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Clonmacnoise Monastic Site

(Cluain Mic Nois.)

  (Meadow of the sons of Nois)

This monastery is situated on the banks of the [The ruined abbey of Clonmacnoise.] Shannon, it was founded in 545 AD by by St Ciaran on a fertile meadow, or cluain, surround ed by bog. It could be reached only by river or along esker ridge known as the pilgrim's road. The monastery flourished for 600 years as a centre of learning and religious instruction. It also supplied much of Ireland's finest Celtic art and illuminated manuscripts. The earliest known manuscript in the Irish language Lebor na hUidre (The book of the Dun Cow so called after a cow that belonged to St Ciaran) was written here in in the 11th century.

Clonmacnoise was the burial place of the kings of Connacht and of Tara, the last high king of Ireland Rory O'Connor was buried here in 1198

The monastery survived numerous attacks from Vikings and Norman's, it appears also that rivalry between the monasteries was not uncommon, one report from 764 states that 'Durrow monastery suffers 200 dead when it fights a pitched battle with the monks of Clonmacnoise'. Clonmacnoise was burned down in the year 1204 for the twenty sixth time. (Another source states 36 this may be a typing error) It was desecrated and destroyed in 1552 by the English garrison from Athlone.

The ruins are the most extensive in Ireland, consisting of a Cathedral, eight churches, two round towers, three high crosses, two hundred grave slabs and a 13th century castle. The nuns church a 12th century Irish-Romanesque building with a simple church and only a knave and chancel. The chancel arch is carved with geometrical patterns in three orders. The church was built in 1167 by Dervorgilla, the wife of a Breifne chieftain Tiernan O'Rourke. Whose abduction by Dermot MacMurrough King of Leinster, was one of the contributory factors leading to the Anglo Norman invasion of Ireland

Underwater in The Shannon near Clonmacnoise archaeologists have found the remains of a wooden bridge, built in A.D. 804 it is 533 ft long and 17 ft wide.