Clonmacnoise Monastic Site

Clonmacnoise , Co. Offaly

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site
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About Clonmacnoise Monastic Site

Clonmacnoise Monastic Site in Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly.

Clonmacnoise was founded in 545 by Saint Ciarán (516-546). He had been educated by Saint Finnian of Clonard (470-549), one of the early Irish monastic saints and later studied under Saint Enda of Aran who advised him to build a church and monastery in the middle of Ireland. With support from Diarmait mac Cerbaill, later to become King of Tara and the first Christian High King of Ireland, Ciarán built the first church on the site. Ciarán died in 546 from yellow fever and was buried reputedly in the building now known as Temple Ciaran; he was in his early thirties.

By the 9th century Clonmacnoise had become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade and together with Clonard it was the most famous in Ireland, visited by scholars from all over Europe.

Most of the buidlings until the 10th century were constructed of wood and no longer survive. From the 10th century onwards the buildings were constructed of stone. Beacuse of its strategic location it was frequently attacked by Vikings and Normans. In the 12th century it fell into decline. In the 13th Century the Normans built a castle next to the monastery and in 1552 the whole settlement was was finally sacked during the Reformation under Henry VIII.

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 graveslabs in Western Europe. The original high crosses and a selection of graveslabs 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.

Image © Copyright Alan Murray-Rust and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons.

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