Brief history of Slane Church

General history of Slane Parish -|- Brief history of Slane Church -|- Brief history of Monknewtown Church



Following the abandonment of the church on the Hill of Slane in or about the year 1723, various and haphazard premises were used as places of worship for many years after that, owing to the restrictions of The Penal Laws.

In an article in The Tablet (18 October 1856), Fr. Anthony Cogan, a native of Slane, writes;
“About the middle of the last century, the place of worship was no other than a wretched pig-stye, which, purified on Saturday evenings had the Holy Sacrifice offered there on Sunday mornings. After a time a little bell was fitted up by the side of a wall, at a considerable distance to evade the law.” In his history, Fr. Cogan tells how the Mass House “fell suddenly in the beginning of 1798 and the inhabitants were for a considerable time without any place of worship. Mass was in the interim celebrated in a barn or outhouse attached to the hotel at Slane….the people knelt around and in the yard without any shelter.”

The foundation stone of the present Catholic Church in Chapel Street was laid in 1798 and it was opened four years later. A stone tablet over the west door is inscribed MOUNT CHARLES CHAPEL 1802. The Parish priest at the time was Dr. Michael O'Hanlan. The site was donated by Earl Conyngham. According to tradition, Conyngham gave the site as a mark of gratitude to Fr. O'Hanlon, who- while living at the Irish College in Paris- had obtained his release from a Parisian military tribunal in 1796.

The freestanding rubble round tower, with its unusual “ogee” top is reputedly the first belfry to be erected at a Catholic church in the diocese of Meath after the Reformation. It is also the earliest, if rather unorthodox example, of a Celtic Revival round tower in Ireland. Within the church is a link with the Friary on Slane Hill by way of a plain medieval font. The other famous Christian site at Fennor, just south of the Boyne, is represented within the church also, in the form of fragment of a Celtic High Cross dating from the ninth century, found by Fr. Dooley in 1991. Fr. O'Hanlon was also responsible for erecting the beautiful Parochial House at College Hill, Rathkenny, on a 14 acre site received as a gift from Lord Fingal. Up to the year 1857, the parish of Rathkenny consisted of the Civil parishes of Rathkenny, Slane, Fennor, Stackallen and Gernonstown. During the same period the civil parishes of Grangegeeth, Monknewtown and Dowth formed a separate and distinct parish with its own pastors. After a reorganisation of parish boundaries in 1857, Monknewtown, Dowth, Fennor and part of Gernonstown formed the new parish of Slane. Grangegeeth became part of Rathkenny Parish. In the reshuffle, Slane Parish lost its parochial house. For three years, the priests of Slane resided in Chapel Street. In 1860, the Parochial House on the square was leased until 1923, when it was bought outright.

Fr. Christopher Magrane C.C. is credited with collecting £1000 towards the construction of the present church. In 1860, our church was renovated. The ceiling and floor were replaced and the windows were replaced with Holland glass. The interior and the exterior were repainted at a total cost of £6500. In 1988, further work was undertaken. New lights were installed and much work was done on the galleries. The tower was recapped and the sanctuary was enlarged. The total cost of this work was £60,271. The debt was cleared by 1st November 1988.
During the past 1500 years, since the times of our Beloved Saints Patrick and Erc, many courageous men and women have laboured in the fields of Christian Promulgation throughout the Slane area. The extensions to and the renovation of our Catholic Church is a timely testament to their undoubted success. We hope and pray that the good work continues.