Founded in 544 AD by Saint Ciarán, a young monk who studied under Saint Finian at Clonard Abbey, Clonmacnoise was a well-known and prestigious monastery that existed for hundreds of years. It has also been affiliated with the Kings of Munster who frequented the area during the time.
By the 9th century, and due to the site’s location within Ireland’s Midlands and close to the River Shannon, the monastery became a hub for religion and craftsmanship. Many great works of Celtic art and manuscripts were produced out of the monastery.
Into the 12th century, the site began to decline with new towns such as Athlone being established nearby and taking most of the trade.
What still remains at Clonmacnoise is O’Rourkes Tower, which was constructed in the 12th century. The site also still holds the remains of two round towers, three high crosses and supposedly Western Europe’s largest selection of graves slabs.
A visitor centre is now based at the site of Clonmacnoise, where a few of the site’s cross slabs are displayed.
Images courtesy of Tourism Ireland