The ancient ecclesiastical site of Clonmacnoise, located south of a beautiful bend in the River Shannon in Co. Offaly, is one of the most popular in Ireland. Consequently, a visit on Sunday afternoon proved fairly busy and we only just managed to find a parking space. However, 4pm was a good time to arrive as the crowds were beginning to leave.
River Shannon Below Clonmacnoise
The site is managed by the Office of Public Works and here’s the summary from its website :
“An Early Christian site founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century on the eastern bank of the River Shannon. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. The original high crosses and a selection of grave slabs are on display in the visitor centre.
The long and varied history of Clonmacnoise is recounted in an audiovisual presentation shown in the visitor centre. There are also exhibitions that deal with the flora, fauna and landscape of the region.”
The Visitor Centre houses an audio-visual theatre, interpretative display, selection of grave-slabs and the original three high crosses
General View of Clonmacnoise … near closing time
The Round Tower
Temple Connor with Temple Finghin and its round tower behind
Temple Connor church has been used by The Church of ireland since the 18th century. It possibly dates from around 1200AD.
Replica Cross of the Scriptures
One of Ireland’s finest high crosses is now housed inside the visitor centre. The cross and ringed head were all carved from a single piece of sandstone around 900AD. It stands about 4m in height and carvings include depictions of the Crucifixion, the Last Judgement and Christ in the Tomb. Other carvings have been less easy to interpret and possibly show a king and an abbott.
The Original Crosses have been moved to the Visitor Centre
The largest church at Clonmacnoise site was built in 909AD by Flann Sinna, King of Tara. It was greatly embellished in the 1450s including the north doorway (above). The carvings around the doorway are exceptional and above it are three saints – Dominic, Patrick and Francis.
Being almost the last to leave, after watching the video and exploring the displays with the added help of a lady attendant who was very keen to share her knowledge, we enjoyed a final atmospheric walk around the, by now peaceful, site.