The Emerald Isle

century. Carefully sited on a fertile meadow by the Shannon, its only access, apart from the river, being a ridgeway walk known as the Pilgrim’s Road, the monastery survived and flourished as a center of learning for 600 years. Some of Ireland’s finest illuminated manuscripts were produced at Clonmacnoise, including the 11th-century Book of the Dun Cow ( Lebor na hUidre ), the earliest-known manuscript to have been written in Irish, which took its name from a cow belonging to St. Ciáran. Another treasure from Clonmacnoise is the magnificent Crozier of Clonmacnoise, its golden handle inlaid with silver and decorated with the animals which once protected a saint’s wooden staff. It can now be seen in the National Museum in Dublin. The ruins at Clonmacnoise are extensive and well preserved and include a cathedral, eight churches, a castle, two round towers, and three high crosses. A collection of some 200 grave slabs, many inscribed with memorial prayers in Irish, can be seen in the Visitor Centre, together with the three high crosses, which have been replaced with replicas at their original locations. One of the eight churches at Clonmacnoise was built by a chieftain’s wife called Dervorgilla. It was her abduction by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, which led 171 The Emerald Isle OPPOSITE & ABOVE: The Ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise, Althone, County Offaly, is situated at the crossroads of Ireland on the banks of the river Shannon. The early Christian site was founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, round tower, early Christian graveslabs, and original high crosses.