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Irish Gravestone Inscriptions, Tracing your Irish Ancestors: Introduction
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Kilwarlin Moravian Graveyard

A Case Study of Kilwarlin Moravian Church Graveyard

The front of the Moravian church at Kilwarlin

by Andrew Vaughan


You never know what you'll find in a graveyard! Kilwarlin Moravian Church, situated 4km south west of Hillsborough, has an interesting landmark in its church grounds. The graveyard is laid out in the shape of the Greek Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC.


Today few people have heard of the Moravian Church. A small protestant denomination (only 714 adherents, according to the 1991 Northern Ireland Census), which dates back to the 14th Century, it originated in Moravia and Bohemia what is now the Czech Republic. The Czech reformer and martyr John Hus was burned at the stake as a heretic on July 6th, 1415 and 42 years later in 1457 a small group of his followers formed their own church, giving themselves the Latin name "Unitas Fratrum" which in English means "Unity of Brethren". This happened about 60 years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517, and 100 years before the formation of the Church of England. At first they were badly persecuted, but in spite of this opposition the Church began to prosper and increased in numbers and influence. It produced the first Protestant Hymn book in Prague in 1501, and the Kralitz Bible in 1579, which was translated into Czech from the original Hebrew and Greek. They also founded many schools and colleges.


During the religious wars of the 17th Century the Unitas Fratrum was again persecuted and its followers killed, their services forbidden and its Churches destroyed. Fleeing this persecution they found refuge on the estate of a German nobleman, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. In 1727, the Church was re-born and from this the first overseas Missionaries were sent out.

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