A long, rectangular church separated into nave and chancel by a broken cross-wall, extant only at ground level on the S side. This marks the foundations of the E wall of an earlier church.
The monastery was probably founded in the 6thc. by St Lurach. The Annals mention the deaths of some of its abbots and its ruination in the 9thc. It was also burned in 1135. It is listed by Cardinal Papero after the synod of Kells (1152) as a diocesan centre and suffragan of Armagh. In 1245 its bishop, Germanus, was chosen to be the Irish candidate for the vacant see of Armagh. The church was repaired a number of times following its damage during warfare in 1688. It fell into disuse and was eventually abandoned in 1819 when it was dismantled. Some of the stones were used to construct the new church. A major conservation programme was completed in 1984.
|depth of lintel||0.53 m|
|height of lintel||0.65 m|
|width of lintel||1.69 m|
The lintel is constructed from three separate pieces of sandstone. A rebate on the underside of the lintel shows the original width of the door head to have been 0.86 m. The lintel is carved on the face only with an elaborate Crucifixion scene. The depth of the carving on average is 0.015 m except for the central figure of Christ which is 0.05 m deep. The crucified Christ occupies the centre of the composition, flanked by Longinus and Stephaton. Five further figures stand to the left, and another six to the right. There are two angels, one on each side of the vertical shaft of the cross, above the upper projections. A small, long projection above Christ's head may represent a bird or Manus Dei. Christ is shown against a plain cross, the arms of which are very long, extending for 0.91 m. Christ's arms in turn are disproportionately long (about 0.71 m) and are extended almost straight with a slight sag at the elbow. The head is badly damaged and no facial features remain, but two long strands of hair fall over the shoulders. The chest is naked and slightly modelled. He wears a perizoneum, which appears to have been short, although much of the carving below the knees has been obliterated. The legs presumably would have stretched down beyond the lower edge of the composition into the frame (as at Raphoe). Blood flows in two streams from Christ's side as the lance pierces it. Visible between Christ's wrists and the arms of the cross are two small figures, their heads in profile facing Christ, their bodies hidden behind Christ's arms. McNab has suggested that these represent the Two Thieves. They appear to stand on the heads of Stepheton and Longinus. Longinus and Stephaton are both shown in profile, each kneeling on one knee, with the other leg bent upward and the thigh horizontal. Their feet rest flat on the ground. The hair of both is swept back into a curl at the nape of the neck. To Longinus' left is a small, squat figure wearing a long robe, with an almost triangular torso. McNab suggests that this figure may represent Mary, or Mary Magdelene. Further to the L are four figures arranged in two pairs. The first two are quite small, and arranged close together. The second pair are larger and hold a staff between them. Above this group is an inserted block with two raised, square panels and a swooping angel. This could be an unfinished carving. To the right of Stephaton is a figure, with knees slightly bent, facing Christ, holding a staff (or whip) over his head. Further to the right is a row of five figures facing outward, one holding what could be a book, another wearing a hat. Above this group is an inserted block with raised square panels and a swooping angel. The lower edge of the lintel is framed by a band broken into five panels of interlace. Only the detail of the outer two panels is now readable. This has a what appears to be a five-strand pattern based on a figure of eight. All of the strands are of equal width.
|diameter of roll||0.14 m|
|diameter of basin||0.45 m|
|total diameter||0.57 m|
|original width||0.36 m|
O. Davies, 'Maghera Old Church', Belfast Natural History and Field Club Report and Proceedings, 2, Series 2, Part 1 (1942), 17-22.
E. Dunraven, Notes on Irish Architecture, Dublin, 1875, I, 115.
A. Gwynn and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 93.
A. Hamlin and R. Haworth, 'A Crucifixion Plaque Reprovenanced', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 112 (1982), 112-16.
P. Harbison, 'The Biblical Iconography of Irish Romanesque Architectural Sculpture', in From the Isles of the North; Early Medieval Art in Ireland and Britain, ed. C. Bourke, Belfast, 1995, 271-280.
F. Lockwood, 'Abstract of a Paper on the Crucifixion and other Sculptures at the Ruined Church of Maghera, Co. Derry', Belfast Natural History and Field Club Report and Proceedings, 2, Series 2, Part 1 (1882), 50-1.
S. McNab, 'The Romanesque Figure Sculpture at Maghera, Co. Derry and Raphoe, Co. Donegal', in New perspectives; Studies in Art History, eds. Fenlon, J., Figgis, N. and C. Marshall, Dublin, 1987, 19-33.
S. McNab, Irish Figure Sculpture in the Twelfth Century. PhD Thesis, Trinity College Dublin, 1986, 403-10.
M. Ward, 'Drawing of a Band of Ornament from the Architrave of the Doorway of the Ancient Church at Maghera', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 5, Series 4 (1881), 505-6.