Ardbraccan Church

Ardbraccan Chruch TowerArdbraccan originated as a place of Christian worship under St. Braccan (St. Breacain) in the 7th century. Ard in Irish means height, so the name Ardbraccan literally means the height or Hill of Braccan.

On this site a monastery and a succession of churches were built, the most famous was a large circular church known as the Stone House, which was burned to the ground by Viking attackers in the 12th century.

Ardbraccan was a bishopric or diocese up to the Synod of Kells in 1152, when it was united with Clonard, Trim, Dunshaughlin, Slane and Fore, forming the Diocese of Meath. Its importance was shown by the fact that the newly merged diocese's bishop lived in Ardbraccan.

When, in the aftermath of the crisis over Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Irish Church was ordered to formally break its link with the Roman Catholic Church to become the Church of Ireland, the Anglican or Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath continued to live in Ardbraccan in an estate attached to the main church.

In 1777 a new Church of Ireland church was erected on the site of the earlier church. The old church tower (photo to the right) predates the current church by hundreds of years.

The church remained in use until 1981 when it was deconsecrated, due to the dwindling size of the Church of Ireland community in Ardbraccan. The sourrounding cemetery is used for burials by both local Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic families, however there are no new plots allowed.

The Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath moved out of the 18th century bishop's palace in 1885 to live in a smaller mansion nearby, Bishopscourt. In 1958, the Church of Ireland bishop moved away from Ardbraccan altogether, with Bishopscourt being bought by a Catholic religious order, the Holy Ghost Fathers, who renamed in An Tobar (Irish for "The Well", linking it to an ancient well of St. Ultan at Ardbraccan). When the old church underwent some vandalism, its valuable stained glass windows were removed by the Church of Ireland and donated to An Tobar.

While the Church of Ireland community continued to use the name 'Ardbraccan' to refer to its parish, the nearby Roman Catholic parish in the 19th century opted to use a different name, Bohermeen, from the Irish An Bóthar Mín, meaning the smooth road, referring to a ancient road that passed through the area towards the Hill of Tara.