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Mass Rock Sites beyond the Irish Borders

Mass Rock Sites of:

County DOWN

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Ballyvicnacally Mass Rock


Information and photographs courtesy of Jimmy Conway relating to the unrecorded Ballyvicnacally Mass Rock which is resplendent with candle hole

On a working visit to Dromore,  Jimmy Conway met a character called  Mr McKeown, he recalled finding a spectacular Mass Rock with "Candle Hole"  just outside Dromore Co Down in the Townland of Ballyvicnacally. He agreed to show Jimmy the site which turned out to be very fascinating.


Ballyholland Mass Rock


The Mass Rock is well signposted just off Bettys Hill Road and is situated on Mass Rock Lane in Ballyholland.

Mass is celebrated annually on the last Sunday in June at this site.


To watch Mass at the Mass Rock and to learn more about the history of the site please visit:


Slide show

Mass Rock


Derrycraw Mass Rock, Glenn, County Down


This Mass Rock is easily accessible and may be found in the grounds of St John the Evangelist in Glenn, County Down. The Rock is 90cm in height and roughly 160cm square. According to the sign on the rock, the Mass Rock was originally located in O’Hare’s Glen, Derrycraw and was donated by the O’Hare family to the church. More information may be found at Parish of Donaghmore |

Harpur's Hill

Alt an tSagairt, Mountain of the Priest, Altataggart, Rostrevor


This Mass site is for everyone who likes a challenge. It is at the top of a steep cliff with no real path to speak of so getting to it is very precarious. Please bear this in mind if you decide to visit it. It is not for the faint hearted! Enjoy the views!

We parked the car at the Yellow River picnic area and crossed two footbridges to join the Mourne way where we branched off in a northerly direction. We followed directions and photographs kindly provided by A Western Mournes Loop - Trek NI

Coordinates for the Mass site: N 54°08'51.0" W 6°07'59.9"


The sculpted cross would indicate its use as a Mass Stone in later Penal times, probably after 1760. It is proposed that this is, in fact, the Mass Stone used on Harpur's Hill. It was, seemingly, at some stage built into the bridge for safe keeping. For safer keeping, it was removed to the home of J.P. Morgan and decoratively built into a wall there. It is now in the Forecourt of Glenn Chapel’


Concerning the Mass sites in Clonduff during this period of operation of the Penal Code, there appears to be no information in public records but, in addition to Alt an tSagairt, local tradition is clear in identifying three other places:
1.     On the Magennis land in Cabra where St. Mary’s Church now stands.
2.     In Ballygorian on the land then held by Owen O’ Neill.
3.     In John O’Neill’s corn-mill at Bannvale.

Clonduff Parish website History | Clonduff Parish advises that:

The position of the stone itself, which stands at a vantage point 1,362 feet above sea-level in a remote and inaccessible part of the Mourne range, is evidence enough of the dangers people had to face on hearing Mass in those times when religious intolerance was the rule. Catholic worship was absolutely proscribed under Cromwell’s reign by an edict of 1653 – any priest who failed to quit the Kingdom within 20 days was liable to the penalty of a protracted and gruesome death.


​According to tradition, a priest, Fr. Eoghan O’Hagan, was murdered by Colonel Whitechurch and his soldiers along with a number of those who assisted at the Mass on Alt an tSagairt in the middle of the 17th. century. During the Penal Era, in the 18th. century, the constraints were dictated less by religious fervour or fanaticism than by fear and hatred of the Catholic people on the part of the ruling class. There were a number of examples recorded where Catholics were saved from the law by the pitying kindness of their Protestant neighbours. Moreover, the laws against the practice of religion fell into abeyance a generation after the passing of the Code, but not those related to possession of property and political rights. But even after the practice of religion had come to be tolerated, Mass was generally said in private houses and at stations with primitive altars in the open-air.


Harpur’s Hill Mass Altar Stone, Glenn, County Down


This Mass Altar stone now resides in the wall of the forecourt of St John the Evangelist in Glenn, County Down. Information available at Parish of Donaghmore | advises that ‘according to the late great-grandfather of the present Kennedy Family, Mass was said on Harpur's Hill in Dromantine demesne, opposite what is now called Rice's Lane. In 1974, during repairs to the bridge on Rice's Lane, a largish flat stone of slightly brownish texture, weighing about 1cwt. was found in the bridge. (A similar quality of stone is found in the quarry on the Glen river). It had a crudely-cut cross or crosslet, about ten inches by ten inches, sculpted on it.



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