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Located on a rise which is on a N-facing slope overlooking a col c. 200m distant between Simpson’s Mountain that rises c. 90m over it c. 1.2km to the NE and lower hills that rise c. 40-60m over it c. 1-1.2km to the W, SSE and SE. The headwaters of one of the sources of the S-N Killary Water stream are in the col. A church at Rathkenny is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 261). John Tyrrell was vicar in 1541 (Cogan 1862-70, 2, 302). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel as in ruins (Erlington 1847-64, 1, xcvi). According to the Dopping and Royal Visitations (1682-93) the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was in ruins and it was not enclosed (Ellison 1973, 5).
The site of the medieval parish church of Rathkenny is within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 63m WNW-ESE; c. 52m NNE-SSW) defined by masonry walls. The conserved shell of the late 18th century Church of Ireland church, which Lewis (1837, 2, 501) describes as a small modern structure, are in the graveyard. This is complete (ext. dims 10.45m WNW-ESE; 7.37m NNE-SSW) with an apse that has a single large window extending to the E (total L 12.8m). The W doorway (Wth 1.22m) has an architrave of dressed limestone in a Georgian fashion dating from c. 1750. There are two rectangular windows in each of the long walls, with a brick fireplace between those in the N wall.
A mausoleum (ext. dims 4.85m WNW-ESE; 4.6m NNE-SSW) situated just S of the apse consists of a NNE-SSW barrel-vault (Wth 3.25m ; H 1.55m) with wicker-centring that is blocked off at either end, with a light in the S wall. The chamber is buried c. 1m in the ground. There is no visible evidence of the older church apart from fragments of the hood-moulding of a pointed doorway and portion of a window sill in the graveyard. The bottom of a rectangular font incorporating the top of its circular stem was noted in the graveyard in 1968 (SMR file). This is now in the porch of the old Roman Catholic church in Rathkenny (ME018-002----), c. 335m to the SW. The font is square (dims 0.5m x 0.5m; H 0.26m) with chamfered corners and a circular basin (diam. 0.39m; D 0.17m plus). It has a circular projection beneath (diam. 0.43m; H 0.9m) for the top of a circular stem, but much of the basin is damaged (surviving H 0.35m).
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: 11 December, 2014
Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage