Devenish - St. Mary's Priory Church




N 54° 22' 12.06"   W 007° 39' 26.1"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

H 22272 46873

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Tuesday 19 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The Devenish Island monastery as it appears when you arrive on the island.

We had this settlement on our visit list for years, but never got to actually go to it. When eventually the time was right, we were welcomed to the island by one of the heaviest rains ever seen, so our visit was totally ruined and all the photos are... wet!
My camera was literally flooded by the heavy rain and it took a whole day to recover to full operation.

Devenish Island is the seat of one of the finest monastic settlements in Northern Ireland. St. Molaise established the monastery in the 6th century, along one of the pilgrim routes to Croagh Patrick, in Co. Mayo. The settlement on Devenish Island became a centre of scholarship and later was chosen as the site of the parish church. The settlement was raided by the Vikings in 837, and burned in 1157.
The name Devenish comes from the Irish Daimhinis, meaning "Ox Island".

It is thought that an early priory was built on this site in the 12th century, but the fire in 1157 destroyed almost everything of it and the church that we see today dates from 1449, according to the date inscripted on a stone now kept at the interpretative centre, 150 metres east from the church.
About 50 years later the church was remodeled and extended. The southwest (245°) doorway was rebuilt, the windows were replaced and a tower was added.
To the northwest, a cloister was built along with a refectory and other rooms for the community of monks.
Since Teampull Mór was the church used as the parish church, the nave of St. Mary's was rather small.

This church was still in use in 1610, though it was likely already in ruins.

Above the southwest doorway there's a beautiful carved head thought to be of the Virgin Mary. What we see today, though, is a replica, the original one being in the interpretative centre.
In the northwest wall of the nave there's a wonderful processional doorway, decorated with two fine finials and a central floreal motif.

The church is aligned to the northeast (65°).

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