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Nendrum Monastic Settlement
 

County

Down

Coordinates

N 54° 29' 53.4"   W 005° 38' 52.3"

Nearest town

Comber

Grid Ref.

J 52439 63630

Map No.

21

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

21

Date of visit

Monday 6 June 2011

GPS Accuracy (m)

6
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The access through the wall of the middle cashel.


This place has been calling me for over one year. I found a concise description and only one photo about it somewhere on the internet, by pure chance, right after coming back home from the previous travel to Ireland.
The dream of coming here has been haunting me since.
I could have left any other site behind, but not this. Actually I imagined something different from what we saw here, but I liked it anyway and I'm delighted I made it to this remote part of the country.
Actually it's not easy to get to this old monastic settlement. It's on Mahee Island and it's accessible along a narrow and winding road through a completely flat land.
The early monastery at this place is associated with St. Mochaoi who died here in the 5th century.
A violent Viking attack in 976 caused many victims and the annals report that Setna O Deman, erenach of Dendrum, was burned alive into his house. An erenach was an ecclesiastic having duties similar to those of an archdeacon in the Irish Church, previous to the 12th century.
After the Anglo-Norman invasion, the Benedectines had a community here and by 1300 Nendrum became a parish church. In 1450 the whole community moved to Tullynakill and the monastery was abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years.
The settlement had three concentric cashels, or rings, made by dry stone walls. The outer one ran along the shoreline and it's almost completely disappeared.
The middle cashel included some buildings used as dwelling and workshops.
The inner cashel enclosed the religious buildings, the church and the round tower. Nothing remains of both. The church shows only the outline of the structure, with a very low wall running for 15 metres in length and 5.50 metres in width, and the southwest (245°) wall. On the south corner of the building a very ancient sundial is mounted. Actually they're just some fragments of a sundial mounted into a concrete pillar that is 1.93 metres tall. About 12 metres northwest (290°) of the church is a stump of a round tower. The area is completely flat and the shoreline is exposed to the east for many miles. I wonder why they built a round tower that could make this place visible from every direction.
Between the southwest wall of the church and the inner cashel there are some very old burials. I like to think that these are the graves of the early monks who were killed by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago.


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