See also: Donaghmore in Penal Times Vincent Mulvany

Donaghmore Round Tower and Medieval Church


donaghmore monastic settlement Just about 1 km or so outside Navan on the N51 road to Slane are the ruins of Donaghmore Monastic Settlement.

Pictured here are the strong remains of the 10th century Round Tower and the

ruins of the 16th century medieval church.



donaghmore round tower










Photos: © Navan & District Historical Society

Donaghmore  - This site was originally known as Domnach Mór - the Great Church.  The church here was originally a patrician (St. Patrick) foundation. The church was said to have been blessed by St. Patrick, and given into the care of one of his followers St. Cassanus.

Donaghmore was well known, and mentioned in the Book of Kells. In one of the deeds of the Book of Kells it is stated that the monks at Kells bought the lands at Donaghmore for 20 ozs of gold. The deed is witnessed by Ó Dunan, Bishop of the northern half of Ireland, the King of Tara and Ó Fiachiach custodian of Donaghmore.  It is dated before 1094, when we know Bishop Ó Dunan died.

Donaghmore was an important place down the ages. It was inhabited first by a celibate clergy, but gradually evolved into a community of married clergy and laymen called "mainig". This early Christian monastery would have consisted of a collection of wooden huts surrounded by a circular enclosure, with perhaps a stone church and round tower.

It survived until the tenth century. The round tower is typical of the round towers built in Ireland during the times of the Viking Invasions. It is 110 ft high and has a circumference of 66 ft at its base, and is built of undressed limestone. (see link Early Christian Navan)

donaghmore round tour

(above) The Crucifixion in relief over the door of the Round tower with a carved stone head on each side of it . Photo: © N&DHS

The Church was replaced in the 13th century by a new and larger structure, built by Anglo Norman settlers.  Only the western end and belfry of this church remain.

The graveyard contains many interesting features including an early Christian Cross and headstones from the 18th century.

dungan headstone donaghmore

angel and bishop donaghmore










(above) Two 18th century headstones. The one on the right shows an angel and a bishop.

The graveyard contains the grave of a Croppy.  Croppies was the name given to those who took part in the 1798 Rebellion against British rule. This unknown Croppy was brought here for burial in the still of the night by neighbours who found his body.  It is unusul for a Croppy to be buried in sacred ground.

The graveyard also contains the vault of the Fitzherberts, a landlord family of Navan, associated with Blackcastle.

morgan's mill wheel donaghmore William Morgan was an important miller in

Navan in the 19th century.

He owned a large corn mill which was located at the end of

Mill Lane,

and a bakery in Watergate St.

He is buried in Donaghmore Graveyard.

One of the millstones from

Morgan's Mill has been converted  into a seat and can be found along the perimeter wall of Donaghmore Graveyard.

(pictured left)


donaghmore penal cross The Donaghmore Penal Cross

In the early 1900s, the Penal Cross illustrated here was found in the

thatch of the house of Patrick and Annie Flood, Proudstown Navan, when it was being re-thatched.

The house was very old - possibly going back 400 years and the

cross was very well hidden.

The homemade cross is made of yew wood and has the date 1535 inscribed on the back.

The right arm of the cross is broken off.

The cross was given to St. Patrick's College Maynooth by the Flood family and it is now part of a display of Penal Crosses there.


donaghmore general view

Archaeological Inventory of County Meath, compiled by Michael J. Moore, (Dublin 1987)
1383 - DONAGHMORE - OS 25:7:1, (54.0, 41.2) 'Church (in ruins)' @Round Tower' OD 100-200 N 8848, 6977
Early Christian Monastry Round tower with round headed door c. em above ground level and surmounted with crucifixion scene (Barrow 1979, 162-6).  W wall of medieval church with belfry attached also on site.   SMR 25:15     16/10/1984

1384 - DONAGHMORE - OS 45:7:1 (53.1, 38.7) 'G.YD.' OD 200 O 0822, 5062
Church - Grass covered foundations of E-W building (dims. L 12m, W 7m).   SMR 45:8     14/8/1970


Recent Excavations at Donaghmore:

County: Meath   Site name: 'Donaghmore' Blackcastle Demesne number: 1990:090         License number: —
Site type: Cist cemetery

The site was brought to the attention of the National Museum of Ireland following ploughing, in the field opposite Donaghmore Round Tower, Navan, Co. Meath. Having identified the discovery as being the capstone of a cist burial a limited excavation was carried out at the behest of the National Museum of Ireland. The site is located on light, fertile, well drained soil above the west bank of the Boyne River, 1.5km north-east of Navan town. So far five cists have been excavated and a sixth uncovered.

