Donaghmore Round Tower and Church, Meath, Ireland

The beautiful elevated site of Donaghmore is the perfect setting for this 10th century round tower and 16th century church. Donaghmore was originally known as Domnach Mór (The Great Church) and was established and blessed by St Patrick, before it was given into the care of one of his followers St. Cassanus. The original church has long gone and was replaced in the 13th century and again in the 16th by the current ruin. The round tower is a striking example of the earliest style of Irish round towers, built from undressed limestone, it measures 26 metres in height. The tower is similar to the ones at Kells and Glendalough and it has been suggested that they may have been built around the same time and possibly by the same builders. Donaghmore seems to have always been a place of considerable importance, the Book of Kells mentions that in 1094 the monks at Kells bought the lands at Donaghmore for 20 ounces of gold.

Donaghmore was originally inhabited by a celibate clergy but gradually evolved into a community of married clergy and laymen called “mainig”. At the time people of Donaghmore would have lived in the shadow of a stone church, in wooden huts, surrounded by a circular enclosure which survived until the tenth century.

The graveyard at Donaghmore hold some interesting treasures. To the right of the entrance is a large millstone that has been fashioned into a seat within the wall of the graveyard, this was in memory of William Morgan a 19th century Navan corn mill owner. The graveyard also contains an early Christian cross slab and also the grave of an unknown Croppy. Croppies graves dot the Irish countryside and are not usually located in graveyards. A ‘Croppy’ was the name given to those who partook in the 1798 rebellion. Many croppies were buried where they were died but its believed that this unknown croppy was buried during the night by people who had come across his body. The term ‘Croppy’ derives from the closely cropped hair associated with the rebels both in Ireland and in France, as opposed to the ‘powdered wig’ aristocratic style popular at the time. The British administration in Ireland at the time was highly suspicious of the pro-French organisation ‘the Society of United Irishmen’ and its members were seized and subjected to torture by flogging, picketing, half hanging and pitch-capping. Pitchcapping became infamous in its barbarity. Myles Byrne, a leader in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and ‘chef de bataillon’ in Napoleon’s Irish Legion, described the process in his memoirs,“Flogging, half hanging, picketing, were mild tortures in comparison of the pitch caps that were applied to the heads of those who happened to wear their hair short, called croppies; the head being completely singed, a cap made of strong linen well imbued with boiling pitch was so closely put on that it could not be taken off without bringing off a part of the skin and flesh from the head  : in many instances the tortured victim had one of his ears cut off to satisfy the executioner that if he escaped he could readily be discovered, being so well marked.”

GPS: 53.67041, -6.66223

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