St. Patrick first came to this pretty village -- whose Gaelic name Ard Archadh means “high field” -- in the fifth century.
He established Ardagh as the name of the diocese, chose St. Mel to be its first Bishop, and founded its first church – St. Mel’s Cathedral. The original building was made of wood, and the stone ruins you can see today are those of a church built on the site in the 8th century. Tradition states that St. Mel lies buried in these walls. In fact, the actor Mel Gibson, whose parents emigrated from Longford – is named after this saint. St. Brigid, the second patron saint of Ireland, also spent some time at Ardagh before leaving to set up a monastery at Kildare. She dedicated most of her life to caring for the poor and the sick. In the Village of Ardagh, people celebrate her Saints Day on February 1st by displaying crosses made of rush, which are blessed in the village church in their homes. In the 1700s, the Featherston family came to the village and built a magnificent mansion known as Ardagh House. This was once a three-story structure, but a fire removed the top floor and it was never rebuilt. It is currently occupied by a school of domestic science. In the 1860s, Thomas John Fetherston removed and rebuilt the village as a Model Estate Village, a popular concept at the time, but only a few remain today across all of Ireland. The houses, made of cut stone, were arranged around a central village green. In the centre stands a Clock Tower erected in memory of Sir George Ralph Fetherston, with an inscription by his widow. St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland was built near the village green in 1810. It features a rare and intact lynch gate at the entrance to the churchyard. At funeral services in years past, the clergy would meet the coffin at this point on the way to the grave.
Ardagh Heritiage and Creativity Centre
Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre is located in a schoolhouse that was built in 1898. It contains an intriguing exhibition that tells the complete story of this fascinating village, with emphasis on its literature, associations with Irish mythology, roots in the early church, and ultimately, its place in the country as a distinctive model estate village. The centre is also a creative venue that regularly entertains families and schools tours with arts and crafts and hosted parties.
Picturesque Ardagh Village has also been the recipient of several awards including Prix d'Honneur of the Entente Florale and a winner of the National Tidy Towns Award.
Ardagh is located about 10 kilometres south of Longford, to the left of the R393 (the Longford-Mullingar road).
St Patrick's church in Ardagh, County Longford. Image by Laurel Lodged - via Wikimedia Commons