Drumlane Abbey Church and Round Tower

Drumlane is pleasantly situated near the quiet Co. Cavan village of Miltown,, a monastic site  overlooking Lough Derrybrick often associated with St. Colmcille and St. Mogue (St. Maedoc of Ferns) where it is said that an early Christiaan monastic site had existed from the sixth century, having been attacked by Vikings in around 836 AD.  

The monastery was later re-established around the time of the synod of Kells in 1152 as an Augustinian Canons regular priory house and continued as St. Mary’s priory under the jurisdiction of the Abbey of Kells (Co. Meath), until the dissolution of the monasteries during the sixteenth century. Under the Augustinian order, Drumlane was designated as a mid-point ecclesiastical Gaelic church learning centre set within the ancient Ui Briuin Breifne diocese and Breifne kingdom stretching from Kells to Sligo.

All that remains today are the remains of a round tower and gothic style church from the medieval period,  rebuilt several times having been attacked and burned by rival clans O’Rourke and O’Reilly during centuries of battles for control of the Breifne kingdom, eventually divided into east and west Breifne.  

People visiting the site today marvel at the scale (2675 sq.ft) of Drumlane church ruin and probably larger in size that some better-known medieval monastic churches.  A reminder perhaps that this was once part of a much larger community settlement, described in the annals of Clonmacnoise as a ‘towne’. There is no evidence today of a Drumlane town, having disappeared from the fifteenth century, after Cavan became a town established by the east Breifne O’Reilly lordship complete with its own friary. A new east-Breifne diocese of Kilmore also became established with its own St. Feidhlimidh cathedral in 1455.

Following the plantation of English and Scottish settlers to the area during the seventeenth century, Drumlane church was  used for Anglican worship, right up until around 1820 when a new St. Columba parish church was built a short distance away. The old church was then unroofed and left to decay until it became a recognised national monument later in the century, now under the stewardship of the OPW (CV014-028003). Other parts of the monastic settlement include a graveyard and the earthworks of a nearby priory building are also classified as national monuments and well worth a visit.

Drumlane church and round tower
Christopher Kirk
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Drumlane Church and Round Tower

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