Situated at the crest of a N-facing slope. A church at Ardcath is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 253). There was a chantry attached, and the names of some of the clergy are known (Cogan 1862-70, 1, 333-5). Ussher (1622) describes the church as repaired and the chancel as ruined (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxv). According to the Dopping (1682-5) and the Royal visitations (1693) the church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church and chancel were roofless at that time, although the graveyard was well fenced (Ellison 1971, 35). The parish church of Ardcath is within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 90m ENE-WSW; c. 50m NNW-SSE) defined by masonry walls, with a low bank inside the perimeter at N, and headstones dating from c. 1750 to the present.
This is a divided nave (ext. dims 21.05m; E-W; 7.8m N-S; int. dims 19.6m E-W; 6m N-S) and chancel (ext. dims 15.15m E-W; 7m N-S; int. dims 13.35m E-W; 5.24m N-S) structure which survives almost complete with good quoins and putlog-holes in the walls. There are opposing pointed limestone doorways in the N (Wth 1.18m; H 2.2m) and S (Wth 1.4m; H 1.77m plus) walls, which are probably inserted, with external hollow chamfers. The doorways are situated just W of the centre of the long nave walls. The W wall has a single blocked embrasure which preserves a large window (H c. 1.5m) with external chamfers. The church had no belfry but one is inserted in the W gable over the blocked window and its bell is thought to pre-date the Reformation (Cogan 1, 334-5). There is a round-headed light (Wth 0.23m; H 0.8m) in a lintelled embrasure just W of the S doorway and a destroyed window towards the E end of the S wall. The N wall has a small trefoil-headed light (Wth 0.23m; H 0.95m) towards the E end with a small light over it, which are the only indication of a rood screen.
The pointed chancel arch (Wth 3.53m) has plain piers (Wth 1.07m) and voussoirs. The N wall of the chancel has a single tall but destroyed window towards the W end and an aumbry at the E end. The S wall has three tall sandstone windows with evidence of glazing grooves and bars surviving only on the most westerly (Wth 0.5m), and a round-headed doorway (Wth 0.85m; H 1.75m) in limestone between the second and third windows from the E. The large E window (Wth 2.27m) was probably of three lights but its tracery is missing. Nevertheless, it has been dated to the 14th century (Leask 1960, 2, 145)
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: 9 February 2015
Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.