Cill Mhaoilchéadair - Kilmalkedar was a very important monastery in the early medieval period, not least because of its situation on the pilgrimage route, Cosán na Naomh - the Saints’ Path, which continues on to Mount Brandon. Although it began as a monastery, probably similar to that at nearby An Riasc, it grew to become one of the wealthiest parishes in all the diocese of Kerry (then the diocese of Ardfert) in medieval times and many reminders of this wealth can still be seen there today.
The ruined 12th-century Romanesque church displays fine carving, especially on the doorway and on the chancel arch. It has been dated to around the middle of the century, and would not have been the first church on the site. It became the parish church for the area in the 13th century, and was in use until the 16th century.
Near the chancel arch is the Alphabet Stone, which has been dated to the 6th century AD. The primary inscription, consists of the letters ‘dni’, which are a contraction of the Latin word domini, meaning ‘Lord’. Within the graveyard are several stone monuments. The ogham stone (5th or 6th century) has an inscription that reads ẠṆM MẠỊLE-INBIR MACI BROCANN (‘the name of’ [or ‘the soul of’] ‘MAILE INBIR the son of BROCANN’). This person may well lie buried under the stone. The hole in the top of the stone is an unusual feature, not usually found in ogham stones. It may have been present in the stone before the carving was made on it. Tradition has it that it was used for swearing oaths, and it is associated with people marrying each other.
A sundial, one of only 9 early medieval sundials in the entire country, probably dates from the 8th or 9th centuries AD. The presence of this beautifully carved object tells us that the monastery at Cill Maoilchéadair was already quite wealthy at this period.
The large Latin cross which greets you as you walk through the graveyard towards the church may be as late as 12th century in date, possibly put in place at the same time as the church was built. It is quite simple in design, with short, stubby arms. When first erected, the cross may have appeared much higher, but the continuous burial within the graveyard over the centuries would have raised the ground level around it considerably.
Associated with the site are St Brendan’s House (or the Priest’s House), a nearby late medieval building (not currently accessible to the public), the Chancellor’s House (across the road and a couple of hundred metres in the Dingle direction), two holy wells (one in the field across the road, and marked by a stone with a simple cross carved on it, the second is currently inaccessible) and several other features in the fields roundabout.
Kilmalkeder Church is 2km due east of An Mhuiríoch. There is parking for two or three cars in the lane beside the site.