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.
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
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.
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.
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.