Monday, May 4, 2015

Clonmacnoise. Important Site for Centuries.

Leaning crosses, straight towers
Clonmacnoise.

Important Site for Centuries.
Nowadays a peaceful multi-acre ruin on the banks of the Shannon, Clonmacnoise was once an important religious site at the crossroads of one of early Ireland's main “roads”, the Eiscir Riada route from east to west. The Eiscir Riada were used both as routes and borders at the time. The monastic site is off the main road nowadays but hundreds of thousands visit annually.


Ruins now abound on the picturesque spot. Look closer though and you’ll see that conservation work is also proceeding and some of its most famous Celtic crosses are preserved within the interpretative centre. Perhaps in the 5th century you may have been asked to pay a toll, so today you will need to pay a modest fee to enter both the centre and the site.


Clonmacnoise, an early Christian site, was founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century. He died shortly afterwards but, despite many attacks (by Irish, Vikings and Normans), Clonmacnoise went on to become one of the most important sites for centuries afterwards, a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship, and trade.
Temple Finghín & McCarthy's Tower

High crosses in visitor centre
I have long wanted to visit and got my chance last weekend as I headed up from Cork to Roscommon and made the short detour from Birr. The remains of the buildings (churches and round towers) and the hundreds of grave stones (some of them quite recent) are not that visually remarkable at all. But the site and the story is. People still visit for spiritual reasons and a group were singing in the sheltered spot where the pope visited in 1979.


The interpretive centre is very useful and you should start with the video, though you may have to wait awhile for one in your chosen language. The building also houses many artefacts from the site, most importantly a few of the original Celtic crosses and very impressive they are.

There is parking for cars and buses, also a coffee shop in the centre and Clonmacnoise is easily reached from towns such as Athlone or Ballinasloe.
At prayer in Clonmacnoise May 1st 2015.
This 1979 structure is the Pope's Shelter.

Grave slab in centre
See also: The Arigna Mining Experience