World Monuments Watch
County Offaly, Ireland

1996 World Monuments Watch

Clonmacnoise is a beautiful complex of ruins – churches, towers, a castle, three high crosses, and hundreds of Early Christian cross slabs. Until recently no one knew the breadth of the archaeological wealth within the grounds adjacent to the 6th-century monastery. This is one of the most intact and scenic early monastic sites in Ireland. The monastery flourished for seven centuries and withstood numerous incidents of fire and plunder. In 1214, Norman conquerors built a castle at the site. Gaelic control resumed later in the century, but the monastery never regained its importance. Shortly after attack and devastation in 1552 by the English, the diocese was absorbed by its larger neighbor, Meath. Since the 1950s, the grounds adjacent to the monastery walls have served as a graveyard. Its planned expansion will threaten newly discovered ancient remains that lie below it. Use of the adjacent fields should be stopped to preserve the integrity of the site.

Since the Watch

The archaeological area surrounding the monastery joined the monastic core of Clonmacnoise as a National Monument in August 1996. The policy of Ireland's Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is not to permit the extension of burial grounds that lie within archaeological sites. Since local tradition favors interment in proximity to this sacred site, deliberation continues for the identification of appropriate burial locations. Meanwhile, a program of excavations in the area of the New Graveyard was completed in 1998. In 2010, The Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape was added to Ireland's Tentative World Heritage List. This long-standing pursuit was protested by community members who own land in the proposed buffer zone. February 2011

Last updated: June 2018.

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