Places to visit in Europe


Clonmacnois I will never forget that place in which we stopped for a short time in the early hours of Sunday, 30th September..... So wrote Pope John Paul on his return to Rome from Ireland in 1979 after a visit to this ruined monastic city, built on an esker or natural gravel ridge, and situated on a bend in the River Shannon.

Saint Ciaran founded Clonmacnois in the 6th century, and it quickly flourished, becoming one of the great European centres of learning and artistic activity, particularly between the 8th and 12th centuries. Nowadays, there remains an unmistakable sense of past greatness about the place. It has many stories to tell: stories of saints and pilgrims, Viking raiders and Norman knights. Stone and metalwork artefacts were fashioned in its workshops and some of the most important Irish manuscripts were written in its scriptorium. The remains of eight churches have survived within the extensive enclosure, along with the shell of a small cathedral, two round towers, and several high crosses. The crosses have been removed to the Visitor Centre and replaced by high quality replicas. Decorated with figure panels and biblical scenes, the 10th century Cross of the Scriptures, is one of Ireland's finest surviving crosses. The Visitor Centre houses the largest collection of early Medieval carved grave slabs in Britain and Ireland. The story of the Monastic Irish Midlands, the unique landscape, and in particular, of the settlement of Clonmacnois, is told with the help of an audio-visual presentation, text, and models Here indeed, as Pope John Paul said, "the very stones do speak".

Clonmacnois offers a detailed insight into Monastic Ireland and its saints and scholars. Gothic and Irish Romanesque architecture of high quality with early medieval decoration and design, together with Irish metalwork and books may also be seen. The site tells of the work of Irish missionaries in Europe, the expansion of the Vikings, the Norman advance, and the Napoleonic fortifications downriver. Continuing excavations in the cemetery and bridge site can be observed, with detailed information available in the Information Centre. The National Museum and Trinity College offer further information on these topics.

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