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St Mels Old Cathedral Ardagh

St Mels Old Cathedral Ardagh is one of the most important ecclesiastical sites in Longford is the ruin of St Mel’s church in Ardagh village, located in the graveyard of St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland church.

The foundation of a church at Ardagh is traditionally attributed to St. Patrick, in the mid-5th century. The first bishop or abbot here was St Mel, who was said to have been Patrick’s nephew, athough this has been discounted.

Archaeological excavations carried out in 1967 identified the presence of one or more earlier timber churches beneath the masonry ruins. The upstanding remains are typical of an early Irish church comprising a rectangular, single roomed building, with a gabled front and rear elevation.

The interior is entered from the west through a single flat headed, lintelled doorway with inclined jambs, tapering from base to top. What is of particular interest is the massive masonry foundation blocks at the base of the walls, which measure on average almost 2 metres by 1 metre, an unusual feature for Longford churches.

Another unusual feature of the church is the two pilasters – or antae – on the front elevation which flank the entrance. This is a feature typical of Irish church architecture from the pre-Romanesque and Romanesque periods, and is believed to be a carry-over from earlier timber church buildings.

The church ruin is open to the public.

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