A monastery was founded by St. Beccan at Imbleach Beccain or Imbleadh Fiae, and abbots are noted in the annals 737-990, including the deaths of Graiphnech (737), Abel (747), Forinnan (798), Suibhne mac Forannan (843) and Ceallach (990). The king of Tara, Domnall Mide, who died in 763, was buried here (Bhreathnach 2014, 129). The erenach or steward of Imleach-Fia died in 948 (Cogan 1862-70, 136; Gwynn and Hadcock 1970, 35; Mulvany 1971, 14). The saint is Beagán, whose only exploit seems to have been the raising of the son of a king of Tara from the dead (Ó Riain 2011, 92). O’Ciretha, the erenach of Imleach, is recorded on a late 11th century charter in the Book of Kells (O’Connell 1959, 34). After the Anglo-Norman settlement Emalgh became a parish, and a church at Emlagh is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV. Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel at Emlaghbeggan as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, xc). Dopping (1682-5) also describes the church of Emlagh as ruined and it was not enclosed (Ellison 1973, 9).
The parish church of Emlagh is situated on the S side of what was once an island in Emlagh bog. The island in the Red moor of Emlogh is marked on the Down Survey (1656-8) barony map of Kells with a causeway extending NW towards Cravelltonne (Gravelstown), which is probably now occupied by the road, and according to the parish map Garret Fleming held 25 acres there.
The subrectangular graveyard (dims c. 45-65m N-S; c. 30-40m E-W) defined by earthen banks and hedges has the remains of a mortuary enclosure (ext. dims 7m E-W; 5m N-S) with some 20th century headstones. About 60m from this enclosure and at the base of the knoll on which it is situated is slight scarp or ditch (Wth c. 5m; D 0.2-0.4m) N-E-S, which may form part of an ecclesiastical enclosure.
A fragment of the head of a ringed cross (H 0.4m; surviving span 0.3m; T 0.12-0.13m), amounting to about a quarter of the whole, was found in the graveyard in 2017 and is now taken into care by Meath County Council. It has interlace on one face of the ring but the panel on the other side has been removed. A crucifixion is depicted on the interlace side, but the representation on the other is less clear. There is a socket on top and there are rills on the thickness of the ring.
The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of revision: 21 May, 2019Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.