One of Ireland's ancient monuments, the Lia Fail standing stone which according to legend served as the coronation stone for the high kings, has been vandalised, the government said Wednesday.

Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the granite Lia Fail, which is Gaelic for Stone of Destiny, appeared to have been damaged last weekend.

An archaeologist from the National Monuments Service examined the stone and concluded that it had been struck -- possibly with a hammer -- at 11 places, on all four of its faces.

Fragments of the standing stone have been removed and police are investigating.

Describing it as "extremely important" monument, Deenihan said the stone was associated with the inauguration rites for the Kings of Tara and featured extensively in ancient texts.

"Vandalism, by definition, is a mindless act. I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to this monument," he said.

The stone was moved to its present location in Tara, County Meath, in the early 19th century.

Located about 30 miles (50 kilometres) northwest of Dublin, Tara was the focus of political and religious life in pagan Ireland but the site was largely abandoned by the sixth century.

Mythology gives Tara (from the Gaelic "Teamhair", or lofty place) an exalted status as the top royal site in Ireland and there are many national monuments in the area.