Sunday, September 8, 2013

Clonca Church, County Donegal

At Clonca in the far north of the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal you can find a small 17th Century church. The church itself is rather plain, but it stands on the foundations of an earlier church that was part of an early-medieval monastic site founded by Saint Buodan. You can still see traces of this earlier monastery in the large lintel that has been reused in the church, and the remarkable two high crosses. 
Only one of the high crosses still stands today, it is around 4m tall and probably dates to around the 11–12th century. However around three-quarters of the cross head appears to have been replaced. Like most high crosses this example at Clonca displays biblical scenes like a depiction of the two apostles Peter and Paul, above them you can see strange looking beasts (maybe lions?), on the other side of the cross you can see the
miracle of the loaves and fishes but much of the cross is taken up with intricate geometric patterns. The second cross is a little more difficult to find as it has long since collapsed, to find it walk through the field from the standing cross, walking near the fence back towards the road, keeping the hedge  boundary of the field with the church in it on your right hand side. You’ll soon find the large fragments of the high cross lying on the ground. It looks to have been a large ringed cross, decorated with curving shapes.


Back inside the church, you can see the rather ornately decorated fifteenth or sixteenth century graveslab. It has a large cross in the centre and to the right you can see a depiction of a sword and a hurley stick and sliotar. The slab is inscribed with ‘Fergus Mak Allan Do Rini in Clach Sa Magnus Mec Orristin Ia Fo Trl Seo‘  (Fergus MacAllan made this stone; Magnus Mac Orristin under this)

Clonca Church is certainly worth a visit, just for an excuse to drive around the beautiful Inishowen Peninsula! It is relatively straight forward to find, from Carndonagh take the R244 east for roughly 5km heading for Gorey. When you’re in Gorey take a left turn at the crossroads, drive through the next set of crossroads and you’ll see a sign pointing in a field just after the crossroads. There is space to pull the car in just before the site, and there is a solid path leading to the church from the road.

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