Movilla Abbey is believed to have been one of Ulster's and Ireland's most important monasteries. It was founded in 540 by St. Finnian (d. 579) under the patronage of the king of the Dál Fiatach. It survived as a place of Christian witness for over a thousand years, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1542. The name Movilla is an Anglicized form of the Irish magh bile, which means “the plain of the ancient tree”, so called because on the site where the abbey was built, pagans had previously worshipped a sacred tree.
Finnian's legacy ensured that Movilla Abbey flourished. By the seventh century, it had become one of the greatest monasteries in Ireland - a thriving centre of Celtic Christianity, a community of worship, prayer, study, mission and trade. The Abbey's reputation was enhanced by virtue of the fact it had a complete copy of the Bible, which Finnian had obtained from Rome.
Movilla began to decline after it was sacked by the Danes in 823, and was united with Bangor Abbey in the tenth century. It was somewhat revitalized in 1135 when St. Malachy of Armagh established a group of Augustinians in the abbey, but it never recovered its former glory. In 1306 the monastery at Movilla had one of the lowest valuations of church property in the area, at two and a half marks. Movilla was so poor that the ruling Anglo-Normans had no interest in taking it over and left Irishmen as abbots.
The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1542. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Brian O’Neill, chief of the O'Neills of Clandeboye, burned Movilla, along with other abbeys in the Ards in his campaign to prevent the English from using Irish abbeys for their military garrisons.
Nothing visible remains today of Finnian's Celtic Abbey. What ruins still standing are those of the (15th century) Augustinian church, which comprises two gables, placed about 150 feet apart. In the east wall, there once was a three-light window, two of which have largely been blocked up. The third window remaining is Romanesque in style. At the top of the arch are two small carved heads. In the west wall are two lights with trefoil heads and transoms showing signs of tracery.References:
Ceský Sternberk Castle is an early Gothic castle which was constructed, named and still owned by members of the same family. Today it is a residence that bears a long historical and architectural heritage and represents an attractive tourist destination open to the public. It is considered one of the best preserved Gothic Bohemian castles.
The castle was initially built in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdeslav Sternberg. The development of new firearms in the 14th century posed an unexpected threat to the defensibility of the castle. Its 13th century architects hadn't foreseen the danger of long-range firearms and its reinforcement became a necessity. During this period the Ceský Sternberk castle's fortifications were improved through the construction in the north of a three-story tower, which was connected to the castle by a rampart. In 1467 the castle was seized by the royal armies of George of Podébrady. Later, the ruined castle was regained by Sternberk's aristocracy, who, by the turn of the 15th to 16th century, had reconstructed the castle, renewed its defensive system and expanded it with the construction of a new cylindrical tower in the south and the Dungeon in the north. The castle managed to survive the looting of the rebels in 1627, during the Thirty Years' War. With the death of Jan Václav in 1712, the Holicý branch of the Sternberg family died out and its ownership passed to other families, who in 1751 built the lower palace next to the surrounding wall.
The ownership of the castle was returned to the Sternberg family in 1841 when Zdenék of Sternberg from the Konopisté branch of the family bought it. It remained in Sternberg's ownership until 1949 when it was nationalized by the Communist government of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After the fall of Communism and the Velvet Revolution, in 1992, Ceský Sternberk castle returned to Jirí's son, the count Zdenék Sternberg, the current owner of the castle.
Ceský Sternberk Castle was originally built as a Gothic castle. Eventually it underwent several periods of reconstructions and further fortification and the Gothic architectural features were in parts concealed by the new reconstructions. Especially the interiors of the castle were realized under the Baroque and Rococo styles. In 1760, the master Carlo Brentano performed the elaborate stuccoing and renderings of the halls' interiors. The castle offers a rare collection of 545 copper engravings, depicting the entire history of the Thirty Years' War. Also, historical weapons and hunting trophies are exhibited within the castle's halls.