The ivy covered ruins of Saint Begnet’s Church stand beside Goat Castle on Dalkey’s main street, and are surrounded by a small graveyard. This granite church, named after the seventh century, Saint Begnet, dates back to the Early Christian period. It is very likely that the granite church was preceded by a wooden church of some discription.The present St Begnet’s Church dates back to at least the tenth century. The Belfry has twin bells which were struck by hand. The Chancel & Chancel Arch are believed to have been added in 13th century. The Church was reported to be roofless by 1630.The Graveyard may have been used since the thirteenth century but the early graves are not marked.Names of those buried from the 1700s to 1900s can be found on the Map in the Heritage Centre.
The story of St Begnet who became the Patron Saint Of Dalkey is as follows. Begnet was an Irish princess who lived in the 7th century. According to legend, when she was a child, an Angel appeared to her and asked her to devote her life to the service of God. She did so, and the Angel gave her a bracelet, marked with the sign of the cross, as a symbol of her vocation.As a young women, Her parents arranged a marriage for her to the son of the King of Norway. But still dedicated to the vows she had taken, Begnet had no wish to take a husband. To avoid this arranged marriage, she left home, taking with her the bracelet given to her by the Angel. She found passage in a small boat and sailed to Northumbria on the north west coast of England.There she was received into the Church by Bishop Aidan and became the first abbess of nuns. Her convent was constantly plundered by pirates, so after several years Begnet moved inland towards Cumberland.After her death, the bracelet became and object of profound veneration. By the twelfth century, accusers and accused were asked to swear their testimony on the bracelet, in the knowledge that a terrible fate would await anyone who dared to swear a falsehood on this sacred relic:”Whosoever forswore himself upon her bracelet swiftly incurred the heaviest punishment of perjury – a speedy death”Begnet gave her name to the two ancient churches in the Dalkey area, one on Dalkey Island and one in Dalkey town.
Unfortunatly you can only access the grounds of the church via a guided tour from the heritage center in Goat Castle next door. But with two historical sites and an entertaining tour included, its not so bad. You can check out their website Dalkey Castle