Armagh, located in the county town of County Armagh in Northern Ireland, is the seat of the Archbishop of Armagh for both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. It is technically classed as a small town, but was granted city status in 1994, as well as Lord Mayoralty status in 2012, although it is actually the least-populated city in the whole of Ireland.
Celtic Paganism to Modern Day
The city has deep, significant roots in Celtic paganism and the Eamhain Mcacha (Navan Fort) is thought to have been the site for ancient pagan rituals and ceremonies. Its original Irish name was Ard Mhacha, named so after the goddess Macha, which when anglicised became Ardmagh – now Armagh.
The earliest mentions in history of Armagh as the islands “ecclesiastical capital” are in the mid-400s. Saint Patrick is said to have established his church in the centre, which still stands today and is also the cathedral of the Diocese of Armagh. It has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times.
Classed as an educational centre since St Patrick’s time, Armagh is often referred to as “the city of saints and scholars”. The Royal School and Armagh Observatory were both founded to continue this educational tradition, and in the 1990s the Queens University of Belfast opened an outreach centre in the former hospital building.
Modern day Armagh is small when compared to other cities around the UK, but is well known for both its historic and religious roots, and its landmark buildings, some of which are connected to various wars and of course, St Patrick’s Church. Top tourist attractions including visiting the Navan Fort and visitor centre, walking tours of the city, and a look around the Christian Heritage buildings around the city centre.
The Troubles in Armagh
Armagh is well known for what is classed as “The Troubles in Armagh”; from 1975 onwards, the dispute over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland spilled over from time to time into Armagh itself, leading to a somewhat darker side of the city coming to light. Incidents such as the killings of Derek Monteith in 1990 and Reginald McCollum in 1994 shook the nation, although the Troubles were seen to end four years later in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement).
Armagh may not be the bustling city that somewhere like Bath is, but it has been used in pop culture partly due to its heritage and religious links.
Films & TV
Marú – Death in a Lonely Lane – Filmed in and about Armagh
The Crying Game – Opening Irish scenes filmed at Laytown in South Armagh
All 3 of the Morrigan’s Brood books by Heather Pointsett Dunbar were set in Armagh, known as Ard Mhacha, Eire in the book
Boris Boru – High King of Ireland from the 990sAD to 1002, after conquering the islands, he is believed to be buried in the St Patrick’s Church graveyard.
John Stephenson – Born in Armagh, Stephenson went on to build New York’s first omnibus and street railcar.
William Frederick McFadzean (VC) – William McFadzean was also born in Armagh and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in WW1 when he prevented injury to many of his comrades by throwing himself onto a box of grenades, killing himself instantly but saving many others from death.
Patrick Magee – Born in 1922 in Armagh, Patrick starred in many films, primarily as the villain of the piece. Notably, he played crippled Mr Alexander in A Clockwork Orange and the chevalier in Barry Lyndon.
The Obelisk – This monument was commissioned by Archbishop Robinson and stands 113 feet tall. Built as a memorial to the Duke of Northumberland, the actual construction gave work to many in the local area, which was very welcome during the poverty stricken 18th century. It commands outstanding views of the surrounding countryside, and well worth a visit.
Armagh Observatory – Located alongside the Planetarium near the city of Armagh, the Observatory lies in 14 acres of attractive grounds in the Armage Astropark. The observatory contains scale models of the Solar System and Universe, telescope domes, historic telescopes and sundials, as well as other outdoor exhibits.
Armagh Public Library – this distinctive Georgian building was constructed to the design of Thomas Cooley, the architect who also designed Newgate Prison, country houses for James Alexander and also the town hall (then the Archbishops Palace) in Armagh. The library has the “The Healing Place of the Soul” inscripted over the entrance in Greek.Image credits http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Patrick%27s_Cathedral,_Armagh_-_geograph.org.uk_-_121762.jpg http://www.geograph.ie/photo/643444 http://www.geograph.ie/photo/1918417