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Monasterboice

 Now vacant and serene, this site was once a busy monastery. Visitors come mostly to see its exquisite High Crosses, which rank among the most impressive in Ireland. They also come to enjoy the peace and quiet, and take a break from everyday pressures or an otherwise hectic vacation schedule.

Muiredeach’s High Cross is the most elaborately detailed and well preserved. It is named for the inscription on its base, which reads “a prayer for Muiredeach, by whom this cross was made.” The High Cross was made in AD922 and stands five metres (17 feet) tall. It is decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testament sculpted onto panels, including pictures of Adam and Eve, the Crucifixion, and the Last Judgment.

Additional remains of the original site are also visible. There are two churches, a 90-foot high round tower, a sundial, and two ornate grave slabs.

Near the round tower, you can see the deeply weathered West Cross. Also known as the Tall Cross (it stands 21 feet high), the ravages of time make it very difficult to see any of the ornamental work. Don’t miss the North Cross; you may have to search for it, as it is partially hidden by the trees. It features decoration with unique spiral shapes. These crosses were extraordinary works of art in their time, and the existence of the nearby round tower indicates that the monks created them even while the Vikings were nearby, plundering the region.

Pope John Paul paid a visit to the site in 1979, and celebrated a mass nearby. Signs on the main Belfast-Dublin road indicate the exact site.

Getting There

Monasterboice is situated about ten kilometers to the northwest of Drogheda, just off the M1/N1 route, which runs north from Dublin to Belfast.

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