Kilnasaggart Inscribed Pillar Stone, Armagh, Ireland

Kilnasaggart Pillar Stone is believed to be the oldest date-able inscribed stone monument in Ireland. Standing 2.8 metres in height the stone is engraved with Ogham script, circular crosses and early Gaelic text. The pillar stone may have originally been a pagan site for Druidical worship or to commemorate an ancient warrior. Local folklore states that it stands in an ancient graveyard and burials that date from a later period have been found here. What is unusual about the burials is that they are organised in a double circle of graves, an outer ring and an inner ring with the feet of the dead all buried facing the centre.

The stone is dated to 700AD and its inscription reads “‘In loc so Taninmarni Ternoc mac Cernan Bic er cul Peter Apstel’, which means ‘this place Ternoc son of Ciarán the Little assigned under the protection of the apostle Peter’. Ternoc, son of Ciarán the Little died between 714-716. The name Cill na Saggart means ‘Church of the Priests’ and its believed a monastery once stood nearby that may have been dismantled and used to erect the nearby Moyry Castle. The stone stands on one of the earliest main roads named the Slighe Miodhluachra which ran from Tara through the Moyry Pass to Dunserverick in Co. Antrim.

Due to its antiquity the site lends itself to many myths and legends, one involves a cow who lived in the glen and gave milk in abundance to anyone who milked it. One day a person attempted to milk the cow and pass the milk immediately through a sieve, the cow was angry and stamped its food, leaving an indentation on the stones that surround the cross before it fled and was never seen again. Other legends that surround the stone include the tale of buried treasure at its base, which was believed to have been stolen during the 1830s, the urn that contained the treasure was reset. In the 19th century a local planter landlord named Sir John MacNeill sent men to uproot the stone, the men were reluctant but feared the landlord, however the local women pelted the men with stones when they began to try and remove the pillar and the men were forced to retreat. One of the darkest tales linked to this site comes from the penal times when priests were placed in spiked barrels on the top of the hill nearby and rolled down to hill, meeting their death at the base of the stone. 

GPS: 54.07227, -6.37875

2 thoughts on “Kilnasaggart Inscribed Pillar Stone, Armagh, Ireland

  1. Wonderful post Ed! I had no idea Ogham was still being used this late. Do you have any theories on the circular burials? Finally, what a creative and horrific death for those poor priests…

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