Clonmacnoise - © Elena Schweitzer Clonmacnoise Cathedral with the typical crosses and graves. The monastery ruins. Ireland
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Athlone, (County Offaly)
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Vestige of the past, the monastery of Clonmacnoise is a site to visit if you like to immerse yourself in Irish history. Clonmanoise will take you back in time to the time of monasteries and religious hamlets where priests and disciples lived together in a true cultural centre where the qualities of knowledge and faith were preached . It was in fact one of the greatest university and religious centres of the time!

History of the Monastery of Clonmacnoise

One of the most important cultural and religious centres in all of Europe


The origins of Clonmacnoise date back to 545, when the priest Saint Ciarán decided to build a wooden church on the top of an esker, in order to be able to contemplate the unrivalled panorama overlooking the Shannon and the rest of the county of Offaly. With the help of a man known as Diarmait mac Cerbaill, they began the construction of the church and completed it a few months before Saint Ciarán died of the yellow plague.

Over the centuries, the buildings around the church have multiplied to form a veritable hamlet, where priests and disciples devoted their time to learning Christian texts, as well as mastering Irish grammar and the knowledge of the time.

The fame of Clonmacnoise was such that the place became one of the largest university and religious centres of the time. Its influence extended from the 6th to the 12th century!

Because of its fame, many kings of the province of Connaught and the House of Tara chose to be buried in Clonmacnoise. You will therefore have the opportunity to walk around the welcoming tombs of great figures of Irish History!

Visit Clonmacnoise

The monastery of Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis in Irish Gaelic) is situated in County Offaly, on the bank of the river Shannon, not far from the town of Athlone. Easily accessible, you will face magnificent ruins including a collapsed cathedral, 8 churches and 2 round towers. Here is an overview of the different constructions you can visit:

The Cathedral

Built by the abbot Colmán, the construction of the cathedral lasted 5 centuries (from the 10th to the 15th century). The cathedral still has some sections of walls still standing. Don’t miss the main door, which has a magnificent arcade.

Don’t hesitate to whisper: visitors all agree that the cathedral’s acoustics allow you to be perfectly heard!

The churches of Clonmacnoise

  • The Finghín Temple Church: This is a Romanesque church dating from the 12th century. It has a round tower where old books were once stored. According to historians, this tower is said to have protected particularly important writings based on illumination and calligraphy.
  • The church Temple Connor: This church was officially requisitioned by the Church of Ireland from the 12th century to officially practice the Catholic religion. Rather imposing, Temple Connor was one of the principal places of prayer of the time, and considered as the second largest church of the site, until the completion of the construction of the cathedral .
  • L’église Temple Ciarán : Built in homage to Saint Ciarán, founder of Clonmacnoise, this small church has rather modest dimensions (hardly 3 meters wide by 4 meters high) . According to the legend, this church would welcome the tomb of the saint…
  • L’église Temple Daimliag : Built in 909, this stone church is worth the detour. Although it is in ruins, it will plunge you into a world quite different from that of the other churches in Clonmacnoise.
  • melaghlin Temple Church: This church was built in the 13th century.
  • the Dowling Temple Church: This church was built in the 11th century and then renovated in 1689 by Edmund Dowling.

The round towers

  • The Chronicum Scotorum: this round tower also dates from the 12th century and was built on the order of Turlough O’Connor, King of Connachtet. It was in 1135 that it partially collapsed due to lightning.

The Celtic Crosses

  • The Northern Cross: this Celtic cross was erected in the 7th century, and is thus the oldest Celtic cross in Clonmacnoise.
  • The Southern Cross: this Celtic cross is beautifully decorated with interlacing.
  • The Sculpted Cross: this Celtic cross of the 10th century has some texts finely carved in stone. It is said to be a prayer addressed to Flann, King of Ireland.

Practical information

Address Address:
near Athlone

Coordonnées GPSGPS:
53.326307, -7.986296
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Clonmacnoise : the map