Ancient Monastic Sites

Ancient Monastic Sites

The visitor to the Cathedral town is impressed by the typical Plantation style of the Diamond and the C18th houses, the cathedral and the ruined Episcopal palace. There is an aura of historical/ecclesiastical history about the place. Yet very little is known about any of the bishops previous to Cornelius Mac Giolla Bride (d. 1440) or perhaps the arrival of Bishop Montgomery of the diocese of Derry and Raphoe in 1605.

The Site of the Monastic Settlement

St Adamnan is cited as the founder of the monastic settlement. He is the author of the "Life of Columba" or Vita Columbae. From the time he came from Iona to Raphoe with his followers in 692, only a few tantalising references occur in the annals and lists of bishops.

The earliest annalistic mention of Rath Both is found in the Battle of Both, 628, between the Cinel Conaill and cinel Eoghain. "Botha" meaning a booths or huts. Today there is only the most rudimentary remains of an enclosing ditch.

Much speculation has surrounded the site of the original monastic foundation. A round tower was demolished by Bishop Leslie and the stones used in the building of his palace in 1636-7. According to Sir James Ware, human bones were found.

The Site of the Bishops' Enclosure

Local historian Arthur Spears places the site of the first (wooden) church in the present St Eunan's cathedral churchyard enclosure. The only visible remains of the monastery are two pieces of sculptured door-lintels from the C9th/10th. The OS map here has, with the help of aerial photography, been marked with intensified lines showing what are considered to be the outlines of three other enclosures:

1. The Monastic Rath

2. The Close.

3. The Secular Enclosure

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