Old Church
The Old Church in Bovevagh, Roe Valley

Bovevagh Old Church ruins

Grid reference C668140

High above the Bovevagh River a mile or so outside the village of Burnfoot is this splendid old place. Surrounded by old and new graves, it is well looked after. Here you find the ruins of the old church, no carvings or mouldings survive, which makes it very difficult to date the place. The walls consist of a patchwork of alterations and repairs dating from the 13th to the late 18th century. The builders must have been worried that their handiwork might slide down the rock into the Bovevagh, because they have given the wall facing the river a rather elegant curve, thus providing extra stability and peace of mind.

The name Bovevagh is derived from "Both Maeve" meaning "The church of Maeve".

The location is thought to be a monastic site first written about when an earlier wooden church burnt down in 1100. During the middle ages it served as the parish church but it was ruined and rebuilt in 1622. It was in continuous use until the early 19th century.

A sloping wall next to the river
The old mortuary

Outside the main building is a very early mortuary house. This is in fact the oldest feature of the site and is shown on the left. It looks like a miniature house and is quite rare in Ulster. Mortuary houses usually contained the relics of a local saint. There was a small hole in the east wall so that the visitor could touch the occupier of the tomb - presumably gaining spiritual advantages in the process. This custom was popular in medieval times but has died out since.

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