Diarmait Mac Murchadha Cross Slab




N 52° 35' 23.2"   W 006° 29' 33.8"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

T 02200 49746

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 12 June 2013

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The broken shaft of the cross that marks the burial place of Diarmait Mac Murchadha and his son Domhnall.

In the graveyard of the new cathedral in Ferns there's the burial place of Diarmait Mac Murchadha, king of Leinster from 1126 to 1171, and of his son Domhnall Caomhánach, his successor to the throne.
Diarmait is considered the responsible for the arrival of the English and the Normans to Ireland.
According to the Annals, he abducted Derbforgaill, the wife of Tigernán Mór Ua Ruairc, king of Bréifne, in 1152. Though she returned to her family one year later, the dispute didn't end there, and fourteen years later, seeking for revenge, Tigernán Mór Ua Ruairc along with Ruaidhri Ua Conchobair (king of Connacht) and Diarmait Ua Mealseachlainn (King of Meath) drove Mac Murchadha from Leinster. Mac Murchadha fled to Aquitaine, France, to the court of Henry II, king of England, to look for help in taking his territory back. Henry II wasn't able to help him but he granted him some mercenaries to follow him back to Ireland. His return to Ireland was unsuccessful because he was defeated by Ua Ruairc and Ua Conchobair, but he was allowed to remain in Leinster upon the payment of 100 ounces of gold to Ua Ruairc and the transfer of some hostages to Ua Conchobair. A few years later Mac Murdhacha came to an agreement with Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. For his help in recovering Leinster to Mac Murdhacha he could have had Diarmait's daughter, Aoife, in marriage along with the succession in the kingdom of Leinster.
Apart from this sad page of history, Diarmait Mac Murdhacha is also known as the founder of some churches and abbeys, like Baltinglass Abbey, Killeshin, St. Mary's and Glendalough.
Mac Murchadha had five sons and daughters. The death of the youngest of them devasted Diarmait who died in Ferns a few months later, on May 1th 1171, aged 61.
His eldest son, Domhnall, succeded him to the throne, but his reign lasted only 4 years, he was killed in the battle of Naas in 1175 at the age of 35. He had been educated in the monastery of St. Caomhan in the barony of Gorey, so he assumed the name Caomhánach, and his sons Connor and Domhnall Oge, adopted this as their surnames.

The present marker for the burial of these two kings is the broken shaft of a cross, set in a stone base flush with the ground. The fragment of the cross is 98 centimetres high, 58 centimetres wide and 31 centimetres thick, with interlaced patterns on all faces.
It's aligned to the west (272°).
Not far from this cross is a very ancient grave slab with only a few words carved on its surface in large capital letters.

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