Clonmacnoise and its medieval tower

In our most recent issues of Medieval Warfare, Vicky McAlister has been writing about the tower houses of medieval Ireland. Her articles have inspired us to take a look at the county's most famous medieval tower, which can be found at Clonmacnoise.

Situated along the River Shannon near the centre of Ireland, Clonmacnoise was founded as a monastery by St. Ciarán in the 540s. Its strategic location would allow it to become an important point for trade and politics. Over the centuries Clonmacnoise would grow in size, reaching as many as 2,000 persons.

However, by the twelfth century, the monastery would go into decline, caused in part by attacks and raids from first the Vikings and then the Normans. By the sixteenth century, Clonmacnoise would be in ruins.

Photo by Bärwinkel Klaus / Wikimedia Commons

Today, Clonmacnoise is a historical site managed by the Irish government, and now welcomes tens of thousands of tourists each year. The ruins of several medieval buildings still remain, along with high crosses and graveslabs that date back to the early ninth century.

The most iconic building at Clonmacnoise is McCarthy's Tower, a round tower that was constructed in the twelfth-century. It is connected to a small church and served as its bell tower. Today it stands nearly 17 metres tall, but during the Middle Ages it was twice as high.

To learn more about Clonmacnoise, please visit the Heritage Ireland website.

To learn more about Irish Tower Houses, check out the latest issue of Medieval Warfare.

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