Lia Fáil

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Lia Fáil
Speaking Stone, Coronation Stone
Stone of Destiny 2018-07-24.jpg
The stone currently standing on the Hill of Tara identified with the historical Lia Fáil
TypeStanding stone
EtymologyIrish: Stone of Fál (Ireland/destiny)
LocationHill of Tara
Coordinates53°34′43.1″N 6°36′43.7″W / 53.578639°N 6.612139°W / 53.578639; -6.612139Coordinates: 53°34′43.1″N 6°36′43.7″W / 53.578639°N 6.612139°W / 53.578639; -6.612139
Elevation155 metres (509 ft)
Height1 metre (3 ft 3 in)
Original usecoronation stone
Lia Fáil is located in Ireland
Lia Fáil
Location of Lia Fáil in Ireland

The Lia Fáil (Irish: [ˌl̠ʲiə ˈfˠaːlʲ]; meaning "Stone of Destiny" or "Speaking Stone" to account for its oracular legend) is a stone at the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) on the Hill of Tara in County Meath, Ireland, which served as the coronation stone for the High Kings of Ireland. It is also known as the Coronation Stone of Tara.[1] According to legend, all of the kings of Ireland were crowned on the stone up to Muirchertach mac Ercae, c. 500 CE.

Mythical origin[edit]

There are several different, and conflicting, legends in Irish mythology describing how the Lia Fáil is said to have been brought to Ireland.[2] The Lebor Gabala, dating to the eleventh century, states that it was brought in antiquity by the semi-divine race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann had travelled to the "Northern Isles" where they learned many skills and magic in its four cities Falias, Gorias, Murias and Findias. From there they travelled to Ireland bringing with them a treasure from each city – the four legendary treasures of Ireland. From Falias came the Lia Fáil. The other three treasures are the Claíomh Solais or Sword of Light, the Sleá Bua or Spear of Lugh and the Coire Dagdae or The Dagda's Cauldron.

Some Scottish chroniclers, such as John of Fordun and Hector Boece from the thirteenth century, treat the Lia Fáil the same as the Stone of Scone in Scotland.[1] According to this account, the Lia Fáil left Tara in AD 500 when the High King of Ireland Murtagh MacEirc loaned it to his great-uncle, Fergus (later known as Fergus the Great) for the latter's coronation in Scotland. Fergus's sub-kingdom, Dalriada, had by this time expanded to include the north-east part of Ulster and parts of western Scotland. Not long after Fergus's coronation in Scotland, he and his inner circle were caught in a freak storm off the County Antrim coast in which all perished. The stone remained in Scotland, which is why Murtagh MacEirc is recorded in history as the last Irish King to be crowned on it.

However, historian William Forbes Skene commented: "It is somewhat remarkable that while the Scottish legend brings the stone at Scone from Ireland, the Irish legend brings the stone at Tara from Scotland."[2]

The Dindsenchas, recording a tradition from early Irish literature and echoing ancient legends, reports that Lia Fáil would roar in the presence of a false king pretending to hold dominion in Ireland.[3]

According to one version of Gaelic Myth surrounding the Lia Fáil stone, a myth more associated with the Stone of Scone, the sacred stone arrived by ship belonging to the Iberian Danaan into the ancient port of Carrickfergus about 580 BC. On board was Eochaidh, son of a High King and a descendant of Érimón, Princess Tea Tephi and the scribe Simon Brauch. Princess Tea also had in her possession an ancient harp, whose origins some believe lie in the House of David. The stone was delivered to the Hill of Tara by the three. Scota later married High King Eochaidh, both had previously met each other in Jerusalem. Eochaidh recovered the ancient stone in Jerusalem before the invasion of the Babylonians. It is said all future Irish High Kings/British Monarchs inaugurated by the stone have tried to prove lineage back to the Royal Sage and his wife, Tea Tephi, the original bearers of the stone. Eochaidh's resting place is said to be in the Neolithic passage tomb, Cairn T at Loughcrew.[4][5]

Mythical powers[edit]

The Lia Fáil was thought to be magical: when the rightful High King of Ireland put his feet on it, the stone was said to roar in joy.[1] The stone is also credited with the power to rejuvenate the king and also to endow him with a long reign. According to Lebor Gabála Érenn, Cúchulainn split it with his sword when it failed to cry out under his protégé, Lugaid Riab nDerg — from then on it never cried out again, except under Conn of the Hundred Battles[6] and according to legend, at the coronation of Brian Boru in 1002.

