mystery of Kildemockıs jumping church
the most intriguing unsolved mystery in mid-Louth is that
of the so-called Jumping Churchı at Kildemock, just outside
Ardee. Nobody knows for sure whether it was natural or supernatural
causes that prompted one of the churchıs walls to mysteriously
relocate some two or three feet from its foundations 289
years ago, and prospects of solving the riddle are remote.
Thus, the jumping church holds a special place in the fertile
folklore of Irelandıs smallest county, writes Gerry Robinson.
The ruins of the Jumping Church of Kildemock provide Louth
with one of its most outlandish tourist attractions. The
phenomenon is situated a couple of miles south of Ardee,
just off the N2 (after leaving Ardee, heading towards Collon,
turn left at the crossroads just before the Hunterstown
Inn) and offers visitors an unnerving experience.
The feeling that something untoward took place hangs in
the crisp country air, yet there is no menace about the
place. Instead, it is an ideal venue for meditation, reflection
The only answer one will find here is that, in life, there
are no answers. Not to the bigger questions anyway.
Shrouded in local mythology, the spooky jumping wall draws
many curious visitors from near and far.
Legend says the enchanting wall of the church moved in 1715
to exclude the grave of an excommunicated man outside the
building. While this sounds implausible, the notion that
the wall (which remains largely intact) could possibly have
moved (or been moved) in any other way seems equally improbably.
One popular explanation is that a great storm caused the
wall to shift but is this really plausible? Granted,
storms have been known to damage and even flatten buildings
but when has it been known for the forces of Mother
Nature to lift part of a building and set it back down in
a new location? Surely, the wall would have crumbled whilst
The mystery that has surrounded this spectacle since the
16th century will probably never be satisfactorily solved.
All that remains at Kildemock today is a small ruin, containing
the mystical wall that for reason either geographical or
paranormal once jumped across the terrain. The displaced
wall at Cill Demog is, frankly, a remarkable ancient wreck,
clearly demonstrating how the western wall of the church
jumped to stand over three feet inside its own
The Jumping Church (or Jumping Wall) is formally known as
Millockstown Church. It is to be found atop a hill, with
a spectacular view of the Carlingford and Mourne Mountains
providing a stunning backdrop.
The legend surrounding why the jumping church has been thus
named has never been authenticated, but there were obviously
some happenings in the area at the time to give rise to
such a tall story! Myth has it that, with the church already
a ruin, an individual of inappropriate reputation was interred
within the church grounds near the gable end, causing the
outraged structure, pent up with disgust and supernatural
powers, to jump across the offending corpse so that the
unrepentant bones would henceforth lie outside the sanctified
grounds of the ruined church.
Contrary reports claim that on Candlemas Day 1715, a violent
storm caused the west gable of the building to move eastwards,
leaving it standing in its improbable new position within
Incredibly, the wall was severed in a straight line from
the foundation (which lay a foot and a half above the ground)
rendering the whole dislodgment utterly bizarre.
A plaque on the site reads: This wall by its pitch,
tilt and position can be seen to have moved three feet from
its foundation. Contemporary accounts mention a severe storm
in 1715 when the wall was lifted and deposited as it now
stands but local tradition states that the wall jumped inwards
to exclude the grave of an excommunicated person.
The cynical mind is tempted to surmise that pranksters were
at work on that fateful day when the Kildemock legend was
born. But even todays skilled architects, with all
their crews of qualified craftsmen, would struggle to carry
out such a meticulous job so proficiently, let alone comparatively
uneducated tricksters in rural Louth in 1715!
Alas, something is certainly amiss at the Jumping Church.
Could there possibly be a Biblical reason? After all, the
very premise of miracles is born of religion itself and
nothing is more holy than one of Gods churches.
There is also a theory that the wall was not violently displaced
at all. One obscure suggestion is that the earth itself
moved, but this has also been dismissed and locals
insist that the supernatural conclusion is truest of all.
Two-thousand-and-four was something of a landmark year for
the Jumping Church of Kildemock. The 50th anniversary of
its restoration was celebrated on Thursday June 24 and the
occasion was marked by an open-air mass and the launch of
a new booklet, painstakingly compiled by Fr. Michael Murtagh
The 20-page booklet contains a detailed history of the church
(dating back to the 12th century) and the Jumping Wall as
well as diagrams, illustrations and a collection of beautiful
Like many others, Fr. Michael refuses to accept the storm
In his introduction to the commemorative booklet, he pens:
A storm alone could hardly have lifted a chunk of
masonry that is many tons in weight and move it one or so
metre inwards and replace it at a precarious slant. The
wall is built of rough rubble stone and would easily crumble.
There is also the supernatural explanation that hinges
on a controversial burial within the walls of the ruined
church. It is said that the wall jumped inwards to exclude
the unworthy corpse from the holy ground of the church interior.
There are other local stories from the period that
tell of controversial burials and refusals of burials to
those deceased who offended the churchs sense of what
Whatever the explanation natural, supernatural,
or both the natural beauty of the area and the spiritual
history of a community combine in this hallowed spot and
draw one into contemplation.
In a few years time, 2015, we can commemorate
the 300th anniversary of the mysterious event that gives
the church its distinctive allure.
Once upon a time, the medieval walls in Kildemock graveyard
enclosed and protected a parish church. This was dedicated
to Saint Diomoc, an early disciple of St Patrick. In the
early days of Christianity in Ireland, our patron saint
is believed to have chosen Diomoc (or Modiomoc) from among
his followers. Diomoc is said to have been of the Dal Cais
and was a young man at the time.
Lying immediately south and south east of Ardee, the territory
of the small parish of Kildemock in the middle ages comprised
the townlands of Paughanstown, Roestown, Hacklim, Millockstown,
Hunterstown, Anaglog, Rathlust, Kilpatrick, Drakestown and
One of countless ruined churches to be found nationwide,
Kildemock in its glory stood whole beneath a roof of small
slates, a stone altar at the east end lit by a stained-glass
The legend that a wall of the church once jumped from its
original resting place has always been circulated in the
locality but there was no visible evidence of this extraordinary
event until the ruins were restored some 50 years ago. Once
the accumulated debris of centuries were removed by archaeologists
in 1953-54 and the true outline of the church became apparent,
it was revealed that the wall really did stand two-to-three
feet inside its foundations. Standing 19 feet high, 15 feet
wide and three feet thick, the huge bulk of masonry rises
imposingly from the ground, close to the foundation from
which it had cleanly been severed.
Which brings us back once more to the cause of the jump.
How could a storm achieve so freakish a result? A wall cannot
be sliced neatly, transported through the air, and set upright
in a new position. Can it?
The supernatural explanation fits the bill much better.
The myth goes that a man, who was (appropriately) a mason
by trade, abandoned the Catholic faith and turned Protestant.
He was working on the building of Stabannon Church when
he fell to his death from scaffolding. After attempts to
bury the remains elsewhere proved fruitless, the body was
brought to Kildemock and laid to rest within the ruined
church, inside the west wall. The very next day, the wall
was discovered to have jumped inwards, leaving the remains
outside the sacred enclosure of the one-time building.
Crazy as this story might sound, it cannot be dismissed
out of hand, as there can be little doubting that the controversial
burial did take place as well as the storm.
The extent to which either event was responsible for the
wonder now visible at Kildemock has been lost to history.
Maybe its better that way.
Taken from Wee County 2004