Iron Age and Early Christian Era

About 500 BC iron began to replace bronze as the principal metal for tools and weapons. The Iron Age is Ireland is associated with the heroic tales of the Fianna and the Red Branch Knights. However the number of ancient monuments in Ireland which can be definitely dated to the Iron Age is very small. The great hill forts such as Navan Fort, Co Armagh and Rathgall, Co Wicklow were in use during this time but we know very little about the dwellings or burial rites of the people. In the middle of the first millennium AD Christianity arrived in Ireland. By this time the ring forts and crannogs were beginning to be built. Ring forts, either raths or cashels, are found everywhere in Ireland. Even though many of them were destroyed during the 18th and 19th centuries thousands of them have survived. When St Patrick arrived in Ireland he began to establish churches all over the island. He appointed bishops over them and many of these churches developed into small isolated monasteries. Until this time written records were almost unknown in Ireland but the monasteries developed schools where children of the nobility were trained. This led to the emergence of a learned ruling class and to major cultural changes. During this time the magnificent illuminated gospel books, such as the Book of Kells, were written and monks from Ireland went to Britain and Europe to help re-establish Christianity during the Dark Ages. The churches built by Patrick and his successors were wooden structures and none of them have survived. The first stone churches were probably not built until the 9th or 10th centuries. The High Crosses and Round Towers also appeared towards the second half of the Early Christian Era. By the beginning of the 12th century Irish Romanesque art had developed based on earlier continental models but church buildings were still rather small. The great continental monastic orders had not yet reached Ireland.

Kilmacduagh Monastic Site, Co Galway

Mesolithic Age
Neolithic Age
Bronze Age
Medieval Ireland
Plantation Ireland and the Industrial Era

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