Trying to escape a rainy day in County Sligo, we had planned to go south while following the Shannon, Ireland's longest river.
One of our first stops was Clonmacnoise, a 6th century monastic site located on the banks of the river Shannon.
We had booked our free tickets in advance of our arrival ( Clonmacnoise | Heritage Ireland ) , required as part of the Covid 19 controls which have been put in place to provide all visitors with a safe experience.
The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures are on display in the visitor centre, unfortunately this isn't open to the public due the covid19 controls put in place. But don't worry, replicas of these crosses are placed in the monastic enclosure.
The Monastery was founded by St Ciaran who studied under St Finian at Clonard Abbey. Clonmacnoise flourished due to its strategic location and over the years became a major centre of learning, religion, craftmanship with students from all over Europe.
The ruins include a cathedral, two round towers, three high crosses, 9 churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.
During these early years, some of Ireland's finest illustrated manuscripts were created at Clonmacnoise. And with its large population, Clonmacnoise resembled more a town than a monastry. All the domestic houses were built out of wood and have not survived, but excavations have found remains.
Clonmacnoise is also home to three high crosses. The most famous one of the three and one of Ireland's finest surviving crosses is the Cross of the Signatures.
The 4 meter high cross was carved out of one piece of sandstone and is makes for an impressive sight. Its surface is divided in panels with figured scenes. Where some of the scenes are biblical in origin, others are not.
The south cross is also a ringed sandstone cross which stands 3.7 meter meter tall. It is covered mostly with abstract ornament in the form of interlacing spirals, fretwork and bosses.
it has a crucifixion scene in low relief unusually placed on the lower shaft rather than the cross-head itself.
The North cross is only a shaft. The style of this cross has been compared to the book of Kells and a date of around 800 is likely.
Within the Monastery are many buildings, some of them listed below:
Temple Finghin: This Romanesque church comes with a complete round tower belfry attached.
Temple Connor: This little roofed church has been used by the Chruch of Ireland since 18th Century
Round tower: Althrough the tower is missing a large part of its top, it is a brilliant example of a free-standing belfry. And as is normal with these round towers, the doorway is well above ground level which would provide protection when needed. The tower was built in 1124 by Turlough O'Connor and O'Malone, the successor of Ciaran.
The tower was damaged by lightning in 1135.
The Cathedral: The largest of the churches of Clonmacnoise was built in 909 by Flann Sinna, King of Tara, and Coleman, Abbot of Clonmacnoise.
Our enjoyable visit got interrupted by a heavy shower, but we didn't mind. The beauty of Clonmacnoise location is that you can arrive by boat, park up your boat at the mooring and visit the heritage site.
All we can say that this is a must visit location .