Kells Heritage Trail
Kells Heritage Trail
1. Kells Courthouse / Kells Heritage Centre
The renowned Irish architect Francis Johnston designed the courthouse. It was built in 1801. The Market Cross is located in front of the Heritage Centre.
The Kells Heritage Centre is housed in the beautifully restored courthouse, the centre contains a multi-media exhibition, giftshop and tourist information point which gives an insight into the crafts and cultures of monastic Ireland. a facsimile copy of the famous Book of Kells is on display and the famous High Cross is located on the grounds. Call in for a lunch or simply taste our coffees.
See section on Kells Heritage Centre for more information.
2. St John's Cemetary.
St John's Cemetary within the ruins of the Kells Priory of the Hospitaller's of St John, an order founded in Italy in 1113.
3. Kells Town Hall
William Caldebeck originally designed Kells Town Hall as a bank in 1853. It became the Town Hall in 1974.
4. Market Cross
The Market Cross is a 9th century high cross that would have originally have been located at the gate of the Kells Monastary. It is now located outside the Heritage Centre.
5. St Columba's Church and Grounds
St Columba's Church and Grounds mark the original site of the Monastary of Kells. St. Columba's Church stands on one of the most important Church sites in Co. Meath. According to the 'Book of Lismore', King Diarmait or Dermot, High King of Ireland granted to Columba the Dun or Fort of Kells to establish a Religious Community. The 'Annals of Ulster' for the year 804CE show that the Columban community on the island of Iona transferred to Kells which then became the principal Irish Columban monastery. In 918, the monastery was plundered and the Church destroyed. In 1117, the Abbot and Community were killed in a raid by Aedh Ua Ruairc.
Following the Synod of Kells in 1152, Kells was granted Diocesan status and the old Church was elevated to the status of a Cathedral for the Diocese. In the early 13th. century the Diocese of Kells was absorbed into the newly created Diocese of Meath. Following the Reformation the Parish Church was in ruins. It was rebuilt in 1578 on the instructions of Hugh Brady, Bishop of Meath, the Archdeacon of Meath, who also held the position of Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Sir Thomas Garvie also assisted in the task of rebuilding the Church, as did Nicholas Daly, Sovereign of the Corporation of Kells.
The only remaining portion of the mediaeval Church still standing, is the bell tower. From surviving records we know that the old Church was a large cruciform structure with a chancel and tower. The present Church was built in 1778. The spire on the bell tower was erected by Thomas, 1st Earl of Bective, in 1783. It was designed by Thomas Cooley and the stone-cutter employed was John Walsh. The Graveyard gate piers were also built for the Earl of Bective in 1783. The Church was altered in 1811, and again, in 1858, when the interior was re-ordered. In more recent times the Church roof was restored in 1965 and the interior re-decorated. Also, in 1965, the old disused Gallery was converted to exhibition space and display panels, recording the history of the monastic site, were erected.Visitors are always welcome to attend any Services in the Church and Christians of all denominations are invited to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
6. St Columcille's House
St Columcille's House probably dates from the early 10th century and is characteristic of an oratory from that period. Access by permission only.
7. Fair Green
In the early 19th century the Fair Green was designated as the new venue for Kells town fairs, which had previously been held 4 times a year in the streets of Kells.
8. Spire of Lloyd
The first Earl of Bective erected the Spire of Lloyd, a mock lighthouse, in 1791,in memory of his father Sir Thomas Taylor. The architect was Henry Baker.
9. Kells Round Tower
The Round Tower is located in the grounds of St Columba's Church and was built in the 10th century.
10. Churchyard Wall
The Churchyard wall marks the boundary of the original monastery. It was restored in the early 18th century and again in the 1990's.
11. Old Primary Schools
Catherine Dempsey bequeathed her fortune for the education and clothing of the poor children of Kells. Two primary schools were built in 1840 as a result of her generosity