Located on top of a broad, low hill, with the motte and bailey (ME044-034001-) c. 150m to the SSW. At the time of the Anglo-Norman settlement Ratoath became a seigniorial manor, and Hugh de Lacy may have built the motte in the 1170s (Graham 1974, 42). A parish church would follow soon afterwards, and the church at Ratoath became the head of a deanery. A church is listed at Rathouth in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire., 5, 254). There was a chantry attached and the names of some of the clergy from the 15th and 16th centuries are known (Cogan 1862-70, 1, 259-60). The church of Ratoath was amongst the possessions of St Thomas’ Augustinian abbey in Dublin (DU018-020051-) at its suppression in 1540 (White 1943, 35). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel as indifferently repaired (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxix). According to the Dopping (1682-5) and Royal (1693) visitations the church of the Holy Trinity was in good repair but only the walls of the chancel were standing. At that time the roof was slated and the windows glazed, but the floor was clay. The church had a bell and a font, but the graveyard was not enclosed (Ellison 1971, 35-6).
A Church of Ireland church was built in 1818 (Lewis 1837, 2, 509), but this is now reduced to a cairn and the base of the walls (H 1-2m), although the church tower at its W end survives complete. No trace of the medieval church structure is extant within a rectangular graveyard (dims c. 70m NNE-SSW; c. 65m WNW-ESE) defined by masonry walls, apart from some dressed pieces from windows, which suggest a 16th century date. The W wall of the old graveyard has been removed and the graveyard now extends off to the NW (dims c. 130m NW-SE; c. 80m NE-SW). Headstones in the old graveyard date mostly from c. 1750 to 1990. A graveslab of a knight (dims 1.68m x 0.37-0.62m) has been set into the church tower on the S side. The mailed figure has no helmet and his head rests on a pillow. A sword is fastened at the belt, but the legs do not survive below the knee. A worn inscription in Lombardic letters around the edge is now largely obscured, but the slab can be dated to the late 13th or early 14th century (Hunt 1974, 213).
A fragment of an ornate cross (H 0.8m; Wth 0.26-0.33m) decorated with six apostles carved in high relief that is now at St Patrick’s church in Trim (ME036-048067-) is thought to have come from Ratoath (Roe 1966, Pl. 23). It may be a surviving fragment of the cross described as ‘the Market Cross’ (ME044-034008-) on the 1836 and 1909 editions of the OS 6-inch map and which was located c. 300m to the SW. However, this cross was reduced to the base according to John O’Donvan writing in the 1836 (Herity 2001, 112), and even this remnant was destroyed in 1922 (Bradley and King 1985, 126). A late medieval latin cross (H 1.49m; span 0.44m) on a rectangular base (dims 0.65m x 0.62m; H 0.2m) is inside the old graveyard wall at SW. It has a rectangular cross-section (dims 0.22m x 0.19m) at the base, but is octagonal above pyramid stops. The arms are also octagonal in cross-section (H 0.25m; Wth 0.2m) and there is a mortice at the top, but there is no inscription on the cross.
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: 7 April, 2015Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.