A few miles south west of Drogheda is the town of Duleek, which takes its name from the Irish word Damhliag, meaning ‘stone house or church’. The town was named such after the abbey, constructed in the 5th century AD by St Patrick, and the remains of which are still there today, over fifteen hundred years later.
Duleek Abbey started as a monastic settlement in 450 AD, before St Patrick had possibly the first stone church in Ireland constructed on the site, of which he then handed care over to St Cianan. Duleek Abbey also became the first Diocese in Ireland.
The ruins of the original abbey lay opposite the remains of St Mary’s Abbey, an Augustinian Priory built in the 12th century, outside of which stands an elaborate 9th century High Cross. Duleek was raided mercilessly by Vikings from nearby Drogheda throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, but the Abbey was never destroyed.
Irish High King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings once and for all at the Battle of Clontarf, in 1014, and although victorious, King Brian died in the battle. His body was laid in Duleek Abbey prior to it being carried on to Armagh.
Duleek town has a long and varied history, interlacing many times with major events that occurred in Ireland, England and Europe, so the Duleek Heritage Trail has been set up to allow visitors to find their way through the village by a series of stepping stones. These stones identify the major points in Duleek’s fascinating past and help visitors to really feel the history and heritage of the town.