Kilbroney Church, Down, Ireland

Kilbroney Church is a strikingly picturesque ruin standing resolutely on a slope overlooking a stream and valley, with the mountain of Slievemartin adding a fantastic backdrop. Kilbroney church is also known as Rostrevor cemetery and is dedicated to a female saint named Bronagh/Bronach, a follower of St Patrick, who constructed a religious settlement here in the 6th century. Interestingly the site of Kilbroney church lies within an iron age enclosure and the area was known as Glen Sechis (the Glen of Seclusion). The church was constructed at a later date, possibly the 15th century, however many items located and discovered in the graveyard predate this building. A fine strong cross known as Saint Bronagh’s Cross dating from the late 8th century stands prominently near the church, the graveyard also contains the grave of a giant named Patrick Murphy who was the ‘tallest man in the world’ during his day, measuring 8ft 1inch.

Another artefact that remained hidden until the night of The Big Wind of January 6th 1839 is the Clog-Bán (White bell). For many years local folklore stated that the ringing of a bell could be heard during high winds at night. St Bronagh is the patron saint of seafarers and the bell was meant to warn of treacherous conditions. For many years people heard the bell but its source could never be found, it wasn’t until the night of The Big Wind that it was uncovered either in a trunk of a tree that fell or in the ivy covered walls of the church. This 6th century bell is now displayed in the local Catholic Church in Rostrevor. The site at Kilbroney also contains a well that is meant to heal eye and throat ailments. It is uncertain when Kilbroney fell into ruin however it is likely it was destroyed during the reformation.

I wholly recommend a visit to Kilbroney graveyard as its a truly spectacular site, rich in history and stunningly picturesque.

GPS: 54.11138, -6.18421

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