Our first stop was Monasterboice which can be found in County Louth, north of Drogheda. This site which looks somewhat like a small graveyard at first glance, was one of the early important monastic communities of religion and learning in Ireland. It was founded in the 5th century by a follower of St. Patrick; the hermit St. Buithe. The word Monasterboice is an Anglicization of Mainistir Bhuithe, meaning "monastery of Buithe”
When we drove up to the site, we saw that there was only one other car in the parking lot and that we would have this wonderful place almost to ourselves. Traveling off season really allows you to appreciate the history and beauty of Ireland without dodging the crowds of summer.
Most historians believe that the monks would have taken refuge in these towers which were divided by wooden floors, during assaults upon their communities, drawing the ladders up after them and defending the tower through the slit windows.
In 1097 the monastery and its tower was burned and shortly after that it began to decline as nearby, the newly built Mellifont Abbey began to grow and thrive.
As you face the cross, the center panel shows the Last Judgment. Those going to heaven are on the right and those going to hell are on the left. Working down the center pillar of the cross, you will see the scenes from the Old Testament, the Magi, Moses striking the rock, the life of David and Adam and Eve.
We wandered for quite some time thinking about those ancient days of High Kings and Monks in Ireland and soaking up the beauty of the carved stones. In our minds, we could hear the echoes of the monks chants.