8 bell-storey windows
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Clonmacnoise Round Tower Co. Offaly
O'Rourke's Tower (clogas mor)
McCarthy's Tower (clogas beag)
Clonmacnoise Round Tower
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
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
McCarthy's Tower or Teampuill Finghin
The complete round tower belfry attached at the
junction of the nave and chancel of this
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
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
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