Temple Ciarain

The 6th Century

543 to 549

Saint Ciaran founds the church of Clonmacnoise sometime between these dates. Ciaran dies within a year after the foundation of the church, probably from the yellow plague, which swept across Ireland around this time.

585 to 599

Saint Columbia (Colmcille) visits Clonmacnoise during the abbacy of Alither. Aodomnan's Life of Columbia states that :

"When they heard of his approach, all those who were in the fields near the monastery came from every side, and joined those that were in it, and with the utmost eagerness accompanying their abbot Alither they passed outside the boundary wall of the monastery, and with one accord went to meet Saint Columbia, as if he had been an angel of the Lord".

The 7th Century

Clonmacnoise (and similar significant ecclesiastical centres) were now surrounded by large lay populations and territorial and power struggles began between important religious centres.

The 8th Century


A battle was fought between the Columbian monastery at Durrow (also in Co. Offaly) and Clonmacnoise. By this time the original rigorous religious standards of both Saints Ciaran and Columbus had been largely diminished and, in an effort to restore these standards an ascetic movement (the Celi Dei) was established. Some of the adherents of this discipline may have lived within the Clonmacnoise community.

The settlement at Clonmacnoise was burnt at least three times during the eight century.

The 9th Century


An Irish King, Feidlimid mac Crimthainn of Cashel attacked the Clonmacnoise community, killing many of the inhabitants and burning church lands.

842 and 845

Raids on Clonmacnoise took place by Vikings settled around Lough Ree, burning the monastry's wooden churches.

The 10th Century


King Flanns' royal patronage made possible the carving of the Cross of the Scriptures and the building of the stone church (now termed the Cathedral).

The 11th Century


The paved way from the Yard of the Piglets to the Cairn of the Three Crosses was made by Abbot Breasal.


Two further causeways were made by Mael Chiaran, son of Conn na mBocht.

The 12th Century


Wooden slates were built over the great stone church.


Clonmacnoise became the cathedral church of the western part of the County of Meath.


Completion of the Round Tower.


A collection of treasures was stolen from the high altar, but returned the following year, with the unfortunate thief being hanged by the king of Munster.


The top of the Round Tower was struck by lighting


The yew tree of Saint Ciaran was also struck by lightning and 113 sheep sheltering under it were killed

1178 to 1203

The Anglo-Normans plundered Clonmacnoise on at least four occasions, during one of which 105 houses were burned.


Simon Rochfort, a Norman, became Bishop of Clonard in Meath and extended his power further and further into the area controlled up to that time by Clonmacnoise. After a relatively short time, the Clonmacnoise diocese was composed mainly of the territory of the MacCoghlans, the local ruling family.

The 13th Century


The Anglo-Norman Chief Governor of Ireland erected a royal castle at Clonmacnoise. This was part of an effort by the Anglo-Normans to control native Gaelic attacks on Anglo-Norman Settlements in the area.

The late 13th and 14th Centuries

This period saw the revival of Gaelic power and the expulsion of the Anglo-Normans, and the MacCoghlans again controlled the area until the 17th Century. The settlement declined in importance and lost the patronage of powerful kings. The poverty of the settlement is illustrated in a bardic poem, in which the poet records that he received no assistance or help from the clerics at Clonmacnoise:

I give thanks to the king of heaven, to God I give thanks, for having come to the king of Tuam, with who I am, from the paupers of Cluain Ciarain (Clonmacnoise)

The 15th Century

The north doorway and the east end vaulting were added to the cathedral.

The 16th Century

Even during the Reformation, Clonmacnoise remained in Catholic hands.


The English garrison at Athlone plundered and devastated the monastery, after which:

There was not left, moreover, a bell, small or large, an image or an alter, or a book, or a gem, or even glass in a window, from the wall of the church out, which was not carried off.


The Church of Ireland diocese of Clonmacnoise was united with that of Meath and this linkage has continued to the present day

The 17th Century


After the rebellion this year, the Catholic clergy gained control of Clonmacnoise.


Repairs were carried out to the cathedral by the Catholic Vicar General, Charles Coglan


The papal nuncio, Rinuccini met the then bishop of Clonmacnoise, at the monastery site


The Cathodic bishops of Ireland met at Clonmacnoise and issued decrees encouraging resistance to the arrival of Oliver Cromwell. However, this had little effect and Clonmacnoise again fell into disrepair.


The Irish historian, Sir James Ware, publishes a map of Ireland and its antiquities called "De Hibernia antiquitatibus elius disquisitiones", but his map of Clonmacnoise cannot be taken as reliable


Anthony Dopping, Church of Ireland bishop of Meath, writes a detailed account of the condition of the monastery and its buildings.


Temple Dowling was rebuilt and roofed.

The 18th Century


Temple Dowling was described as a parish church.


Temple Connor replaces the smaller Temple Dowling as a parish church.

The 19th Century


The chancel arch of the Nun's Church collapses.


The Kilkenny Archaeological Society issues an appeal to restore the arch of the Nun's Church.


The chancel arch and doorway of this church were rebuilt by the society and other building repairs were carried out.


The church ruins were taken into State care.

The 20th Century


The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland presented the graveyard, containing the main body of buildings, to the State. A Visitor Centre was later built, to house the crosses and a selection of cross slabs, while replicas of the crosses stand in their original locations.


Pope John Paul II visits Clonmacnoise in 1979. Clonmacnoise continues to be a place of pilgrimage up to the present day.

Visitor Count

Since 1.1.99

Page last revised 4.1.99