Monasterboice is a fascinating monastic site located in County Louth, Ireland. This remarkable site includes two churches, one of the largest round towers, a cemetery, and two of the finest high crosses. It is believed that St. Buithe, a disciple of St. Patrick, founded the site during the 5th century. Monasterboice is a place where many Irish scholars, artisans, monks, and writers devoted time to learning during attacks by the Vikings. Although there are many interesting features to explore while visiting this site, the highlights are the stunning high crosses.

 Monasterboice Round Tower

There is a cross located near the entrance of the site called Muiredach's Cross. This is one of the most popular high crosses in Ireland. The cross is sixteen feet tall and received its name from the abbot who created it. Muiredach is the name mentioned in the inscription on the base. Many of the carvings are not easily recognizable; however, they represent several significant religious scenes. The carvings depict the Fall of Adam and Eve, the murder of Abel, Moses bringing water to the Israelites, and the Last Judgment. The cross also illustrates scenes from the New Testament, the arrest of Christ, and Christ giving the keys of heaven to St. Peter. These are only a few of the detailed illustrations on this fine cross.

Muiredach's Cross   West Cross

There is also a slimmer cross located near the round tower. This cross is known as the West Cross and is 6.5m high. The West Cross is the tallest high cross in Ireland. The cross dates back to the early 10th century. The “West” is significantly larger and more worn than the Muiredach's Cross. This is particularly true at the base of the cross where there are only twelve of the original fifty panels identifiable. This cross illustrates David killing a lion, the sacrifice of Isaac, and David kneeling before Samuel. The cross also depicts the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the baptism of Christ, and the kiss of Judas.

In the northeast corner of the site, there is a simpler cross called the North Cross. This cross offers only a few carvings and is located near the round tower. Monasterboice's round tower is more than 30m tall and was broken up into several distinct stories. These stories were connected using ladders on the inside of the complex. Similar to other round towers in Ireland, this tower was used as a refuge for monks. This tower was also a watch-tower and a belfry during Viking attacks. A fire destroyed many of the tower’s valued treasures and manuscripts. The round tower is currently closed for viewing to the public.

The historic ruins of Monasterboice were the epicenter for knowledge and religion until Mellifont Abbey was founded in 1142. Mellifont Abbey is also located in County Louth and was the first Cistercian abbey created in Ireland. Mellifont is a 12th century Cistercian monastery. This site received historical significance as a result of conflict between the Anglo-Normans and the Irish. The ruins of Mellifont Abbey include part of the cloister, a lavabo, and a chapter house. There are also remains of a small church nearby.

For more than 700 years, Monasterboice was a significant religious center. Although Mellifont Abbey caused the decline of this beautiful site; Monasterboice remains a prominent staple in Irish heritage.