The ancient churchyard at Castleventry on the eve before May Day 2023.

Castleventry is an appropriate place to visit as the month of May begins. This ancient site with a commanding view over so much of West Cork has been a place of ritual for at least 4,000 years.

It’s a combination of a ring fort, a Christian chapel and a contemporary burial ground.

In pre-Christian times it was a ritual site for druids who could invoke the blessing of the gods all the surrounding area. So it was a busy place during the bronze and iron age.

Near the entrance to the fort there’s a well which is now Christianised and is still visited regularly. In the past, bronze objects and other historical pieces were discovered nearby which shows us that the Castleventry area was indeed a special place around 4,000 years ago. 

It’s name in Irish — Caislean-na-gaiethe (castle of the wind) is well deserved! Its name in Latin is Templum Ventrie (The chapel of the wind). So, today’s place name in English is a curious mix of both!

In 1298 we are told that the Knights Templar arrived here and built a little Church in the fort. The Templars were a Christian military order (1119-1314) based at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and were involved in the Crusades and served as protection for Christian pilgrims travelling to the holy land. They funded thre building of many cathedrals and churches across Europe from the proceeds of donations made to them.

The ancient churchyard at Castleventry.

The little church they constructed at Castleventry is recorded as being in complete ruins by the 1600s and today only a very low wall of that original structure remains to be seen. However, it is possible to see some of the stonework of the chapel which has remained unmoved or altared since the 13th century.

Some of the grounds around the chapel are still used for burials today. 

Four thousand years of manking looking beyond for answers to the great questions of life and death.