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Holy Hills of Ireland

36 37 New heights Christian complexes Christianity was well established by AD 431, when the pope sent Bishop Palladius to the Irish. The first churches were often placed on hills near royal ones that had been pagan ritual sites, such as Dunshaughlin near Tara, or Armagh, and old powers got new meanings. Patricks pascal flame quickly outshone Taras pagan fires, holy wells and venerated hills were given Christian dedications, and even sacred trees were kept, as at Derry or at Ross in Carlow. Ironically, Patricks Godsent visions, and indeed, the physical and mental conditions that caused them, bear remarkable parallels with the shamans tranceinduced hallucinations which inspired Irish megalithic imagery, though Patrick would never have accepted this. Quite commonly the old sacred places found a new religious identity Clogher of the gold oracle stone had been a ritual royal site long before becoming a bishops seat and Ardaghs cathedral stands on a hill that contains the sdh of a Tuatha D Danann otherworld king. At Skerry, Antrim, a church was built on the ashes of Patricks slave masters house, in a process much like the creation of Emhain Machas ritual site, and Saint Bridget, or Brghid, acquired many of her namesakes places and festivals, including an enormous oak at Kildare, and the fire festival of Omelg at the beginning of February, marking the beginning of Spring. Above The church on St. MacDaras Island, Galway, and St. Columbas Oratory, Ceanannus Mr, Meath Kells, are typical Irish Early Christian, small shrinelike, sacred places, very different in scale and feeling to grandiose later buildings like Cashel cathedral below, in Tipperarys Golden Vale.
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