Visitor Centre

The Midlands

Three connected conical huts, echoing the design of early monastic dwellings, house the visitor centre museum. A 20-minute audiovisual show provides an excellent introduction to the historic Clonmacnoise site.

The exhibition area contains the original high crosses (replicas have been put in their former locations outside) and various artefacts uncovered during excavation, including silver pins, beaded glass and an Ogham stone. Textual illustrations and explanations on the walls provide context.

There's a real sense of drama as you descend to the foot of the imposing Cross of the Scriptures (King Flann's Cross), one of Ireland's finest. It's very distinctive, with unique upward-tilting arms and richly decorated panels depicting the Crucifixion, the Last Judgement, the arrest of Jesus and Christ in the tomb.

Only the shaft of the North Cross, which dates from around AD 800, remains. It is adorned by lions, convoluted spirals and a single figure, thought to be the Celtic god Cernunnos. The richly decorated South Cross has mostly abstract carvings – swirls, spirals and fretwork – and, on the western face, the Crucifixion plus a few odd cavorting creatures.

The museum also contains the largest collection of early Christian grave slabs in Europe. Many have inscriptions clearly visible, often starting with oroit do or ar (a prayer for).

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The remains of an 18th-century temple that is the larger stylistic twin of nearby Temple Doolin.