Clonmore

Cross slabs, Hollywood slab and Holy well

Clonmore is one of County Carlow's most important Early Christian sites. It was named after St Mogue (St Maedoc, St Mochaemog) who established a religious community and built a monastery here in the 6th century. The monastery flourished from the 7th to the 11th Century, at least six saints were associated with it during that time, including St. Fionnan Lobhair (Leper) and St. Oncho. St Oncho is believed to be buried in the cemetery along with a substantial collection of relics. The later relics generated pilgrimage traffic during that time.

Looking north along a row of gravemarkers

Although no monastic buildings have survived, the importance of the site is attested by the presence of two high crosses, a lintel, an ogham stone, two bullaun stones, a font, numerous cross-inscribed slabs and St Mogue's holy well, situated to the west of the modern churchyard. St Mogue of Clonmore should not be confused with St Mogue, the first bishop of Ferns. This is a common error I have been guilty of in the past. The monastery is mentioned in the Annals of the Four masters, with records during the 9th and 10th centuries, but nothing is mentioned about the monastery after 1040. Also about fifty metres further down the road from here is a huge bullaun stone next to the river. Pictured below are some of the interesting early cross slabs, possibly 9th century, to be found at Clonmore. I am using the numbers Harbison assigned to them.

Paved Area

Slab No 19

Slab No 20

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 21, 22 and 23

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 24, 25 and 27

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 28, 29 and 30

Graveyard

Early Christian slab No 1 east face

Early Christian slab No 1 west face

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 3, 7 and 8

One of the slabs in the graveyard belongs to a group of 13th century graveslabs known as the Hollywood slabs. These granite graveslabs were originally recumbent, with a splayed cross carved at one end with a long shaft terminating in a small cross. It is believed this slab, now covered in moss, may have been reused as a grave marker and inserted into the ground with the main cross now buried. The cross in on the west face. Harbison slab No 6.

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 09, 10 and 15

The 35 antiquities catalogued by Harbison included twenty four cross slabs. I did not locate no 5 and slab number 31 was reused as a lintel at Clonmore castle. The other antiquities are as follows; No 2 is a granite slab with a perforation. No 4 is a lintel with a rolled moulding. No 11 is an ogham stone, 12, 13, 26 and 32 are all pictured on the high cross page. No 33 is now missing, No 34 is the holy well and No 35 is the large bullaun stone by the river. That leaves No 14, pictured left, It is known locally as 'the Chalice stone' and along with the lintel stone, No 4 they may be all that remains from the early church. It looks like a pivot stone for a wooden doorway. They can be mistaken for bullaun stones, but the sides of the depression are too steep.

Early Christian slabs, left to right, No's 16, 17 and 18

The best time to view the, badly worn, cross slabs is when the sun is in the south, preferably autumn when it is low in the sky. The carvings on the cross slabs in the graveyard are the most difficult to spot. The crosses on the slabs numbered 3, 6, 15 and 16 are all carved on the west face, the rest are on the east face, cross slab No 1 is decorated on both sides.

St Mogues holy well, Harbison No 34, is situated further down the road just passed the church on the right. It is a spring fed well. The water was well known for it's curative powers. There are a few steps leading down to a modern well head. I arrived here quite late in the day, so hopefully after my next visit I will have better images.

Situated: Very easy. The monastic site is situated in the centre of Clonmore village in Carlow. From Hacketstown head west on the R747. Turn left on to Slate Row. At the T-Junction 3.5k turn right. As you enter Clonmore village turn right. The monastic site is on your left.

Discovery Map: 62 S 963 761 Last visit Apr 2019.

Longitude: 6° 34' 12" W

Latitude: 52° 49' 38" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Ref: Harbison, Peter. “Early Christian Antiquities at Clonmore, Co. Carlow.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, vol. 91C, 1991, pp. 177–200. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25516081.

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