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.
The Centre for Celtic Spirituality is based at The Navan Centre, 2.5 miles from the centre of Armagh City. This is an interpretive centre for the ancient site of Emain Macha which dates from the 7th to the 4th centuries B.C. It 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 Emain Macha, derives from the name of the Goddess, Macha, and means ‘the twins of Macha’ (one of the ancient mythological stories). If you read some of Ireland’s earliest literature such as the “Tain Bo Cuailnge” you will find Emain Macha mentioned frequently. It is an ancient place with a mysterious past.
In 150 A.D. when Ptolemy drew up his first map of the then-known world, Emain Macha was marked – long before the Americas were discovered!
The heritage and central importance of Armagh was presumably recognised by St. Patrick and the first Christians of Ireland, and so the tradition is that 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 park where his residence still stands is open to the public.
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.