History of County Armagh

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Ancient History

County Armagh, the smallest county in northern Ireland, is named for the town of Armagh, is one of the six counties that form Northern Ireland. In ancient times, Armagh was the territory of the Ulaid; or Ulstermen. They may also be referred to as the Voluntii, the Ultonians, or the Ulidians, before the 4th century AD. The capital of this ancient territory was Emain Macha (now called Navan Fort), near the present town of Armagh. Both of these locations are named for the goddess, Macha.[1]

During the Middle Ages, the territory was a Gaelic over-kingdom, consisting of a confederation of dynastic groups. In historical documents, the term Ulaid refers to the people, who were ruled over by the the Dal Fiatach dynasty.[2]

In the 5th century, St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, made the town of Armagh his see. The territory was later invaded by the Anglo-Normans and by the Danes, although they did not settle there permanently. It wasn't until 1586 that Armagh was colonized by outsiders, during the Plantation of Ulster.[3]

Religion has always had a strong presence in Ireland, but the conversion of the Irish to Christianity has been attributed to St. Patrick by numerous historians.[4] Brian Boru is believed to be buried in the graveyard at St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral. He became High King of Ireland in 1002 AD, until his death in 1014 AD.[5]

In 839 and again in 869, the monastery at Armagh was raided by the Danes. It was from the monastery that the Book of Armagh came from. It is a 9th century manuscript that is now housed in the library of Trinity College in Dublin.[6]


  1. County Armagh Wikipedia Entry County Armagh History
  2. Wikipedia article about the Ulaid
  3. Encyclopedia Britanica article County Armagh
  4. Historical memoirs of the city of Armagh, for a period of 1373 years... by James Stuart Introduction
  5. Armagh Historical Society website [1]
  6. Armagh Historical Society website [2]

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Categories: County Armagh