Clonmacnoise Round Tower
At a Glance
County Offaly
OS Map 47
OS Coordinate M 034 803
Condition altered top
Height 16m
Doorway Type Arched
Window Type lintelled
Number of Windows 10
Ground to Doorway 3.5 m
Distinguishing Features 8 bell-storey windows
Traditional Association St. Ciaran
-- Holding a mouse over a thumbnail picture will "popup" information for many of the pictures
-- Clicking ON the thumbnail picture will load up a 1024x780 version of that picture
RoundTowers Home

Clonmacnoise Round Tower Co. Offaly

Door facing SE and small window facing SW Door facing SE and small window facing SW Door facing Southeast Door facing Southeast Door facing SE and small window facing N Small Window facing North
Door facing SE and small window facing N Door facing Southeast Door facing Southeast Both Towers
O'Rourke's Tower (clogas mor)
Inside the tower
McCarthy's Tower (clogas beag)

Clonmacnoise Round Tower
County Offaly
O.S. Map 47

Location: On the east bank of the Shannon River. From just east of Ballinasloe in County Galway (N6), about a kilometer, take R357 SE to Shannonbridge (approx. 10 km). In Shannonbridge, take R444 (on your left) NE approx. 5 km. The road bends at a 90 degree angle here and the entrance to Clonmacnois is on the left just before the bend. From Athlone, take N62 south and then right onto R444. Because it's such a well-known site, there is a reasonably large carpark. It gets very busy in the summer months, but it is open year round usually 10 am to 5:30 pm. Heritage Cards are accepted here.

O' Rourke's Tower
The tower is situated in the north-west corner of the old graveyard. Until the present wall was built in 1957, the tower stood outside the walls of the monastic complex. There is an offset about 10 cm wide and about 20 cm above the surrounding pavement. Above this offset, the circumference is just over 17.5 meters, making the diameter just over 5.5 meters. From the pavement to the highest point on the tower is approx. 19.3 meters. The tower is composed of well-shaped rectangular grey limestone blocks to the level of the bell-storey windows where obvious reconstruction work uses smaller and more irregular stone. Annals record that it was built by Turlough O'Connor and O'Malone, the successor of Ciaran and completed in 1124. It was damaged by lightning in 1135 and the present top with its eight openings is of later date. The doorway faces southeast at a height of 3.5 meters above the offset at the base. It is a slightly triangular shaped arch, being narrower at the top, wider at the bottom. The arch is beautifully cut of nine matching stones resting on transitional stones that project slightly into the doorway and above the five jambstones on either side. All stones carry through the entire depth of the wall. There are 10 windows. One lintelled window to the northwest is one level above the doorway. Another lintelled window is to the north facing the River Shannon. The other eight windows, all lintelled, are at the bell-storey level, facing the cardinal compass points and opposing points between.

McCarthy's Tower or Teampuill Finghin
The complete round tower belfry attached at the junction of the nave and chancel of this Romanesque church is situated at the edge of the graveyard closest to the Shannon. The tower is an integral part of the building, having never been freestanding and is thought to date from around 1160-70. The Romanesque chancel arch appears to have been damaged by fire at some stage and its present inner order is a later limestone replacement. Often called the second round tower of Clonmacnoise, it is 16.7 meters high with a diameter of almost 4 meters at the base. The conical cap, with it's unusual herringbone pattern, was taken down and reset by the Office of Public Works in 1879-80. The tower has a door at ground level with no indications that the usual raised door ever existed. Also unusual is the lack of the traditional four bell-storey windows, as there are just the two at this level - to the north and south - and they are noticeably lower than the usual bell-storey windows of other towers. The five windows in the drum are all situated in the south side of the tower. Most of these windows are either arched or in a recessed arched surround.


Comments: Clonmacnoise (the Irish Cluain Mhic Nos) is an ancient ecclesiastical site, situated south of Athlone, near the centre of Ireland. Its location contributed to its development as a major center of religion, learning, trade, craftsmanship and political influence. The monastery grounds contain many religious buildings.


Other Items of Interest: The museum at this site houses a remarkable collection of ornate early graveslabs as well as the original high crosses (replicas were installed in the original locations) for preservation. The 13th century north door at Temple Dermot has some fine carving and is surmounted with high reliefs of three saints: Dominic, Patrick and Francis (though St. Francis' head is missing). The interior of the cathedral was inacessible in 2004 due to restoration work. An Anglo-Norman castle ruin perches precariously on an elevated mound beside the Clonmacnois complex. It dates from somewhere between 1214 and 1220. Also outside the complex, but very important to the site, is the Nun's Church. Although maps show the direction, I have yet to see one with clear directions to this lovely Hiberno-Romanesque church. The doorway and chancel arch of this little church are elaborately carved with celtic interlace, fanciful beast and human heads, and floral patterns. On the left side of the chancel arch in the seventh diamond up can be found an acrobatic little sheela-na-gig, feet tucked behind her ears. To find the Nun's Church, follow the path through the old cemetery, into the new cemetery along the raised ancient "Pilgrim's Path" to the road at the gate. Walk along the straight road, keeping the Shannon on your left. Approximately 400 yards on the right is the little Nun's church - quite easily seen in its own enclosure.

  © 2004-2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.