Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Clonmacnoise

In July I went to visit my daughter who was in the Gaeltacht of Connemara, but on the way there stopped at the relative half-way point at the sixth century monastic site, Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly. Situated at the crosspoint between an ancient land route running east-west, the Eiscir Riada (an esker), and the Shannon River running north-south, Clonmacnoise was a busy place in its ancient heyday, and therefore there were also lots of battles and sackings there. The tour guide admitted that the Vikings got a bad rap here, as most of the trouble that ever occurred historically had to do with squabbles between small Irish kingdoms and tribes.


The site is quite large, with lots of unusual features, including 2 round towers. Apparently a very tall round tower was hit by lightning in the twelfth century and the second tower was built using the stone debris from the top of the first tower.


One of the high crosses as seen from the portal of one of the seven churches on this site.


The high crosses on site are replicas, with the originals being preserved in the Visitor Centre museum.


The crosses marked an area of sanctuary, but one of the crosses may originally have been a pagan slab, as indicated by its carving of a non-Christian fertility god, Cernunnos (with a ram-like head).


The tour guide pointed out a new "pagan" tradition that had only started this year (2016) -- tourists were leaving money at the foot of this cross slab within one of the churches.


A view of the Shannon river from the side of the Pagan cross slab. The carving a cross-legged, ram-headed Cernunnos is apparent.