Continuing my historical tour around the Boyne Valley, I arrived at a place off the beaten path, again with centuries of history. This place was called Monasterboice, after the old monastery that stood there years before. Since about the 5th century, people had used the location for religious and spiritual purposes. It was prone to Viking raids and internal reforms by the monks that lived there. Surely, it has changed significantly since it was first founded. For tourists, like me, what remains are the ruins of the monastery, a cemetery, a round tower, and the high crosses.
The significance of Monasterboice and what struck me as the most remarkable parts were these high crosses. They are traditional Celtic crosses that stand about 15 feet tall and are over 1000 years old. But the size and antiquity of the crosses are not what make it so unique. The design and carvings on each side of the crosses are stunning and tell the story of Christian influence in Irish culture. One cross, called Muirdach’s Cross, tells the stories of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and the Three Wise Men, which are all cornerstones of Christian faith. The beautiful carvings are so detailed that the artist must have been very prominent and Muirdach must have been a greatly influential missionary. The round tower sits in the back of the site, but grabs much of the attention. What I loved about the round tower was the door that sat about 6 feet off the ground, which protected the monks and their treasures during the Viking raids and other hostile groups. The cemetery on Monasterboice’s grounds is as old as the monastery and church, but is still used today for local families. This shows the close ties that the Irish communities have with their history and their religion – something that many other countries cannot offer.