Kells is a living town over a thousand years old its ancient and medieval remains everywhere in evidence. A walk through the town will lead visitors to realise that its physical treasures are the monastic layout of the town.
Monasteries were typically a complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics and generally a place reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church and may also serve as an oratory. A monastery complex typically comprises a number of buildings which include a church, dormitory, cloister, refectory, library, balneary and infirmary. Many monasteries would also have a "grange" - a large tract of farmland outside which catered for the food needs of the monks and visitors. Within there would typically be bee-keeping (for mead and healing wounds) and a fishpond.
When Columcille's order returned from Iona to Ireland, they rebuilt the monastery in Kells (either 802 or 807 A.D.) from when we date the High Crosses, Round Tower and the oratory known as Columcille's House.
Kells had High Crosses (or "termon" crosses, entrance points) which stood at the 5 entrances to the monastery - see map below which shows medieval Kells, which roughly corresponds with monastic Kells. The entrance points were at Carrick Gate, Maudlin Gate, Canon Gate, Farrell (Trim) Gate and Dublin Gate.
During the Cromwellian Wars of the late 17th century, the crosses were knocked over and damaged, and after their restoration were placed within the inner sanctum of the Monastery where they all still are, except the Market Cross which stands outside the Old Courthouse.