Ireland is deeply connected with its roots in early Christianity, and not many places can boast such a strong link than the monastic site of Gallen Priory. Located near the town of Ferbane in the Republic of Ireland is one of the most exceptional accumulations of cross slabs in the country. Uncovered by a team of Harvard researchers in the 1930s, a large collection of carved headstones was discovered indicating an early Christian burial site.
Originally believed to be part of a monastery founded by Saint Canoc (or Michonoge) in 492, it was burnt down in 820. Believed to be reoccupied several times from the 10th to 17th centuries. Under the guidance of the Free State National and British Museums, an unemployment respite crew made the discovery which is located not far from what is now a retirement home. It is estimated that there are just over 200 graves stones located here.
What was once the gables of a 12th-century church, visitors will encounter a large slab with several stone crosses embedded on either side. Of note is a 10th-century grave marker displaying the figures of both animal and human silhouettes. There is also an interesting piece carved with what can be described as a marigold pattern that is estimated to be from the 6th century. Included in this discovery is a beautifully carved pillar stone that may have been used as a sundial. Altogether this makes this one of Ireland’s most significant archaeological sites.
Know Before You Go
The site is located on the grounds of the Ferbane Care Centre, a nursing home facility. There is a parking lot adjacent and signage directing you to St. Canoc's. Be aware this is in a field a few yards away, so wear proper footwear and be aware of uneven surfaces. Also be respectful to the current residents, as well as this most ancient of locations.