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Published: February 8th 2010
We’re back on the road! Kind of. By “back on the road” I mean, we took a day trip from our house, in our car. Technically back on the road in my books. Our reason? To go and see Clonmacnoise, one of Irelands finest and oldest religious settlements. Clonmacnoise (in Irish Cluain Mhic Nois) , which means The Meadow of the Sons of Nos, was featured on an episode of Time Team (or one of those programs) and it got me thinking how much we really don’t know about our own country and also how by visiting these places it could fill the void left after traveling for the last year. For those who did follow our blogs before, we have settled back into ‘normal’ life, but still crave that carefree feeling of freedom you get from traveling. I now have a new dog, Cody, which the government pays me to walk every day, if you know what I mean, but hopefully soon I will be returning to work in the next few weeks. Michelle got a job no problem but she’s sick of me telling her how lucky she was ; )
Every Irish day out needs a few
essentials. The flask of tea, milk, some bread and a bit of ham and cheese. We were fancy and brought a few brown scones and boiled eggs as well! One thing we always do over any other thing, is keep rechecking that we put the tea bags in the picnic basket. Milk, check, tea bags, check, hot water, check, tea bags still there, check, and so on. A day could be ruined if you forgot the tea bags. Basket packed I hit the road and collected Michelle from her house and we took the old road to Co. Offaly where Clonmacnoise sits on the banks of the river Shannon. The reason I say ‘old road’ is that while we were away a big new motorway opened up connecting Galway to Dublin in just over 2hrs. Before it could have been 3 hrs or more. My advice to any tourist though would be to take the old road. If your not in a rush its far more scenic and you get to pass through some of the smaller Irish towns and at least have a passing view of what life is like in them.
It was a typically nice Irish
day, by that I mean it was only threatening to rain, and there was a cool breeze which only made us feel how much we were going to appreciate that cup of tea later on. I was surprised how many cars were in the car park as it is very much low season. We arrived just in time for the audio visual presentation. This was a 20 minute video on the history of Clonmacnoise and how it came to be. Around 548AD, St. Ciaran sailed down the Shannon, Irelands largest river, and decided to settle and build his own monastery here. The place he decided on was literally the crossroads of Ireland, where east to west and north to south crossed. This location made Clonmacnoise a major centre of religion, learning, trade, craftsmanship and political influence. Clonmacnoise began to resemble a town more than a monastery.
Originally the buildings were made of wood until the 10th century when they started using stone. The site contains a number of different churches, a round tower, a castle and three stone crosses. All of these were built between the 10th and 17th century, each taking the name of the person who built
The North Cross
Only the shaft survives today
them. The round tower was built in a way that it had a high entrance only accessible by ladder and these became a place of refuge when under attack. The stone crosses have been moved into the visitor centre to protect them from the elements and replaced with replicas in their original positions. A lot of the craftsmanship was ahead of its time when compared to other relics in Europe of the same time.
Clonmacnoise was plundered on many occasions, by fellow Irish, Vikings, Anglo-Normans and fell into decline in the 13th century. In 1522 the English garrison from nearby Athlone reduced it to a ruin and Clonmacnoise was no longer used. The years after it was used as a picnic spot by the wealthy before it was handed over and became a national monument in 1877. Clonmacnoise had survived for nearly 1000 years and is still used today by pilgrims who come to see the burial place of St. Ciaran. What fascinates me most about these places is to try and picture them in their full flow. People going about their business, new buildings being built, the fear and expectancy of raids from enemies. Each church and tower
having more stories to tell than we can ever imagine. You would wonder what St. Ciaran would think if he knew when he built his first church what would become of the site that is now known as Clonmacnoise.
In a bit. DH
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