07.25.2016 - 07.25.2016 61 °F
Clonmacnoise is, in a sense, at the center of Ireland. The River Shannon flows by it, and the Pilgrims' Road (really a glacial esker) which bisects the northern and southern halves of Ireland runs directly to it. We stayed right off the Pilgrims' Road, and only had to drive a short distance to get to Clonmacnoise. This statue is outside the gate, and it depicts Aedh, the son of a king of Oriel who died during a pilgrimage in 606.
Clonmacnoise is similar to the Rock of Cashel, but was predominately an ecclesiastical site. It was alternately under the patronage of the King of Connacht or the King of Meath, as it is locate immediately between those two ancient kingdoms. Luckily we were here early enough to watch the informative video and get a guided tour. The monastery was founded by St. Ciarán in the 540s. It was sacked several times, by Vikings, the English, and other Irish kingdoms. There are several high crosses, including the scriptural cross in these pictures.
One of the buildings (probably the pharmacy?) at Clonmacnoise. Our tour included a Franciscan priest originally from New York, but now serving in Limerick.
Some views around Clonmacnoise.
St. Dominic, St. Patrick, and St. Francis. The Franciscan in our tour was easily able to identify St. Francis by the stigmata and the cord.
Some more of the buildings around the site. It has two round towers: a very large one and a much smaller one, as well as a cathedral.
The modern oratory, where Pope John Paul II said mass when he visited Ireland in the seventies. He was aware of Clonmacnoise and St. Ciarán before coming to Ireland, and wanted to say mass at Clonmacnoise, where thousands of local people appeared when he landed in his helicopter.
The nuns' chapel, which is a short distance from the main site, and has a sheela na gig on one of the arches. It is a fascinating little chapel, founded by Dervogilla, the wife of Tiernan O'Rourke who was abducted by Dermot MacMurrough, thus inciting the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Us at the nuns' chapel.
Some more pictures of the site.
St. Ciarán's chapel. The legend is that soil from the floor, if sprinkled in the corners of a field, ensures the fertility of the field. The walls are bowed in from all the dirt that has been taken from the floor, which now has stone pavers on it. Some people have left coins near a stone inside. We asked the tour guide what the stone is, and he said no one knows. Daniel suggested that the people who leave coins must at least think they know what the stone is.
Daniel in the scriptorium, and a view of a cross from inside the scriptorium. This is where monks would have copied manuscripts. There are several extant manuscripts from Clonmacnoise, which include historical records.
The real crosses, as well as other artifacts, are inside the museum. There was a large tour of nuns going through while we were there. It was kind of interesting to see priests and nuns touring an old religious site, but on the other hand it was sad, just like at Cashel, to think that if history had gone differently there would be priests and nuns living and working here rather than simply touring ruins.
There are several hypotheses about this image. We thought it was probably St. Michael defeating the devil.
When we drove through Athlone we texted Adrian, as we were planning to see him that night. Daniel said "I bet Adrian will have a food recommendation in Athlone." A moment later, we got a text urging us to go to Seán's Bar. It is the oldest pub in Ireland, and most likely in the world. It was built in 900, making it older than most of the buildings at Clonmacnoise. The original wickerwork of the walls is on display on one wall.
Athlone Castle and the River Shannon. After this, we headed to Kilkelly where we met Martina and Mary Kathleen. We had a conversation with them, then headed to Adrian's house in Knock.
We picked up some food in Kilkelly village along the way: Shish kebab and chips to split. We went to Adrian's house and had a nice visit. We were there very late: somehow we lost track of time and it was 3:00 AM when we headed back to Kilkelly. We had an interesting night, particularly when Adrian's mother came to the door with two hypodermic needles in her hands (for the dog's bee stings) and expressed the opinion that Americans being bitten by a dog was far worse than Irish people being bitten (she meant that since we have to fly home soon, she wouldn't want us to have to deal with medical treatment or quarantines, but it sounded funny.) Adrian pointed out that this is the first time we've visited his house that there hasn't been a coup, which was very true. It was a great night.
When we arrived back in Kilkelly we found these creatures that Martina had left in our bed for us. It was nice to have the companionship of stuffed animals.