St. Declan's Ardmore - Ireland's First Christian Community

Ardmore is a fishing village in the Southeast of Ireland in just over the border from County Cork in County Waterford. It is the legendary home of St. Declan who is said to have come to Ardmore, bringing Christianity before St. Patrick somewhere between 350 and 420 AD.

St. Declan built a monastery in a high place overlooking Ardmore Bay. Ardmore from the Irish Aird Mhor means Great Height. The ruins of a 13 century church and 8th century oratory as well as a well preserved round tower dominate the hillside where St. Declan first settled and built his monastery.

As you drive up the hillside, the round tower - which stands over 90 feet high - roars up from the landscape. It's quite overwhelming at first. Just near the tower are the ruins of St. Declan's Church (12th century), and below that is the 9th century oratory where St. Declan is believed to be buried. These three architectural relics rise out of a sea of graves, occupying nearly every available ground space. Some markers are new, shiny granite, some old limestone with faded inscription, and some merely a jagged stone set atop a lump.

Faith - centuries old perhaps - pervades the space around St. Declans Church and oratory. Religious scenes carved in stone during the 9th century were preserved and moved to this church when it was built in the 12th century. The scenes - Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Judgment of Solomon, the Visit of the Magi, and more - were used to help teach the local community about the Christian faith. The oratory, still standing after 1200 years has been a place of private prayer and reflection. One needs only to be still in this religious compound and look out over the land and sea to sense the faith of men and women that has been nurtured and grown here.

The remnants of by-gone faith and human spirituality are not only in these buildings. There are unseen remnants - felt only in prayer here. All the elements here - the sky, the wind, the sea - seem brighter, somehow more vivid.

Ardmore is a thin place.

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