Cist 1
Oriented east-west, was well constructed of four large, straight edged stones and covered by a large capstone. The cist measured 1.35m by 0.75m and 0.5m in depth. It contained the remains of the fragile, decayed skeleton of a child. From its position it would appear to have been crouched. The pit into which the cist was built was only slightly larger than the cist, measuring l.45m by 1m. No grave goods were found.

Cist 2
Oriented east-west, was located only 0.4m west of Cist 1. This was a large and more roughly built cist, measuring l.3m by lm and 0.45m in depth. It was constructed of six large, irregularly shaped stones, which were not bedded very deeply into the old ground surface. The capstone was missing, probably removed during previous ploughing or land clearing and no indication of a pit was found. The cist contained the remains of one skeleton, aim adult in a crouched position. A poorly preserved pot was found near the skull.

Cist 3
Again oriented east-west, was located 4.5m west of Cist 2. A crudely built cist consisting of a large pit measuring I .6m by 1m and 0.5in in depth. Although the capstone was in situ the burial had been disturbed, most likely by an animal. The remains of the adult skeleton were disarticulated. Three grave goods were found, a Food Vessel sherd, a worked flint and a polished stone.

Cist 4
This disturbed burial was located 2m west of Cist 3 and appears to be oriented north-south. Only three side stones survived, within which a substantial cremation deposit was found, Immediately outside the area of the edging stone part of a skull was found.

Cist 5
Located 1.75m east of Cist 3, which from the surface seemed to be a Pit Burial, in that it appeared as a dark stain in the ground and had no capstone. However, when excavated it was revealed to be lined with four upright slabs, which did not reach the top of the pit. The remains of a skeleton, that of a child, was found. The bones were very fragile and very few survived.

Cist 6

This was located west of Cist 4. It was sealed by a very large capstone and the surface of a pit was visible. This cist has not been excavated.
Helen Roche, Dept. of Archaeology, University College, Dublin.


"Early Christian Navan"  Rev. Gerard Rice Meath Chronicle Feb. 1981

"Donaghmore Monastic Settlement and Graveyard" by Cepta Dungan in Navan - Its People and Its Past vol 2  (2013)  Journal of the N&DHS.

The story of the Croppy Grave was recounted by Winnie McGoona to the author above. The McGoona family has kept the oral tradition of Donaghmore alive since Penal times, as the stories have been handed down through the generations and recorded faithfully.
There is a list of names of burials in Donaghmore Graveyard at:

Photos: © Navan & District Historical Society


The Parliamentary Gazetteer 0f Ireland 1844-1845 Vol.2.
Donaghmore, a parish in the barony of Lower Navan, co. Meath, Leinster. It contains part of the town of Navan. Length, southward, 3 miles; breadth, 2 1/4; area, 3,955 acres, 9 perches, of which 23 acres, 2 roods, 9 perches, are in the river Boyne. Pop., in 1831, 2,132; in 1841, 1.524 Houses 247. Pop. of the rural districts, in 1841, 916. Houses 148.
The surface occupies the flat tongued peninsula between the Blackwater and the Boyne, and consists in general of good land. Black Castle, the handsome seat of Richard Ruxton Fitzherbert, Esq., stands on the southern border, in the immediate vicinity of Navan; and its well-wooded demesne now includes the demesne of Swinerton, and extends two miles down the west side of the Boyne. Rahaldron, the seat of Mr. Cussack, stands 2 miles from Navan, on the right of the road to Kells. The other seats are Nevinstown house, Proudstown house, Dunmoe cottage, and Antyletown house.
At Donaghmore are a pillar tower and the ruins of an ancient church. The tower is but slightly dilapidated; it measures 60 1/2 feet in circumference at 4 feet from the ground; it sends aloft its shaft from a projecting base; and it possesses the unusual feature of presenting, on the key stone over the entrance doorway, a representation of Christ on the cross. Archdall was blind enough not to see this tower, and yet so keen eyed in looking through a mist as to see a monastic establishment founded by St. Patrick. He says,
"St. Patrick founded an abbey here, called Bile Tortain, over which he placed St. Justin: it was afterwards named Domnach Tortain, and now Donaghmore."
This parish is a vicarage augmented with the rectorial tithes, and forms part of the benefice of Navan, in the dio. of Meath. Tithe composition, £280; glebe, £17 10s. There is neither church nor chapel. In 1834, the Protestants amounted to 75, and the Roman Catholics to 2,127; and a daily school at Cannistown was salaried with £8 from the National Board, £2 10s. from Lord Ludlow, and £11 10s. from subscription, and had on its books 43 boys and 35 girls.