Irish Heritage Site
Sean McGibbon's Site
Clonmacnoise (clon-mac-nish) is an enormous array of medieval ruins and even earlier celtic crosses and oratories. The monastery was founded by St. Ciaran in 548 and it flourished as a center of learning for nearly a millenia. It counted as its patrons many Irish kings, including several who are buried here. It was once an enormous settlement -- in 1179, over a hundred houses were destroyed when the Anglo-Normans attacked. Only after looting and sacking by Danes and Anglo-Normans, did the complex fall from favor. It was abandoned in 1552. Ciaran did not see his monastery flourish -- he died at the age of 33 only four years after founding Clonmacnoise.
There is a cathedral here, no less than eight churches, two round towers (including one kind of weeny one), and three high crosses. The whole area is a current burial ground, and there are many stones dating back several hundred years. The visitors center contains the original crosses (those outside are reproductions, albeit very good ones). I find the crosses interesting, but only know enough about them to know that they usually contain biblican stories (espeically good vs evil), but at least one here contains non-bliblical scenes. The visitor's center is well worth the visit to see the details and "translations" of the crosses.
There are two round towers on the grounds. The Macarthy Tower still retains the original conical top -- most of the towers we've seen elsewhere are missing not only the roof, but a few feet off the top. The other tower on the site , O'Rourke's Tower, is roofless, but it is unique in that it has eight windows at the top insteadf the usual four.
lost in ireland 2005 travelogue and photos © rfingerson