(active 6th century in Ireland)

Exterior view

Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

Clonmacnois was one of the most celebrated Early Christian monasteries in Ireland, famed for its learning and artistic patronage and best known today for an outstanding collection of monuments and stone carvings. The monastery was founded by St Ciaran in 545 on a commanding site above a bend in the River Shannon. What started as a small religious community became the core of a monastic city, with much commercial activity and hundreds of lay inhabitants.

The scattered layout of the monastery, with its plethora of small chapels, is a typical example of early Irish planning. The existing ruins, however, give a misleading impression of what Clonmacnois was like in its heyday. The rampart and ditch that defined the precinct have vanished, and there is no trace of the hundreds of timber structures (refectories, dormitories, dwellings, storerooms, workshops, and schools) that once occupied the site. The remains of eight stone churches, a free-standing round tower, several sculptured crosses, and a magnificent series of carved grave slabs survive. None of the buildings goes back to the early years of the monastery, when wooden architecture was the norm.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.