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Located at the W edge of a fairly level landscape and at the crest of the W-facing slope of the deep valley (Wth of top c. 250m; D c. 10m) of the S-N Hurley River, with the stream c. 150m to the W. A church at Rathfay is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 253). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel as wholly ruinous (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxii). Dopping (1682-5) says that the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been a ruin since 1641, and it is not enclosed (Ellison 1971, 34).
This parish church of Rathfeigh was probably a divided nave and chancel church (int. dims 24.3m ENE-WSW; c. 7.6m NNW-SSE), of which only parts of the overgrown W wall and foundations of other walls survive. The nave is a sunken overgrown area (int. dims 15.6m ENE-WSW; 7.6m NNW-SSE) with a scarp (H 0.4m) at the E end rising up to the chancel, but only the base of the E chancel wall and part of a projecting tower or sacristy (int. dims 4.2m ENE-WSW; c. 2.5m NNW-SSE) of at least two floors on the N side of the chancel survive.
It is within a neglected rectangular graveyard (dims c. 55m NE-SW; c. 35m NW-SE) defined by masonry walls, with headstones dating from c. 1740 to c. 1960. There is no ancient cut stone in the graveyard, but an octagonal stoup (ext. dim. 0.38m; H 0.21m) with a circular basin (int. diam. 0.31m; D 14m) and chamfered under-panels that is now at an entrance gate to the cemetery around the Roman Catholic church c. 50m to the SE may have come from the medieval church. There is a watch-house (ext. dims 4m NE-SW; 3.25m NW-SE) with gables at NW and SE built half within the graveyard at the centre of the SE side and half in the NE-SW access laneway. It has a modernised doorway in the NE wall and two slit windows (H 0.4m) with wide outer splays on the NW wall that are flush with the interior of the graveyard.
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 upload/revision: 23 January 2015
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.