Clones Monastic Remains (Round Tower and High Cross)

From about 550 onwards monastic foundations began to proliferate in a bewildering fashion and it is from this time onwards that the abbots of monasteries began to assume a greater importance than bishops.

Ecclesiastical centres, churches perhaps, rather than monasteries, were at Magheraveeley, the church of Eachaidh ( Beal Atha Cille Eachaidh ) which gives its name to Lackey Bridge, a chapel at Clontiverin, and some kind of ecclesiastical centre at Annakilly. Aonghus, anchorite of Cluain Tibrinne, died in 744. All these were subject to, or administered by Clones monastery. The church seems to have been organised on a basis of monastic paruchia, which means chains of smaller establishments dependent on a great foundation, a kind of clientship of lesser churches which laid claim to having been set up by the founder of the mother church, or had affiliated themselves to it. The chief church of such a federation was that in which the founder's body was buried. Tiarnach was buried in Clones and perhaps it was this fact which gave Clones its importance. Clones was the most important ecclesiastical centre in Monaghan from about 800 until the founding of the Franciscan monastery in Monaghan town in 1462. Sir John Davies writing in 1606 refers to the " abbey of Clones, which was the only abbey of any value in that county i.e. the county of Monaghan.

For some centuries after its foundation Clones monastery was left in peace, and the monks lived out their lives in comparative peace and quiet. Then the Vikings arrived. Monasteries throughout the country were attacked and destroyed. Inevitably Clones was attacked, and in 836 it was destroyed. Many works of art, presumably, were destroyed or taken away by the raiders. When thinking of the Vikings the Round Tower comes to mind. It is now believed that these towers were first built in the early 10th., century primarily as belfries but also from an early stage to serve as places of refuge and safety for both monks and valuables. The experts have estimated that Clones Round Tower belongs to an early stage of tower building. Its present height is about 70 feet, its original height about ninety six feet. Round Towers were often built on shallow foundations so many collapsed and others lean from the perpendicular. The Round Tower in Clones leans towards the north. The doorway was about eight feet above ground level. There were five floors and access to each was by a removable ladder. There were four windows on the top storey, each looking towards a cardinal point.

Belonging to this period also is the Clones Celtic Cross. It belongs to the Ulster group of Scripture Crosses and probably dates from the 9th.,- IOth., century. The base is three feet high, the shaft eight, and the head four feet. The platform on which it stands is modern. The panels on the front of the cross, the south side, illustrate Old Testament scenes, Daniel in the Lions' Den,Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, Adam and Evem,the tree and the serpent. On the reverse side New Testament scenes are illustrated, the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the Miracle at Cana, the Baptism of Christ. The top of the cross does not belong to the rest of it. Perhaps the headless cross -in Irish Crois Mhaoil,- gives its name to the townland of Crossmoyle, the town -land in which the present Diamond is situated. It is difficult to establish what function these stone crosses served. It is generally accepted now that they did not have a funerary character. Many of these figured crosses were carved as a decoration for the precincts of the monastery. The figured illustrated crosses were used as sermons in stone, which would be the subject of a commentary or the theme of a meditation. Stone crosses were used to mark the limits of monastic property, or the limits of sanctuary, but these were generally simple, plain and unfigured. It is now impossible to say which of these functions the Clones cross. served. The idea of several crosses scattered around the grounds of a monastery can be experienced in a number of places. This was probably true of Clones, particularly as the head and shaft of the present cross belonged originally to different crosses.

A map drawn in the reign of Elizabeth, I, 1558 - 1603, shows a cross complete with its head, on the banks of a stream towards the bottom of present day Mac Curtain Street and Analore Street. In 1718 the cross was used as a billboard. "A Mr. Ballfore of Lyinskey ( Lisnaskea) has set fifty tates of land on the Cross of Clones." In 1820 a sum of thirteen shillings was paid to Smith, the mason, " for setting, the steps of the Cross." On the night of February, 8th., I843, the stone cross was broken and the top stone was thrown down. The injury was not too damaging and was easily repaired. It was alleged to have been vandalised by "some drunken Orangeman". In 1904 the Board of Works, at the request of Clones Urban Council, erected the present railings around it.

The early church in Ireland was not based on a parochial or diocesan system, but was more or less based on monastic foundations. The parish of Clones was organised around the monastery and the people of the area were catered for by the monks. It is not definitely known when the parish of Clones was taken from the monks and given over to secular priests, This probably happened when bishops ceased to govern the monastery as abbots. There was a reform movement in Ireland during the late 11th., and early I2th.,centuries. These reforms established a diocesan episcopate and later a parochial system was. established at this time also new religious orders were introduced into Ireland mainly due to the influence of St. Malachy, and many of the old monasteries accepted the rules of these orders. It was around this time that Clones monastery accepted the rule of the Augustinians, and the monastery evolved into a house of Augustinian Canons Regular, Little of the earlier forms of Celtic monasticism survived these reforms. Experts have said that what is now referred_ to as 4The Wee Abbey " are the ruins of a I2th., century church. It appears that the parish of Clones was separated from the monastery in the early I2th. century, the existing church remaining the parish church and the new building became the Abbey.

Some Images came from Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae