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Derry Church
 

County

Down

Coordinates

N 54° 23' 39.3"   W 005° 31' 07.08"

Nearest town

Portaferry

Grid Ref.

J 61131 52353

Map No.

21

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

27

Date of visit

Thursday 30 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

2
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The two ruinous churches seen from the entrance of the rectangular enclosure.


These two very old churches were both dedicated to St. Cummain, a virgin and daughter of Allen. Her feast day is on May 28th.

According to some documents relating to the dissolution of the monasteries in the middle of the 16th century, these grounds would belong to Movilla Abbey.

The two churches are 6.60 metres apart and are parallel and both aligned to the east (85°).
They are referred to as the North and the South Church.
They are both within a roughly rectangular walled enclosure at the end of a 220 metres long path.

The South Church is the older and smaller one and might have been built in the 10th or 11th century, though some scholars suggest it may date to the 12th century. It was built on the remains of an earlier dry stone and timber structure.
It is 5.13 metres wide and 7.48 metres long, including the two antae projecting by 50 centimetres to the west and 38 centimetres to the east. The antae, typical of the first Irish churches, were either meant to support the roof or to resemble the structure of the earlier timber churches.
The masonry is of slabs bonded with clay, rather than stones and mortar.
There's a doorway in the west wall, though this side of the church is the most damaged. Two small rectangular and lintelled windows were in the east and south wall.

The North Church is 14 metres long and 7 metres wide with traces of a doorway in the south wall, though it might also have had an entrance in the west wall. Just like the North Church, this building was erected with clay rather than mortar, using rubble of different sizes.
Unfortunately this church is much more damaged than the other one, and apart from the hint of an east wall, the rest of the building is just outlined on the ground.
A small stone slab with a carved cross on its surface can be seen against the inner side of the east wall, along with the base of the altar.

Around the two churches there was a large cemetery, with several burials placed in cists even older than the two churches. Also pins, buckles and pottery fragments were found in the graveyard.


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