Medieval Church

: A monastery was founded in the small townland of Clonfert in the mid-sixth century by Saint Brendan the Navigator. The monastery was a thriving centre of learning for centuries. At one time it is estimated there were 3,000 monks based at Clonfert. It was subjected to many viking raids and was burned down in 1016, 1164 and again in 1179. The only remaining evidence of the monastery is the 12th century St Brendan's Cathedral. The church is renowned for it's 12th century Hiberno-Romanesque western doorway. The doorway has six orders of decorated brown sandstone and a later inner order made from 15th century blue limestone. Above these is a tall pediment consisting of triangles with alternating human heads. The orders or mouldings are elaborately decorated with repeating patterns to the numbers 3 and 7. The doorway is attributed to Peter O'Moore, a Bishop of Clonfert from 1161 to 1171. Although the weather was dreadful that day I was still able to appreciate the wonder of this delightful piece of medieval architecture.


As you enter into the church it naturally seems quite dark but slowly some fascinating features reveal themselves. The southern pier, of the15th century chancel arch, is decorated with three angels. Below the angels is a rosette and immediately below this a seafaring motif in the form of a mermaid, which may be a reference to the voyages of St Brendan. The northern arch also features angels. There is a 13th century east window described as the finest of it's kind. Other features include a 15th century stone carved font, a gravestone inscribed with celtic lettering and a 19th century carved oak pulpit. I would like to revist when I have more time to soak up the atmosphere and photograph these features.


Three angels on the southern pier of the chancel arch


Situated: From Athlone head south on the N62 to Cloghan, just as you leave Cloghan take a right turn onto the R438. Then after about 2 kilometres take another right on to the R356. and drive to Banagher. In Banagher take a right turn to Kylebeg, crossing the river between Offaly and Galway. At Esker take another right for Kilmacshane, once here turn right for Rogerstown and then right to Clonfert Bridge, the Church is set back on your immediately after a sharp bend.


Discovery Map: 47 M 9608 2114. Last visit May 2009.

Longitude: 8° 3' 31" W

Latitude: 53° 14' 27" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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