'The Nun's Church' : Church

Grid RefN 015 309
Longitude7° 58' 38.94" W
Latitude53° 19' 42.11" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownMoate (18.9 Km)
OS Sheet47
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192

This is a subsite of:

Clonmacnoise - Round Tower
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 23rd March 2003

The Romanesque church at Clonmacnoise is currently wrapped up below scaffolding and plastic sheets drying out before restoration. The staff in the visitor's centre told me that it will be a couple of years before it is uncovered again and so The Nun's Church (built in 1167) offers the only chance to see some fine Romanesque carving for the time being.

Situated 500m from the main site you can visit this without going through the centre. The walk is a pleasant one along a narrow lane flanked on one side by the broad flood planes of the Shannon and a raised pilgrim's trail on the other.

The church is very ruined - most of the walls are just 1m tall - but the doorway and chancel arch have survived pretty much intact. The doorway is nearly complete with a shallow hooded arch. The outer part consists of a beaded section terminated in a pair of fine dragon heads. Inside this is a typical row of pointed chevrons with a small beading detail. Within this is a wonderful set of dragon heads holding a bar in their mouths. Most of their noses are broken off, but many ratain teeth and tongues. The columns that flank the doorway are plain, but terminate in finely carved terminals.

The chancel arch just has the top section missing, which is replaced by blank blocks of stone. It is mainly beautifully proportioned beaded chevrons. The outer row, like that on the door, terminates in two lovely dragon heads. Next in is a layer of diamonds that wrap the corner with small heads occupying the centre position of the diamonds, so that they are on the edge of teh arch facing inwards. One of these is said to be a small Sheela-na-Gig, but this is very doubtful.

The columns are plain, but terminate in very finely carved terminals. These are mainly geometric but do incorporate some heads.

Whenever you see a church as fine as this in ruins you have to wonder what other fine ornament it had when complete. It could easily have rivalled anything else that Ireland can offer.

Like this monument

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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