Clonfert Cathedral in County Galway is probably best known for its amazing doorway, the finest example of Romanesque architecture in Ireland. The Romanesque style of architecture was influenced by classical Roman and Byzantine architecture, and generally dates to the early medieval period, some time between the 8th - 11th Centuries AD across the continent. It appears a little later in Ireland, and seems to coincide with large scale reforms of the Irish church in the twelfth century. The Irish builders incorporated their own styles with Romanesque to create a hybrid of the two, which is known as Hiberno-Romanesque architecture.
|A close-up of the carved heads|
The doorway at Clonfert is in six ‘orders’ and has inclined jambs. Above the doorway, a steep triangular pediment is covered with Romanesque decoration showing animal heads, foliage, zig-zags, chevrons, but most striking of all are the individually carved human heads.
|The wonderfully ornate Romanesque decoration|
A ninth century book The Voyage of Saint Brendan the Navigator records his legendary journey to ‘The Isle of the Blessed’, a journey that involves sea monsters, strange islands and their inhabitants and that some people even believe to suggest that Brendan was the first European to discover America! There are no remains of Brendan’s monastic site visible at Clonfert, though a gravestone in the churchyard marks the spot where he is allegedly buried.
|15th Century sculpture, note the mermaid at the base|
Clonfert is certainly worth a visit to see the spectacular Romanesque doorway and the wealth of later fifteenth century sculpture inside. You’ll find it around 15km south-east of Ballinasloe, when you get to Laurencetown it is signposted down a minor road to the east off the R355 (Ballinasloe – Portumna Road). At co-ordinates 53.240651, -8.058621.
You can find more information about Clonfert from their website http://www.clonfertdiocese.ie
|The interior of Clonfert|
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