Armagh (from Irish Ard Mhacha, meaning “Macha’s height”) is of historical importance for both Celtic paganism and Christianity and is the seat of the Archbishop of Armagh (the Primate of All Ireland).
The site of Eamhain Mhacha was an ancient pagan ritual or ceremonial site. The settlement that grew around it was also named after the goddess Mhacha — Ard Mhacha means “Macha’s height”. Until it was abandoned during the 1st century it was the capital of Ulster. The name was later anglicised as Ardmagh, which eventually became Armagh.
According to tradition, when Christianity spread to Ireland during the mid-400s, Armagh became the island’s “ecclesiastical capital”, as Saint Patrick established his principal church there in 457.
“Twelve men were appointed by him for building the town. He ordered them, in the first place, to erect an archbishop’s city there, and a church for monks, for nuns, and for the other orders in general, for he perceived that it would be the head and chief of the churches of Ireland in general.”
Between the end of the 7th century and the 12th century the monasteries at Armagh were raided countless times by Vikings first and Normans later, but the place never lost its prominence as the chief church of Ireland.