Sleaty Church, Laois, Ireland

The old ruined medieval church at Sleaty is situated on the west bank of the River Barrow, just north of Carlow town. Though the church is of medieval origin there is a long ecclesiastical history in the area. On the north side of the Barrow there once stood a monastery founded by the 5th century Saint Fiacc. Fiacc was born into nobility and his mother was said to have been a sister of Dubhtach, the chief bard and Brehon at the time, of whom Fiacc became an apprentice. It is said that Fiacc was present alongside Dubhtach when St Patrick came to Tara in 433AD. Legend states that St Patrick presented sacred vestments, a bell, a manuscript of the Pauline Epistles and a crosier to the monastery. At some point the monastery was moved across the River Barrow after a great tragedy when over 60 monks died from disease. Fiacc had a vision telling him to move the monastery to a place “marked by a boar and a deer” and was accompanied by St Patrick to the west bank of the River Barrow. Fiacc is said to have received the Latin alphabet from Patrick and the site at Sleaty may have been one of the first scriptoriums in Ireland. One of the most prominent people connected the monastery was ‘Áed/Aodh of Sletty’ who was an Irish Bishop during the 7th century and was one of the first biographers of St Patrick. The monastery seems to have fallen out of importance by the mid-11th century.

There is no exact date for the construction of the church at Sleaty, it is a simple structure, largely built using limestone blocks, with the exception of the east gable which was rebuilt at some later stage with sandstone. The granite jambs/doorway side-posts may have been taken from the earlier monastery. Two of the most interesting features of the site at Sleaty is the two granite crosses that are said to date from between the 8th and 10th century. One of these is a massive 3 metres in height, made from a single block of granite, the second is smaller measuring 1.5 metres and is decorated with a rough ringed cross. Though the church at Sleaty is very ruinous it still has much beauty, standing as it does on a small hillock surrounded by a D-shaped wall, with its large cross dominating the landscape, well worth a visit if passing nearby. 

GPS: 52.85799, -6.94182

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