3rd January 2012. Rainbows over Monaincha abbey near Roscrea. Two photos stitched together, with different contrasts. The outer rainbow is clearer on the left, the inner clearer on the right. Monaincha means 'the Island in the Bog', and was the retreat house of several leading saints including Cronan of nearby Roscrea.


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The 12th century cross head is on a 9th century base.

Monaincha

Monaincha, the Island of the Living, is an eight century monastic site near the larger St Cronan's monastery at Roscrea in County Tipperary. Monaincha, a tiny island, was surrounded by bog and wetlands until land improvements in the 1820s drained the area. The island was the focus of a famous pilgrimage in medieval times, in the 10th century it was known as the 31st wonder of the world. The monastery is said to have been founded by St Cannice who lived around 600 AD. It stood in a lake or bog until about 1790, and was one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Ireland in its day. In the Book of Ballymote Monaincha was listed as the Thirty Third Wonder of the World. It was known as Inish na mBeo, the Island of the Living. The western doorway and inner chancel arch of the 12th century church are richly carved and a weathered high cross stands outside the door. The church is almost certainly the replica of a fabulous wooden original.

Harold Leask thought it virtually unique: No other church ruin in Ireland is so attractive in site completeness, interesting detail an appearance as that of Monaincha. The lake was drained in the 1790s and the islands became dry! However it is almost 200 years since Monaincha became dry. It is still known as the Holy Island.

3 kms east of Roscrea stands the now dry lands of Min na hInse, the island in the bog, where the saints of the surrounding monasteries went on retreat and which later became the hermitage site of the reforming Culdees or Cil D, and later still developed as one of Irelands leading medieval pilgrimage sites. Inis locha Cr or Insula Loch Cr were the early names. Both mean the same: the bog island of Cr. To here the local saints, Cronan of ros Cr, Molua of Kyle, and Canice of Aghaboe retreated. It features prominently in all their lives.

The beautiful 12 century carved archway over the entrance.

The stonework in the church is simply fabulous. A triple sandstone arche, much weathered, and the jambs of the entrance are richly carved.

This place derived an early degree of celebrity from a very ancient abbey founded about the 7th century for Culdean monks, on an island in the parish, called Mona Incha, and dedicated to St. Columba. This island, which comprised little more than two acres of firm ground encompassed by a soft morass, recently drained by its proprietor and brought into cultivation, is noticed by Giraldus Cambrensis, who came into Ireland as preceptor of John, Earl of Morton, afterwards King of England, who says that there a few Culdees or Colidei "did devoutly serve God." An opinion even in his time prevailed that no person, however severe might be his malady, could die in this island, from which tradition it obtained the appellation of Insula Viventium, or "the Isle of the Living." This legendary celebrity made it the resort of numerous pilgrims from the remotest parts of the country, but did not prevent the brethren from emigrating to the more healthy shores of the neighbouring village of Corbally, where they fixed their residence, and where there are still the remains of a small neat cruciform chapel, with narrow lancet-shaped windows. The abbey continued to flourish till the dissolution, and, in the 28th of Elizabeth, the site and possessions were granted to Sir Lucas Dillon. Of the abbey on the island there are still the remains of the church, which, though raised on a spot scarcely accessible, exhibits a beauty of style and costliness of materials scarcely to be expected in so retired and isolated a spot. The abbey church appears to have been 44 feet in length and 18 feet in width; the arches of the choir, and of the western entrance, are of the Norman semicircular character, and decorated with rich and varied mouldings embellished with highly wrought ornaments. To the north of the church is a small oratory, and the abbey and a separate room for the abbot were formerly to be traced. Attached to the church is a burial-ground, in which are the remains of a fine cross. There was also on this island an ancient building called the "Woman's Church."

 

 

Monaincha, The Island of the Living, showing the top of the reconstructed and much weathered 12 century cross, and the north gable of the 16th century sacristy.

Main Page
Tour Guide
Email me
 
Carrowkeel
Doonaveeragh Village
Caves of Kesh
Knocknarea
Carrowmore
Cairns Hill
Moytura
Newgrange
Knowth
Dowth
Loughcrew
Tara
Fourknocks
Croagh Patrick
Cong
Knockma
The Burren
Uisneach
Rathcroghan
Glencolumbkille
Inishmurray
The Céide Fields
The Aran Islands
Timoney stones



The 12th century cross head is on a 9th century base.

Harold Leask thought it virtually unique: “No other church ruin in Ireland is so attractive in site completeness, interesting detail an appearance as that of Monaincha”. The lake was drained in the 1790’s and the islands became dry! However it is almost 200 years since Monaincha became dry. It is still known as the Holy Island.

The inner archway looking out across the altar.

Elarius (St Elair or Hilary) who died in 807, founded an important monastery on this site, formerly an island, in the 8th century. But it was not until the middle of the 12th century, when the community adopted the Augustinian rule, that the church we see today was built. The land around the island was drained in the 18th century, leaving the site as a mound in the bog. This is a nave-and-chancel building (a church in two parts: the nave for the congregation and the chancel for the clergy and altar) with a decorated west doorway and arch into the chancel.

Detail of the stonework on the inner archway.

In the first half of the 13th century new windows were inserted into the east wall of the chancel and the south wall of the nave. The annex on the north side of the church is a sacristy - a small room where the sacred vessels were kept and where the priest prepared for mass - which was added in the 15th or 16th century.

Monaincha, The Island of the Living, a beautiful 12th century church near Roscrea in North Tipperary.