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Clonmacnoise - Temple Finghin Church
 

County

Offaly

Coordinates

N 53° 19' 37.2"   W 007° 59' 08.88"

Nearest town

Shannonbridge

Grid Ref.

N 00946 30750

Map No.

47

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

48

Date of visit

Wednesday 20 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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Temple Finghin and the McCarthy's Round Tower seen from the southwest.


Clonmacnoise lies in a meander on the left bank of River Shannon, and it is one of the oldest early Christian settlements in Europe.

St. Ciarán along with Diarmait Uí Cerbaill founded it around 544 and he chose a central site in Ireland, at the crossroads of the main Irish river and the Esker Riada, the geological gravel and sand formation that stretches east-west across Ireland, so that the new monastery could be accessed from everywhere.
It soon became an important centre for studying religion and it attracted scholars and pupils from all over Europe, and grew into a large monastic city. It was also an important centre for craftmanship and trade.

In its best period it had up to 17 churches, but today only 7 of them survive in ruins. Along with these ruins, there are also three crosses and two round towers, one of which attached to a church.

Temple Finghin, and its attached McCarthy's round tower, is at the northernmost side of the monastic settlement, and the buildings are almost entirely beyond the boundary wall.
Temple Finghin is a nave and chancel church, with a wonderful three-order Romanesque chancel arch and a doorway in the south wall of the nave, next to the west gable.
The south wall of the nave is very low, the north wall is a bit taller, but not to its full height. The west wall of the nave has a nice reconstructed Romanesque window. Recent conservation works added a rod across the window and a lead protection foil around the outer perimeter of the window.
The chancel is small, with a small round-headed window in the east (85°) wall. There are two rectangular recesses in the east wall, possible ambries, and two recesses in the south wall, one of which was a piscina. This has a nice decorated hollow where modern visitors leave coins as an offer.
In the south wall of the chancel there's a doorway to access the McCarthy's round tower at the ground level.
This round tower is about 17 metres tall and has a diameter of nearly 4 metres. The conical roof was reconstructed by OPW in 1880.
The tower has seven windows. One is on the north side, one is on the south-southwest side, the other five are on the southeast and south-southeast side.
Inside the nave, the southeast corner has been chamfered to create a strong support for the round tower.

We came to Clonmacnoise for the first time on July 4th, 1994, and again on May 18th, 2002.


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