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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

The High-King of Trevet

Trevet is another of those innocent mounds that you pass on a country road (this time in Meath) without any clue that it contains a wealth of heritage and lore.

Despite its church ruins, it is not a Christian saint but a pre-Christian ‘Christian’ warrior-king who distinguishes it.  That takes some explaining. 

The story begins with the High King Art Mac Cuinn (157-195), son of the famous Conn of the Hundred  Battles and father of equally famous Cormac Mac Art.  He lived on nearby Tara and one day hunting in the area he had a vison at the spot now known as Trevet that showed him his future. ‘He chose his burial to be in that place because of the faith which would exist there afterwards’. Three hundred years before Christianity came it seems he foresaw that Trevet would become a holy place.

Not long afterwards Art was killed at the battle of Mag Mucruma in Connacht and his body brought back to be buried at Trevet. 

You can explain this as you wish but the not insignificant church/monastery that grew there was unusual in that it is not associated with any particular holy man or woman founder. The person for whom it is known is Art Mac Cuinn.

In medieval document the church there is named as ‘St Patricks’ but there is no tradition of Patrick ever been there (unlike nearby Donaghpatrick). Columcille (of Derry and Iona) once visited Trevet but the monastery/church already existed in his time.

And what does ‘Trevet’ mean? The Irish, ‘Tri-foid’ is translated as ‘three sods’ and explained as three sods that were dug and placed on the grave of Art in honour of the Blessed Trinity.

Trevet became a substantial monastery with its own bishop between 601 and 1000. In 850, 260 people lived around its wooden church. In Norman times it became a flourishing market town with a ‘magnificent church’ but faded after the Reformation. It was derelict by 1641. Today no trace of the town remains and only the ruins on the mound are a reminder of a unique history.

If you think I am making too much out of the place, check out the early Irish Annals and modern research such as the 37-page article by Helen Imhoff in the journal of the Dublin Institute of Advance Studies (2019).  I was amazed that we had so many sources for the Golden Age we have almost forgotten.

A gravestone in Trevet from 1725 relates that a Robert Jeallous (!) was buried there ‘where many of his ancestors have also been interred these 500 years past.’


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