I was happily driving home at dusk when I saw the sign pointing to "The Jumping Church", a place I'd read about quite some time ago, but had no real idea about where it was. By the time I could react I'd passed the junction but decided to turn around and go and take a look.
The church gets its name from the west gable wall, which seems to have 'jumped' off its foundations and now stands, albeit leaning, inside the nave. Local lore says the wall jumped so that the body of an excommunicated person was no longer buried within the building. This tale probably owes something to the fact that there is the grave of a murderer who was hung, drawn and quartered in the graveyard. Apparently a storm in 1715 was actually responsible for moving the wall.
There are a few fragments of carved masonry on the low remains of the east wall and a small bullaun stone with a single bullaun cemented onto the north wall.
Whilst I was there I got talking to the man that looks after the graveyard who very keenly told me lots of tales and sold me a nice little booklet about the church for two euro. One of these tales was about a hill to the east that is said to contain a chieftain and his army who sleep within it. It is said that when a red-haired boy with two thumbs on his left hand draws a magical sword from its scabbard they will awake and free Ireland. Some versions of the story say that the boy has already been born and did pull the sword from the scabbard, but when the hill opened and he saw the army within he panicked and replaced the blade, and the soldiers went back to sleep. Hence Ireland can now never be free. (I think this last version may have been started by the British!)
The original purpose of bullan stones is not really known, but they have an undisputable association with water and Brigid worship. A 'bullaun' is a deep hemispherical cup hollowed out of a rock. Bullaun Stone refers to the rock itself, which can have many bullauns in it, although many are single.
It is generally thought that they date from the Bronze Age, but I personally believe there is a much old provenance to them and that there is a relationship to prehistoric rock art, for a good example of this see Glassamucky Mountain (County Dublin).
Ritual use of some bullaun stones has continued well into the Christian period and many are found in association with early churches (The Deer Stone (Glendalough D) (County Wicklow) is just one of many at Glendalough (County Wicklow)) and holy wells. Their presence at so many early Christian sites, to me, places them as being of massive importance to the pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland and something the church was very eager to assimilate.
The beautiful example at St Brigit's Stone (County Cavan) still has its 'cure' or 'curse' stones. These would be used to by a visitor turning them whilst praying for (or cursing) someboby.
This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.
Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.
Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.
The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.
UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.
ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.