials, some of which date from the early 17th century. The most remarkable structure is the tomb to the Corry Family which is a replica of a Doric temple complete with fluted columns (with 20 flutings), abacus, tympanum and acroterion, as well as other features.

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