Founded By Saint Ciaran in the 6th century, Clonmacnoise occupies a beautiful site on the banks of the river Shannon. The monastery was founded on a strategic site by the fording point of the Eiscir Riada, or the Royal Route that travels East to West across the country. From the 8th to 12th century the monastery grew to become the most important ecclesiastical centre in Ireland with a population of over two thousand. The monastery was plundered many times by both the Viking and Norman invaders and was finally destroyed in 1552 by the English garrison in Athlone.
Despite the fact that the site has been abandoned for many centuries, there is much to see. A round tower dating from the time of the Vikings is to be found down by the river’s edge. Close by is the Temple Connor, an 800-year-old church with its original roof intact. The largest Church in the site is the cathedral, built in the 10th Century by the King of Tara. Clonmacnoise is famous for the artistic achievements of it inhabitants, in particular the Celtic Cross. The Cross of Scriptures, which originally stood in front of the Cathedral, is arguably the finest Celtic Cross in Ireland. The cross is carved from sandstone and stands four meters high. The surface of the cross is divided into panels that depict scenes from the bible including, the crucifixion, the Last Judgement and Christ in the Tomb. The cross is now housed in the museum which also contains some other crosses from the site. If you are lucky enough and the sun shines while you’re there, you will find Clonmacnoise a delightful place to visit.