Archaeology 360: Fahan Mura, Co Donegal

At first glimpse, there’s little remarkable about Fahan Mura graveyard. Sure, there was a monastery here from the 6th century, but nothing identifiable survives above ground and the standing ruins date to the 16th and 17th centuries. Throw a stone in rural Ireland and it has a decent chance of landing in a similar churchyard. What sets this site apart, however, is the absolutely magnificent 7th century cross-slab of St Mura (though some argue that it slightly later in the sequence of ancient cross carving). There is an interlaced long-stemmed, Latin, cross on both sides, though on the west face there are (difficult to see) representation of two human figures. It’s debatable who they might represent, but the local tradition that one of them is old Mura himself has much to recommend it. Quite apart from its artistic merit, the Fahan cross-slab is of importance as it is one of only two ancient examples of continuous Greek script surviving from early Ireland. In this instance the script reads ‘Glory and honour to Father and Son and Holy Spirit’. This phrase is known as ‘The lesser doxology’, or Gloria Patri, and continues to be used in many christian services as an ending to the psalmody. The form of words used here follows that promulgated after the Council of Toledo in 633, giving a terminus post quem for the carving (i.e. the earliest date the slab could be).


The 3D 360-degree tour is divided into nine short segments as follows, or can be viewed as a single playlist [here]:

Part I: To the NW of the Church [0:46]

Part II: Inside the standing church remains [0:44]

Part III: Grave of nurse Agnes Jones [0:46]

Part IV: North of the church [0:44]

Part V: Outside east window of the church [1:03]

Part VI: West face of cross-slab [1:33]

Part VII: East face of cross-slab [1:15]

Part VIII: To the SE of the cross-slab [1:03]

Part IX: To the E of the cross-slab [1:32]

You can view it on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app, but for best results we recommend the immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. Please feel free to Like and Share the video and Subscribe to the Archaeology 360 channel. If you’re feeling peculiarly generous and wish to help purchase snacks to sustain the Chapples Minor in the field, please drop something in the Tip Jar on the top right of this page.

I would note that Fahan is not pronounced as I had expected (Faa-Han), but like a baby deer: Fawn. Know this so you don't perpetuate my error & look like a knob!


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