Clonmacnoise - O'Rourke Round Tower Round Tower




N 53° 19' 35.22"   W 007° 59' 11.7"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

N 00893 30689

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 20 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The round tower seen from the east-northeast.

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.

The round tower is at the far west side of the settlement, within the new boundary wall. It seems, though, it was outside the original enclosure when it was built by Turlough O'Connor, King of Connacht, and Gilla Christ O'Malone, abbot of Clonmacnoise, in 1124, but it seems the tower was a little unlucky because its top was struck and blown off by a lightining in 1135. The top was rebuilt and 8 new slit windows were inserted.
Its bell was stolen by the English soldiers in 1552.
It is about 19.5 metres tall, with a diameter of about 5.5 metres. It has a round-headed doorway at about 3.5 metres from the ground on the southeast side.
Two rectangular windows are on the south and north-northeast sides, on the third and fourth floor respectively.
The name O'Rourke derives from Fergal O'Rourke, King of Connacht in the 10th century, long before the tower was built.

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

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