St. Columba’s Church Site Has Been A Place of Pilgrimage For Over 1,500 Years:
“Under Bare Benbulben’s Head In Drumcliffe Churchyard Yeats Is Laid….” and although Drumcliffe is best known around the world as the final resting place of the poet William B. Yeats, the site on which St. Columba’s Church stands has been a place of Christian worship for over 1500 years.
St. Columcille founded a monastry in Drumcliffe in 574 and at that time, it was one of his principal religious houses, together with Derry, Durrow and Kells. Christians have been worshipping here since that time.
Remnants of the Monastery
Today, the only visible remnants of the monastic site are the High Cross, the Round Tower and the plain Cross shaft.
The Drumcliffe High Cross is one of the finest examples of high crosses remaining in Ireland. The carvings on the cross represent biblical scenes including Adam and Eve, Daniel in the lions’ den, the crucifixion, etc. Originally painted in bright colours they were used as a visual aid for religious teachings. Picture the pilgrims gathered around the cross and the images being illustrated to them.
The Round Tower is believed to be the only one of its kind in Co. Sligo. Like other Round towers, such as the one in Glendalough in Co. Wicklow, it would have served as a bell tower as well as a shelter against plundering Vikings and local chieftains. To get to the high doorway, a ladder is required, making it more difficult for the invaders to attack.
Local Drumcliffe Legend
Local legend has it that the tower will fall down when the wisest man in the world passes under it! If you visit Drumcliffe today, you will see that there is only a stump of the tower left, so one wise man must have passed under it at some point in history!
The present St. Columba’s Church was built in 1809, but there seems to be a dearth of information about it.