Churchtown – Ráth Cnó – is said to be the place where Colmcille’s family lived. According to tradition they later gave over the land so that a monastic settlement could be created here.
The site is still used as a turas by pilgrims who walk barefoot between the five marked stations. Believers follow the turas between Colmcille’s feast day on 9th June and the end of the turas season on 15th August, performing a series of prayers and actions at each stop.
Churchtown was one stop on a longer medieval pilgrimage route which linked a number sites in the Gartan area associated with the early life of Colmcille.
It is said that this abbey was built by Manus O’Donnell in the 16th century. O’Donnell’s ‘Life of St Colum Cille’ was completed in 1532 and is the main source for the links between Colmcille and the Gartan area.
The centre of the graveyard is said to incorporate the foundations of a monastery.
This stone cross is one of two surviving on this site. Originally four crosses would have marked the boundaries of the monastic settlement here.
The area marked by the crosses offered protection to people who had been accused of committing a crime – they could be looked after in safety within the monastery’s land until such time as a trial could take place. So the monastery offered protection from arbitrary punishment.
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