The Centre for Celtic Spirituality

Ancient Armagh

Armagh City is an ancient and sacred place, with a wonderful mystical heritage. The site of the present Church of Ireland Cathedral has been a place of Christian worship for 1500 years.

Before that, Navan Fort, a short distance away, dates from the 7th to the 4th centuries b.c. and represents Armagh’s pre-Christian heritage, seat of the Kings and Queens of Ulster, from which Armagh (Ard Macha) gets its name. The old name was Emain Macha, derived from the name of the Goddess, Macha, and meaning ‘the twins of Macha.‘ It provides a setting for much of Ireland’s earliest literature such as, for example, the “Ulster Cycle” and the “Tain Bo Cuailnge”.

In 150 A.D. when Ptolemy drew up his first map of the then-known world, Navan was marked – long before the Americas were discovered!

The heritage and central importance of Armagh was recognised by St. Patrick and the first Christians of Ireland, and this was why Patrick decreed that Armagh should be central for the Christian church’s development in Ireland. This is recorded within a 9th Century Document called The Book of Armagh, also known as the Canon of Patrick, which is now preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin – though facsimile copies are on display in Armagh County Museum and in the Church of Ireland Cathedral.

In medieval times Armagh was a great centre of learning and monasticism. The Celi De or Culdees (meaning, ‘Companions of God’), had a community in Armagh and their influence remains to this day in the choral traditions of the old cathedral.
In more recent times Armagh has benefited from the legacy of Archbishop Robinson, with its beautiful Georgian architecture. The Archbishop also founded a wonderful Observatory, Armagh Public Library, and the Palace and stables of his residence are open to public viewing.

We welcome you to Armagh as an authentically ancient place, where the visitor can be a pilgrim through the mists of history, but also find experiences that are directly relevant and inspirational for the contemporary spiritual search.