Clonmacnoise during its heyday was one of the largest and most important monastic centres in Ireland and is a must see on your Ireland tours.
Situated at the crossroads of two important medieval routes , the Shannon and the Eiscir Riata , the monastery was founded in the mid-6th century by St Ciaran. By the 8th century it had expanded to become a thriving centre centre of art and learning.
The 11th century “Annals of Tigernach” and the 12th century “Lebor na hUidre” (Book of the Dun Cow) were produced in the Clonmacnoise scriptorium. The remaining high crosses and over 600 complete and fragmented memorial slabs indicate the presence of important stone workshops; a strong tradition of fine metalworking is also associated with the site.
The wealth and accessibility of the monastery made it an obvious target for attack. Between 834 and 1163 it was plundered or burned 35 times by both native and Viking foes. When the monastery was raided by Anglo-Norman forces in 1179 , 105 houses were burned , an indication of the size of the settlement at that time. Clonmacnoise was finally destroyed as an active religious centre in 1552 by an English garrison stationed at Athlone. The remnants of the settlement include eight churches , two round towers , and an impressive Anglo-Norman fortification.
Clonmacnoise is worth a stop on your tours of Ireland.