The ruins of the Clonmacnoise monastery complex lie south of Athlone on the eastern bank of the River Shannon, which winds leisurely along flat meadows. In 548, St. Ciarán founded this monastery, which soon gained enormous strategic importance due to its location on the periphery of the important north-south waterway and the east-west connection on land. Clonmacnoise developed into the most important centre of faith and was also an important trading place. Today you can visit the ruins of a cathedral, several churches, two round towers and several hundred tombstones on the area of the once glorious monastery settlement. In the centre of the complex stands the cathedral on a slight hill. It is the oldest stone church in Ireland. On its northern façade is a passage known as the “Whispering Door”. Standing in the passageway and whispering, this could be heard all over the cathedral.
Also the replicas of two important high crosses are on the area. The associated originals can be viewed in the adjacent museum, where they were placed protected from external influences. Speaking of museums. Here many relics of the complex are lovingly exhibited and an audiovisual show illustrates the eventful history of the monastery complex. This also includes the adversities with which the monks had to deal. The strategically perfect location also had the great disadvantage that enemies kept coming and plundering the monastery. Eight Viking raids alone were recorded, 27 times the monastery was attacked by Irish troops and 13 times the complex was burned down. But as often as adversity befell the monastery, the monks rebuilt it. Until finally Cromwell’s troops ravaged Clonmacnoise.