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Loughinisland Church
 

County

Down

Coordinates

N 54° 20' 13.74"   W 005° 48' 43.86"

Nearest town

Downpatrick

Grid Ref.

J 42269 45370

Map No.

21

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

28

Date of visit

Tuesday 28 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The largest of the three churches is the North Church, here seen from the southwest.


These three amazing churches are on a peninsula in the Loughinisland Lake.
They are named the North Church, the Middle Church and the South Church.

It appears that an early parish church was recorded here at the beginning of the 14th century, and it could easily be the Middle Church, which is the oldest of the three.

The North Church dates from the 15th century and is the largest of the three, measuring 20.70 metres of length and 9.25 metres of width externally. It is aligned to the east-northeast (80°). There are two doorways, one in the west and one in the south wall, but the west one might have been rebuilt later. Two small splayed windows near the east ends of the north and south walls give light to the chancel. The east window is now smaller than it would have been, as it's been partially walled up. It is flanked by two cupboards built into the wall. They were used to hold altar vessels. In the west wall there's a small lancet window, half hidden by the ivy, and a worn out carved head is above it.
This church was used by both Catholic and Protestant congregations, and often their services were held immediately after each other. When the Protestants left in 1720 to Seaford (about 4 km southwest), they took the roof of the church with them and the parish on the island came to an end.
In the south wall of the church is a slab with an inscription in Latin which reads "Maurice Birn lies covered by this pile of stones which, whilst living, he erected at his own expense A.D. 1617".

The Middle Church might date to the 13th century. It is 12.70 metres long, 8.20 metres wide, and is aligned to the east-northeast (75°). It's also the most damaged one, with none of the walls to its full height. It is also much overgrown. It has a doorway in the south wall, but most of the stones that once formed the doorway have been lost. The same fate hit the east window. There are narrow splayed windows in the north and south walls.

The South Church, also known as MacCartan's Chapel, stands at a lower level from the other two, on a slope of the ground. It's the most recent and the smallest of the three, it is 8.48 metres long, 7.23 metres wide, and is aligned to the east-southeast (105°).
It has two windows at the east ends of the north and south wall to give light to the altar site, along with the beautiful two-light east window whose central mullion has been lost.
The MacCartans, after whom the church is named, were chiefs of Kinelarty (which is the barony around Slieve Croob). They had one of their chief seats in Annadorn, to the southeast, on the other side of the lake, and this was their main burial ground.
The small west arched doorway has the PMC initials carved on it along with the date 1636, and they might refer to Phelim MacCartan who died in 1631.


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