Friday, 2 September 2016


From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Kells on the river Blackwater gives its name to the barony. Is attributed to St. Columbkille about the year 550 by others to Kellach abbot of Hy who took refuge there from the ravages and attacks of the Danes and who is said to have founded the abbey. However this may be mention is made of abbots of Kells long prior to his flight from Hy.

A.D. 692 Muredach O Cricain was abbot.
A.D. 713 in the seventy fourth year of his age the abbot Foylcow died.
A.D. 802 the abbey of Kells was destroyed by fire.
A.D. 804 it was rebuilt in honor of St Columba.
A.D. 806 the Danes having killed many of the monks of Hy the abbot Kellach sought safety in Ireland.
A.D. 899 the abbey was sacked and pillaged.
A.D. 919 the Danes plundered Kells and laid the church which was of stone level with the ground.
A.D. 1061 died the blessed St. Ciaran famed for his great erudition wisdom and exemplary piety.

This abbey is remarkable for many memorable events. The Danes having made a furious attack in the year 967 on this monastery were routed with great slaughter by Ó Neil, the Great king of Ireland. In 1152 the famous synod of Kells was held under cardinal Paparo at which three thousand ecclesiastics attended besides the bishops. The abbey was destroyed six times by fire but was afterwards rebuilt in a style of greater magnificence partly by the bounty of the princes of Ireland but chiefly by the revenues which were attached to it. It possessed the most splendid library of any monastery in the kingdom having been celebrated for its manuscripts among which was St. Columbkille's book of the four Gospels adorned with gold and precious stones. Richard Plunket was the last abbot when in 1537 Henry VIII took into his own hands the extensive possessions of this abbey.

The grants of De Lacie in 1173 consisted of 36 townlands. In Kells it possessed 90 acres, in Grangestown 86, in Corbally 82, in Malerdone 16 messuages and 300 acres, in Kilbride 220 acres in Kiltome 350 acres together with 19 rectories. These several possessions were granted to Sir Gerald Plunkett.

At Kells is still to be seen St. Columba's house situated outside the boundary wall of the cemetery on the north side in its ground plan it presents a simple oblong form measuring externally twenty three feet nine inches in length and twenty one in breadth the walls being three feet ten inches in thickness. It is roofed with stone and measures in height from its base to the vertex of the gable thirty eight feet. The lower part of the building is arched semicircularly with stone and has at the east end a small semicircular headed window about fifteen feet from the ground. At the south side is a second window with a triangular head about the same height from the ground and measuring one foot nine inches in height. Those windows have a considerable splay on the inside. The apartment placed between the arched floor and the slanting roof is six feet in height and appears to have been originally divided into three apartments of unequal size of which the largest is lighted by a small aperture at the east end. In this chamber there is a flat stone six feet long and one thick called St. Columba's penitential bed.