Clonenagh Medieval Church

Clonenagh Medieval Church (3)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (1)
A recent excursion out around Laois saw the return of my two eldest Ruinhunters Ryan & Ava. The first port of call was to the early Christian Monastery at Clonenagh. It’s been about three years since I first explored these old ruins, so it was a good place to continue the junior Ruinhunters training. Clonenagh which means the ‘Ivy Meadow’ started off life as a monastery founded by St. Fintan around 548AD. Fintan is believed to have been born in Leinster around 524AD. He began his religious training at Terryglass Abbey before moving on to found his on settlement here at Clonenagh.

Clonenagh Medieval Church (3)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (5)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (4)

Nothing remains of the original settlement, which like so many was attacked and destroyed by the Vikings in 838AD. The complex was again plundered by the King of Cashel and the Danes of Waterford in 937AD. Locals claim that up to 7 churches have been located at this site in its history with the remains of one still there and archaeological evidence for 2 others. The surrounding graveyard seems to have been used predominantly for Protestant burials with Catholic burials taking place in the graveyard across the road to the north-east. Another is said to be in a nearby field to the east, known as St. Brigid’s, but I could not find any trace of this.4

Clonenagh Medieval Church (6)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (9)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (8)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (7)

The church which still stands today was actually built in the 16th century. it site on higher ground than the surrounding lands and is surrounded by an oddly shaped boundary wall. Access is via a stile in the boundary wall. It would seem that the iron gates at the entrance have seized over the years. it consists of a nave and chancel church built from roughly coursed sandstone and limestone rubble. The east gable contains a nice two-light window, which was hammer dressed. It also has signs of bar-holes and glazing grooves. The sandstone chancel arch has a central rib of finely hammer dressed limestone. Right above the apex of the arch is a rectangular shaped window of sandstone with flat chamfered head. There are no original opes visible in N or S walls. A large number of uninscribed grave-markers and headstones, which certainly postdate the 1700’s and most likely date right back to the early monastic settlement.

Clonenagh Medieval Church (10)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (12)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (11)

In the early 17th century the church at Clonenagh was converted into a Protestant parish church and remained in use until the end of the 18th century. Sadly the original settlement is divided by the N7 Road. Nearby in the Catholic graveyard are some interesting cross slabs which I will show in a later post. There is also a rather interesting Holy tree, the holy well that is said to have once been part of this settlement is now gone, I could find no trace of it, chances are it was destroyed by farming practises before anyone could do anything about it as was the case for a lot of these sites.

Clonenagh Medieval Church (13)

Clonenagh Medieval Church (15)

My two Ruinhunters had a blast exploring the graveyard an church ruins. The entrance points to the church were blocked of by some barriers, probably to keep animals out. But I went in first to check that it was still safe for the little ones. It was fine so they came in for a quick look around and we put the barrier back in place before leaving. They both used my cell phone camera to take a number of shots which when I went to look through them ended up consisting of more selfies than anything else. All the kids images are straight of the phone and have not been touched in any way. I reckon with a bit of practise I might have a few more photographers in the family. Check out their slideshow below.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Clonenagh Medieval Church

  1. John says:

    i would love to go back in time and be at these beautiful structures when they were pristine. Great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SwittersB says:

    I use the word ‘funny’ with irony…I understand the realities of it all…but, I get all excited photographing a pioneer cemetery from the early 1800’s’…east coast U.S. have the 1600/1700’s to play with….but Ed you always waltzing around snapping shots from the middle ages!!!! Powerful stuff!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. suej says:

    Great, atmospheric monochrome Ed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ali Isaac says:

    Great pics Ed! Yeah looks like you may have some competition in coming years from your apprentice ruin hunters lol! Love how you faded the edges of these images into black… just seemed to age the pics and add extra drama and authenticity to an already atmospheric place.

    I love all the detail you give too ie hammer dressed stone, chamfered head, roughly coursed. I actually dont know what any of these terms mean, so I was wondering if you could at some point in the future write a post explaining such terminology, using your pics to illustrate what you mean?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ali, Hot on my heels that pair. You know I though about adding a terminology page to the blog. Initially I would come across such terms and would leave them out as I did not understand them. You know machicolations and the likes.

      Hammer dressed is a masonry term which basically means that the stone was shaped and smoothened using only the hammer.

      Chamfer is a bevel that connects two surfaces.

      Rough coursing is another masonry term used in construction where roughly dressed stones of random size are used, as they occur, to build up courses; the gaps between them are filled with smaller pieces, or with mortar.

      Hope this sheds some light, I will endevour to make it easier to understand. Thanks for the idea, 🙂


  5. rhbblog says:

    Really interesting series!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So many great shots here! And all that red hair. Gimme! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really interesting post. I’ve ancestors from there. Really want to visit now but it’ll be a few months before I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. oh they set the imagination on fire for sure. I love these Ed. I love your kids too!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dianaed2013 says:

    This is such an interesting blog. The treatment of the photos really gets over the ‘feel’ of the place


  10. Pingback: The Money Tree | EdMooneyPhotography

  11. Pingback: Clonenagh Cross Slabs | EdMooneyPhotography

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