Places to visit in Europe

Monastic Roscrea

Monastic Roscrea The Midlands of Ireland may rightly claim to have played a major role in the Christianisation of Europe. So many monasteries with scriptoria, and metal and stone workshops flourished here that the region has been aptly called "The Monastic Midlands.

Men of learning from Irish monasteries taught at the great European courts and placed their decorated manuscripts in continental libraries. Roscrea, in County Tipperary, is one of Ireland’s oldest towns. Situated on the Slighe Dhala, one of the five great roads of ancient Ireland, it grew from a monastic settlement founded by Saint Cronan in the 6th century, to a major Medieval centre fortified by a royal castle. Today it is a peaceful market town. The monastic site on Church Street remains dominated by the 12th century ruins of St Cronan’s Abbey. Certain artefacts from here, such as the 9th century manuscript, the "Book of Dimma", are housed in Trinity College, Dublin. Three kilometres east of the town, the island of Monaincha, which was once nothing but bog, became a hermitage and an internationally-renowned place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Indeed it is recorded in the Irish annals as being the 31st Wonder of the World. The monastic traditions of the area are perpetuated at the Cistercian Abbey of Mount Saint Joseph, 3 kilometres west of the town. Its guesthouse carries on the hospitable practices of Clairvaux and Citeaux.

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There are a great many monastic sites in the Midlands including Clonmacnois (see page ...), Rahan, and Lorrha, where examples of Hiberno-Romanesque artefacts and Gothic architecture can be seen. The Cistercian Abbey of Mount Saint Joseph is a reflection of monastic life in France and is an example of the growth of the New Orders in Ireland. Seir Kieran and Durrow have enchanting ruins. Others like Terryglass, Kyle, and Drumcullen have little now to show of their former glory. At Roscrea, the 13th century royal castle, with its gatehouse, curtain wall, corner turrets and gardens has been restored, and an 18th century town house, Damer House, stands within its walls. The castle gatehouse is home to the Roscrea Heritage Centre. Roscrea was also the birthplace of Anthony Hamilton (b1646), author of the minor French masterpiece, "Memoires du Comte de Grammont".

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