The monastery of Clonmacnoise was founded by St Ciarán in 546 a.d. and is one of Ireland’s most important ecclesiastical centres. This strategic location on the Shannon was where the main east-west road across the country met the north-south one. Ciaran a young preacher from Roscommon convinced Diarmait Uí Cerbaill (the first High King of Ireland to practice Christianity) to help him build a church here. Ciarán, however, died the following year of the yellow fever aged only 33 and was reportedly buried under this original wooden and he became revered as his life and death mirrored that of Jesus. By the 9th century tiny cluster of monastic buildings grew and eventually stone structures replaced the wooden ones and attracted many pilgrims, craftsmen and scholars from all over Europe. It’s population probably reached 2000 and became linked as the ‘choice’ place to buried for the Kings of Meath, Tara and Connacht. Between the 9th and the 12th centuries it was attacked at least 27 times by the Irish, 7 times by Vikings and 6 times by the Anglo-Normans!  After the 12th century Clonmacnoise went into decline. Athlone grew further up stream and an influx of continental religious orders such as the Franciscans, Augustinians, Benedictines and Cluniacs entered Ireland. Buildings on site include the churches Temple Ciaran, Temple Connor and Temple Kelly and the Cathedral where the last High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, is buried. There are also 2 Round Towers, 3 exquisite High Crosses. Some of Ireland’s most beautiful metal and stone artwork were created here including The Clonmacnoise Crozier (on display in the National Museum of Ireland) and the Cross of the Scriptures. Clonmacnoise was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

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