Situated at the crest of a S-facing slope with a WNW-ESE section of the River Boyne c. 250m to the S. According to Tíreachán in the 7th century followed by the later Tripartite Life of St Patrick, St Lomán, a disciple of Patrick and a Briton, was welcomed at Ath Truim – the ford of the ridge - by Fedhlim, son of Laoghaire, who granted him the north side of the river where Patrick established a church (Cogan 1862-70, 46-7; Potterton 2005, 34-52). Although the foundation of the church is recorded in the annals under 432 (AFM), the names of abbots and bishops occur with certainty only from the mid-8th century. Trim escaped the depredations of the Norsemen but it was burned in 784 (AU) and three times in the 12th century – 1128 (AU), 1143 (AFM), and 1155 (AFM). The ford is attested in shallow water above the bridge (ME036-048001-) (Conwell 1872-3, 361-2), but others consider Lomán as possibly belonging to the Colla Dá Chríoch of Armagh (Ó Riain 2011, 401). Although there is no physical evidence of a pre Anglo-Norman church at what became the parish church of Trim, and numerous other possibilities have been mooted (Potterton 2005, 59-65), the location and co-incidence of the name suggests it may have been on the same site as St Patrick’s parish church. A section cut through what was probably an E-W fosse or ditch (Wth c. 5m; D 1.1m) under Loman St just W of the graveyard showed two clay fills but produced no artefacts (Meenan 1996, 6, 1997), and raises the tantalizing possibility that it is an a-ceramic and pre Anglo-Norman feature.
St Patrick’s parish church of Trim is within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 70m E-W; c. 50m N-S) defined by masonry walls. Its history and archaeological and architectural remains have been described thoroughly by Potterton (2005, 267-93), of which this is a summary. The earliest reference is from c. 1188. It had at least two chapels and possibly four, including one in the rood loft. Trim was a wealthy parish with a large rural area, and it was the head of a deanery. The ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV valued Trym and its chapel at over £40 (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 256). St Patrick’s was one of the wealthiest churches in Meath, and the post of rector or parish priest was a desirable one. Consequently it featured in many disputes, as a result of which many of its clergy are known (Conwell 1873, 409-10). Ussher (1622) describes the church as in reasonably good repair (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxx), and Dopping (1682-5) says the church was in good repair but the chancel was ruined since 1641. The windows were glazed, the floor was clay and the roof was of slates. At that time eight rural churches were associated with it, and the graveyard was enclosed by a stone wall (Ellison 1972, 8). The medieval church continued in use until the present Church of Ireland church was built on its site in 1803 (Lewis 1837, 2, 645), and this now serves as the Cathedral of Meath.
Of the medieval structure, the shell of the chancel to the E of the present structure and the tower, located just N of the W end of the present church, survive. There is a base-batter on the present W wall, indicating that parts of it may be original. Part of a nave wall is under the N wall of the present church, and the scar of a wall on the E face of the tower suggests that it may have been a double nave church or had an aisle. The tower is rectangular (ext. dims 7.53m E-W; 6.58m N-S) with a base-batter and has a stairs tower (ext. dims 2.98m E-W; 1.55m N-S) projecting N from its NW angle. This is now entered from the outside, but was originally entered from the N-S barrel-vaulted ground floor, which now communicates with the W end of the church through a pointed neo-gothic doorway at S. The tower has four upper stages, the topmost being the belfry stage with twin-light transom openings on each face and small lights above. An armorial plaque on the W face of the tower bears the arms of de Burgh and Mortimer, from which a building date of 1372-1425 has been suggested for the tower (Hickey 1983), if the plaque is in its original position, but a 15th century date is likely in any case.
The chancel (ext. dims 9.25m plus E-W; 8.4m N-S) has been ruined since 1641 and is now in a precarious condition, being made inaccessible for safety reasons. Its N and S walls survive to the eaves and a doorway in the N wall is blocked. In 1795 Cooper described a room attached to the N wall that was probably a sacristy (Price 1942, 99) and which does not survive. There is an elaborate three-light cusped ogee-headed window under a square hood-moulding with carved heads on the labels and open spandrels, which is inserted in the S wall and probably replaced two earlier windows.
Graveslabs and fragments of tombs have been found in the vicinity of the chancel, but two of these at least have been moved to the ground floor of the church tower where five are displayed. Also in the tower there is an armorial plaque with three fish, two groups of three angels bearing armorial plaques, and a fragment illustrating six apostles that was originally from Ratoath and probably from a cross. An elaborate piscina or font is at the W end of the church (Roe 1968 101-05). At least five graveslabs or fragments of graveslabs are in the vicinity of the chancel and another fragment is built into the W end of the S wall of the present church. A headstone with the date 1694 is just NE of the tower, and another headstone with an illegible inscription in false relief is just S of the chancel. (Potterton 2005, App. 13, 394-412)
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.
Date of revision: 16 February 2015Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.