Inis Fáil[edit]

It is from this stone the Tuatha Dé Danann metonymically named Ireland Inis Fáil (inis meaning island), and from this Fál became an ancient name for Ireland.[1] Fál in Old Irish means several things like hedge, enclosure or king, ruler.[7] In this respect, therefore, Lia Fáil came to mean 'Stone of Ireland'. Inisfail appears as a synonym for Erin in some Irish romantic and nationalist poetry in English in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Aubrey Thomas de Vere's 1863 poem Inisfail is an example.

The term Fianna Fáil ("the Fianna, warriors, or army of Ireland"; sometimes rendered "the soldiers of destiny") has been used as a sobriquet for the Irish Volunteers; on the cap badge of the Irish Army; in the opening line of the Irish-language version of Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish national anthem; and as the name of the Fianna Fáil political party, one of the main parties in Ireland.[8]


Sometime in June 2012, the stone was vandalised. The stone was damaged in 11 places by a hammer.[9] It was vandalised again in May 2014 when green and red paint was poured on the stone covering at least 50% of its surface.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Patrick Weston Joyce (1911). The Lia Fáil or Coronation Stone of Tara. Retrieved 10 January 2011. The third of Tara's wonders was the Lia Fáil or Coronation Stone, on which the ancient kings were crowned; and the wonder of this was that it uttered a shout whenever a king of the true Scotic or Irish race stood or sat on it. And it was from this stone that Ireland received the old poetical name of Inisfail, that is, the Island of the (Lia) Fail. ... The story of the removal of the Lia Fáil to Scotland rests entirely on the authority of the Scottish historians. The oldest Scottish document to which it can be traced is the Rhythmical Chronicle, written it is believed at the close of the thirteenth century, from which it was borrowed later on by the two Scottish writers, John of Fordun and Hector Boece, and incorporated by both in their chronicles—those chronicles which are now universally rejected as fable. Our own countryman Geoffrey Keating, writing his history of Ireland in the seventeenth century, adopted the story after Boece (whom he gives as his authority for the prophecy); and it has been repeated by most other writers of Irish history since his time. But in no Irish authority before the time of Keating is there any mention either of the removal of the stone, or of the prophecy concerning it.
  2. ^ a b William Forbes Skene: The Coronation Stone. Edmonston & Douglas, 1869. p. 23
  3. ^ Book of Leister pp. 9–13.
  4. ^ "Ollam Fodhla and Company". United Church of God. 29 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Jeremiah, Ireland: CHAPTER VI. IRELAND (Tara)".
  6. ^ "Lebor Gabala Erenn pt 4".
  7. ^ "EDIL - Irish Language Dictionary".
  8. ^ Lord Longford; Thomas P. O'Neill (1970). Éamon de Valera. Dublin. chapter 21. ISBN 978-0-09-104660-6.
  9. ^ Louise Hogan (14 June 2012). "Hammer vandals damage 5,500-year-old 'Stone of Destiny'". Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  10. ^ "5,000-year-old standing stone vandalised in Meath". 29 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  11. ^ "Lia Fáil on Hill of Tara in County Meath vandalised". BBC News. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • FitzPatrick, Elizabeth. Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland c. 1100–1600. Woodbridge, 2004.
  • Nitze, William A. "The Siege Perilleux and the Lia Fáil or 'Stone of Destiny'." Speculum 31 (1956): 258 ff.
  • Ó Broin, Tomás. "Lia Fáil: fact and fiction in tradition." Celtica 21 (1990): 393–401.
  • Bondarenko, Grigory. "Lia Fáil and other stones: symbols of power in Ireland and their origins".[1]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Bondarenko, Grigory (2018). "Lia Fáil and other stones: Symbols of power in Ireland and their origins". Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. 65 (1): 45. doi:10.1515/zcph-2018-650104. S2CID 165547494.