St Feichin’s Church, Westmeath, Ireland

St Feichin founded a monastery at Fore in around 630AD, not at the site of the later Benedictine Abbey but near this small church on the side of the steep hill of Carrick Balor. St Feichin’s church is the only building that remains from the time of the monastery. The church was built around 900AD and the lintel stone above its doorway is known as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’. The legend around this states that it was either done by St Feichin posthumously through the power of prayer or that when masons were building the church they could not lift the huge lintel stone into place, St Feichin told them to take a break for meals and when they returned St Feichin himself had lifted the seven ton stone into place. St Feichin is reported to have died around 665AD from the yellow plague.

The church from the 10th century was a plain rectangular structure but in the 12th century the chancel was added and was connected to the nave by an archway. Halfway up the arch is an unusual carving that at first glance may look like a Sheela-na-gig but in reality is a seated monk. The two east windows were inserted during the 15th century. The font on the right as one enters the church dates from the 13th century.

In the graveyard are the remains of a large undecorated high cross that predates the 12th century alongside several 13th and 14th century coffin-shaped grey sandstone slabs inscribed with incised crosses.

The monastery that St Feichin established is mentioned in the Annals, with the deaths of its abbots recorded from 705 to 1163. It must have been a wealthy and prominent monastery as it was burned and raided sixteen times between 745 and 1176. It is felt by some researchers that the building of Fore Abbey further down the hill in the late 12th century led to the monastery’s demise. The church however was used as a medieval parish church and is mentioned in the 1302-05 Ecclesiastical Taxation of Ireland. It appears the church was in ruins by the time of a Bishop named Dopping visiting Fore circa 1682

GPS: 53.68147, -7.22853

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