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Monasterboice (County Louth)

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High Cross

The Fall of Man on Muiredach's Cross - Adam and Eve on the Left, Cain and Abel on the Right

© 2005 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

Unlike nearby Mellifont Abbey the monastery at Monasterboice was Irish-Celtic. Today just the round tower, three high crosses and some ruins remain. Yet Monasterboice is well worth a visit - if only for the tallest high cross and the high cross with the most people represented on it.


  • Important monastic site with massive round tower.
  • Cross of Muiredach with intricate carvings.
  • Tall Cross is tallest high cross in Ireland.


  • Monastic remains not very obvious.


  • "Celtic" Christian monastery founded by St. Buite before 521.
  • High crosses and round tower erected between 9th and 11th century.
  • Monasterboice suffered in popularity when Cistercian monks established themselves in nearby Mellifont Abbey.

Guide Review - Monasterboice (County Louth)

It would be easy to pass Monasterboice in County Louth without noticing - though visible from the M1 nearby, the tall round tower is well hidden by hedges and trees lining the country road leading to the site. Blink and you'll miss the entrance to the car park. St. Buite, an obscure Irish monk and follower of St. Patrick, seems to have chosen the place in tge early 6th century to get away from it all. Entrance to the site itself is via a graveyard and you will be very much alone at most times. This is ideal to see the two churches and the roofless round tower.

But the real focus of your attention should be two of the high crosses.

The Tall Cross (or West Cross) is the tallest high cross in existence, standing at an impressive 21 feet. Unfortunately it has been carved from stone not very resistant to the elements and been left at their mercy too long, the carvings are withered.

But just a few yards away you will find Muiredach's Cross - named after its sponsor, commemorated in an inscription (but an elusive figure nonetheless). The 18 feet high cross consists of three parts and is complete, most of its carvings are still well-defined and identifiable. The center of the west face has a crucifixion scene, contrasted by a "last judgement" on the east face. Other panels show scenes from the Old and New Testaments, including the Passion, the Adoration of the Magi, Moses smiting a rock, David smiting Goliath and even the Fall of Man with Eve giving an apple to Adam and Cain slaying Abel.

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