Located at the crest of the E-facing slope of Tara hill. A church at Taveragh is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire, 5, 255). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel at Taragh as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxv), while the Dopping (1682-5) and the Royal (1693) visitations disagree as to whether the church of St Patrick or its chancel was ruined, but it had a clay floor, glazed windows and a slated roof. The font is listed and the graveyard was enclosed (Elliot 1972, 6-7). Grosse (1791 vol. 2, pl. 72) illustrates the old church at Tara which had a divided nave and roofed chancel. There is a pointed arch over a doorway in the S wall of the nave and a tower of at least three stages at the W end. The present Church of Ireland church was built in 1823 (Lewis 1837, 2, 596), and a decorated three-light window, probably the E window of the medieval church, is incorporated in the W wall of its tower.
The church is within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 75m N-S; c. 70m E-W) defined by earthen banks on the four sides, which is retained externally by masonry walls. In the graveyard a sheela-na-gig (ME031-033018-) is represented on the E face of a tall upright stone, with a possible standing stone (ME031-033019-) 2.5m to its ESE. It is carved in low relief on the side facing the church and is too worn to interpret much detail (Freitag 2004, 143). The site of the medieval church is S of the present church and its tower is visible as a rectangular grass-covered area (dims 10.3m N-S; 10.3m E-W) defined by earthen banks (Wth 2-3m; H 0.2-0.4m) with a scarp (H 0.6m) at E where there is a large block of fallen masonry. The church extends E from this (dims 29m E-W; 8-9m N-S) as a rough platform sloping down to the E, which is defined by scarps (H 0.3-0.7m) at N, E and S.
Inside the church is a plain octagonal sandstone font (ext. dim. 0.58m) with the damaged wall of its circular basin (int. diam. 0.44m; present D 0.13m) and chamfered under-panels (surviving H 0.32m). It is resting on a modern pyramidal base, and Roe (1968, 128) has detected incised letters that might be a crude IHS inscription on an upper panel that is secondary. The wall memorial of Sir Robert Dillon of Riverstown dated 1595 (FitzGerald 1910) is on the N wall in the form of two limestone plaques (upper: Wth 0.47m; H 0.84m; lower: Wth 0.71m; H 0.48m) with a crest and the Latin inscription in false relief. Also in the church is a large sandstone side-panel (L 2.3m; H 0.64m) from the tomb of Sir Thomas Cusack of Cushinstown dated 1571 (Hickey 1971) that was at Trevet church (ME0038-017----) originally. It depicts Sir Thomas and his second wife, Dame Maud (nee Darcy), praying with their five sons and eight daughters. A limestone cross (H 0.31m; span 0.22m plus), which may have been a finial cross but is missing one arm, has octagonal cross-sections to the stem (dims 14cm x 8cm) and arm (dims 8cm x 8cm). It is decorated with a marigold at the end of its surviving arm.
The church now serves as an interpretative centre for the prehistoric earthwork remains on the Hill of Tara between the middle of May and the middle of September and offers guided tours. See this web-page access on 7 January, 2015. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/hilloftara/
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: 25 January 2015
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.