St. Feaghna is the patron saint of Bonane. In his early ministry, he built a church known locally as ‘Tempall Feaghna’ at the graveyard. This structure is the most ancient ecclesiastical site in the valley, dating back to the 6th century AD. The original church may have been constructed of wood but was later replaced by a stone building, the ruins of which are still visible today.
Surrounding these ancient ruins, the graveyard known locally as ‘Drom-Feaghna’ has slowly emerged over the centuries. It’s one of the oldest Christian burial sites still in use in Ireland and almost certainly dates back to early Christian times.
This graveyard consists of an inner wall and an outer wall. The outer wall was constructed during the time of the Great Famine in the 1840s as a funded relief project. This enabled local workers to benefit from much needed payment to sustain their starving families in a blight-ridden community. The inner wall or embankment, also in evidence today, is a much older structure – possibly dating back to pre-Christian times. It may have been linked to the nearby multiple bullaun stone known as the ‘Rolls of Butter’.
The graves that lie between these two walls are known as ‘cilleanachs’. The unhallowed ground here, was the burial area for suicide victims, un-baptised babies and still-births, as it was not allowed for these people to be buried in consecrated ground at that time. The little grave markers can still be seen today – a testimony to a forgotten era when harsh church rules governed its devout followers.
The oldest dated headstone in evidence at St. Feaghna’s Graveyard goes back to 1815, however a smaller headstone, apparently with Ogham (Ancient Celtic) writing on it, suggests the presence of a pre-Christian burial place.
Burial records can be found here:
Please Note: When visiting the graveyard, please walk only on the pathways and keep the gate closed at all times.