We climbed up the ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel, built in the eighth or ninth century. Legend has it that it commemorates the landing of St Patrick of Ireland and although it was constructed many years after his death, it is possible the place was already marked and remembered. A large cemetery going back over a thousand years was excavated long ago here, but the most striking feature is the line of rock-cut tombs.
Given the nature of decomposition we had to wonder about those. We thought they may have once held bones instead and later research confirms this has been considered. I wondered too about the use to which they may have been put considering the veneration of the bones of the ancestors that had been prevalent in earlier centuries.
The shaft of a standing cross remains near the chapel, as well as record of the eagle shaped stone once found there that may have been part of a seat or throne. The chapel was once highly decorated… painted plaster fragments with inscriptions were found during an excavation. Yet little is known of its history…it remains an enigma.
A dyke was cut between the chapel and the place where a new church was built, quite deliberately, it seems, dividing the old from the new when St Peter’s was built. An older, Saxon church had once stood upon the site of the present church, dating back, it is thought to the seventh or eighth century, similar to St Patrick’s just a few yards away.
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