Clonard Abbey

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This article is about the early medieval monastery. For other uses, see Clonard.
Disused Anglican church at the monastic site of Clonard
The construction of the monastery in a stain glass window of the church of St. Finian in Clonard

Clonard Abbey (Irish, Cluain Eraird, or Cluain Iraird, "Erard's Meadow") was an early medieval monastery situated on the River Boyne, just beside the traditional boundary line of the northern and southern halves of Ireland in modern County Meath. The village of Clonard is nearby.

Early history[edit]

The monastery was founded in about 520 by Saint Finnian, who initially constructed a single cell at the site.[1] The original site may have been at nearby Ard Relec.[2] According to medieval chronicles, Finnian was led to the site by an angel who told him that it would be the place of his resurrection. He was well-travelled, and based his monastery on the training he received at Tours and Llancarfan.[3] Finnian was buried on the site after his death in about 549. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity (who would go on to be known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland) studied at the monastery.

Clonard was situated on the Esker Riada, Ireland's main east-west road in early medieval times, adding to its prominence. However it was also on the boundary between the kingdoms of Leinster and Meath that were occasionally at war.

From the eighth century onwards, Clonard came under the control of various rival political dynasties,[2] and by the mid-ninth century, it was the leading church of the Irish midlands. The abbot of Clonard led the clergy of the midlands in the same fashion that the abbot of Armagh led those in the north.[4] During its heyday, a hymn written in Finnian's honor claimed that the monastery's school housed 3,000 pupils receiving religious instruction at any given time. Like many monastic sites in Ireland, Clonard suffered heavy losses under the Viking raids of the ninth through eleventh centuries.

As a diocese[edit]

From the Synod of Ráth Breasail (1111), it was the centre of the new see of Clonard, indicating its importance at the time. This was confirmed at the Synod of Kells in 1152. It fell into decline during the twelfth century, and in 1202, the Norman bishop de Rochfort transferred the see from Clonard to Trim in the new Diocese of Meath.[2]

Very little remains of the site today. From the air, the outlines of some wall boundaries and other earthworks are visible.

Annalistic references[edit]

See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)

  • AI748a Kl. Repose of Mo-Dímóc of Cluain Iraird.
  • AI870.1 Kl. Repose of Suairlech of In tEidnén, abbot of Cluain Iraird.
  • AI926.1 Kl. Repose of Colmán son of Ailill abbot of Cluain Moccu Nóis and Cluain Iraird.
  • AI954.2 Repose of Dub Inse, learned bishop of Ireland, and of Cellachán, king of Caisel, and of Éladach the learned, abbot of Ros Ailithir, and of Uarach, bishop of Imlech Ibuir, and of Célechair, abbot of Cluain Moccu Nóis and Cluain Iraird, and of Cormac Ua Maíl Shluaig, learned sage of Mumu, and of Lugaid Ua Maíl Shempail, abbot of Domnach Pátraic, and of Cenn Faelad son of Suibne, anchorite of Cluain Ferta Brénainn.


  1. ^ PD-icon.svg "School of Clonard". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. ^ a b c Lalor, Brian (2003). The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Yale University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-300-09442-6. 
  3. ^ "Clonard Abbey", Monastic Ireland
  4. ^ Charles-Edwards, T.M. (2006). The Chronicle of Ireland. Liverpool University Press. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-85323-959-2. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 53°27′09″N 7°01′10″W / 53.45250°N 7.01944°W / 53.45250; -7.01944