Thursday, July 2, 2015

Clonmacnoise Monastery, Ireland

When I asked my go to Irish poet artist friend,Joyce Goodwin, where I should go to see monasteries, she emphasized Clonmacnoise. The west is especially known for it’s sacred place.  I suspect now that some of this had to do with the excellent nearby harbours .  Waterways were the roads of the day when after the fall of the Roman Empire travel overland was impeded by bandits, war loads, and ungodly tariffs.  The risk of ocean and even pirates was better. Ireland was closer to the Mediterranean and that area of ancient learning, connecting to the East than modern day Germany was to Italy.
Clonmacnoise Monastery is situated near Shannonbridge south of Athlone.  We found it heading across Ireland between Galway and Dublin. It was a major centre of religion, learning, trade. It was also a place for artisans. Laura and I saw the Clonmacnoise Crozier on display at the National Museum of Ireland. The Cross of Scriptures is considered to be the height of High Cross craftsmanship  Many of the high kings of Tara were buried here.
Saint Ciaran met Diarmait UiCerbaill who helped build the first church at this site.  Diarmait was to be the first Christian to be crowned High King of Ireland. St. Ciaran died in 544 ad.
Clamacnoise was at it’s height between 8 and 12th centuries. We saw the Clonmacnoise Crozier in the National Museum.
Laura and I loved the site with the beautiful view of the river.  Cows were grazing beside it.  There was an old ruins down the way which is likely where the old bridge was.  Temple Finghin and McCarthy’s Tower of the 11 th century are there. The O Rourke Tower finished in 1124 by King of Cnnacht O’ Connor, lost it’s upper  part when it was struck by lightning in 1134.
The North Cross, oldest of the three main crosses was built circa 800.  It has an image of Cernunnos, the Celtic god of hunting and fertility displayed on the east face.
The Cross of the Scriptures is an amazing high sandstone cross that has been moved inside for protection.  The museum housing it faced the replacement cross on the site.  It is 4 metre high  Clare sandstone carved circa 900 ad. The cross is divided into panels including the Crucifixion and Last Judgement.
The South Cross built in 9th Century is also on display inside by the interpretative site with the replica on site.
The Cathedral was built around 909 and is where the last high King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor was buried in 1198.
The roofed building held a church service still weekly. Beyond the wall there was a newer grave yard.  Further on there was the Nun’s Church.
Laura and I wandered about this site. It wasn’t that busy.  There were no major line ups not even for the on site toilets. There was a little back up at the cafe where we had a coffee after touring the site. The gift shop near the parking lot which was almost full when we arrived was excellent.  At such sights we just walked and sat and meditated and talked with God. These places are sacred in that way.
I imagine a place chosen for it’s peacefulness and purpose and then for thousands of years used as a site of learning and prayer.  This seems to rub off on the ions of a place if such a thing could be said, in an unscientific way.  It’s like the air is touched. The land seems less solid. There’s a greater space between electrons and neutrons. Matter seems leaner.  The sky is energized. The cattle are calmer. People seem gentler, more inward.  The colours are brighter.  I feel less alone and more at one with nature and God.
In Celtic Christianity nature is acknowledged for so than traditional Roman or Orthodox Catholicism.  It’s the origin of Creation Theology, the idea that God first made all of creation and then man.  God is apparent in this design in the laws of science. The spiritual laws are akin to gravity in their reality.  I loved that the saints of Ireland described us as being on a journey on earth. We’re spiritual beings having a material sojourn rather than material beings in a spiritual reality.  It’s in places like Clonmacnoise one can contemplate and feel akin to the spirit that underlies religion.
DSCN5531DSCN5532DSCN5533DSCN5538DSCN5541DSCN5536DSCN5551DSCN5544DSCN5549DSCN5553DSCN5558DSCN5560DSCN5569DSCN5570DSCN5571DSCN5579DSCN5583DSCN5628DSCN5584DSCN5587DSCN5581DSCN5593DSCN5602DSCN5610DSCN5615DSCN5620DSCN5622DSCN5625DSCN5644IMG 9772

No comments: