St Columba’s Church, Kells, County Meath, was built in 1778, but the land on which it stands is one of County Meath’s most important ecclesiastical sites.
The church marks the location of the town’s original monastery, established in the early Middle Ages after the High King of Ireland gave St Columba the fort of Kells to set up a religious community. It became the principal Columban monastery in Ireland but, in 918AD, it was plundered and the church destroyed. Following the Synod of Kells in 1152, Kells was granted diocesan status and the old church was elevated to the status of a cathedral for the diocese.
Of the early medieval structures, only the round tower and nearby St Colmcille’s House survive. Of the later medieval church only the bell tower remains. The present church dates from the late 18th century, though it has been renovated several times over the years. In 1965, the gallery was converted into an exhibition space to display historic information about the site.