Following on from the Money Tree at Clonenagh, I took a wander into the adjacent Graveyard in search of some early Christian grave slabs. I was not expecting much, but to my surprise they were easily found. Resting against the east face of the graveyard, wall just inside the gate. Numbering 13 in total and said to date back to the sixth & seventh centuries, each one has its own unique and distinctive features. Three are in false relief, Whilst many bear a standard cross within a circle design, some only feature a simple incised cross. A number of the stones appear to have had designs from a much later period engraved on to them. They were only discovered back in 1988, whilst a pathway was been dug through the graveyard. Although the graveyard looks to be kept in good condition and shows sign of regular maintenance, the slabs which lie upright against the wall are in an area which is commonly used for dumping grass cuttings and other debris, which has resulted in the base of the slabs being covered in soil and vegetation.
One stone in particular was quite interesting, Slab 6 consists of a ‘small, cross-shaped slab measuring approx 0.7m x 0.33m x T 0.05m, it has short stumpy arms and a plain, incised, outline of a Latin cross on one face roughly following the outline of the stone. These early Christian stones are quite rare to find in Laois, and considering their age and the amount of natural erosion on the stone from their exposure to the weather, I seriously doubt that they will survive much longer. Whilst I would hate to see them removed from their home and hidden away in some dark Museum, it might be the only chance for their survival unless some on site conservation plan is put in place to protect these stones from further weather erosion. These interesting stones are well worth a visit and you can also check out the nearby site of the early Christian Monastery at Clonenagh, founded by St. Fintan around 548AD and the ruins of Clonenagh Medieval Church.