Saints and Stones: Inis Cealtra (Holy Island)

Inis Cealtra is associated with several Irish saints of the sixth and seventh centuries, most notably St Caimin who founded a monastery here in the 7th Century. The 50-acre island's dominant feature is an 80 foot tall round tower. There are five churches on the island, St.Caiminís, St Michaelís Oratory, St Bridgetís, St.Maryís, and Teampall na Bhfear nGonta (or Church of the Wounded men), early monastic cells, and a unique graveyard with slabs dating from the eight century. In one of the graves lie the remains of 10 men, who were probably butchered together by the Norsemen. The Vikings burned the monastery in 836 and again in 922. The Vikings were drawn by the wealth of the monastery and plundered it mercilessly, until defeated by the famous Irish chieftain Brian Boru who visited this island several times and where his brother, Marcan, was Bishop-Abbot in the 10th Century.

The island was inhabited by a pre-christian community, as the ballaun stones show. The fertile 50 acres of land and the availability of stones for building primitive dwellings and forts as a protection from raiders, the island's position on the Shannon and its accessibility by water would have suited these early inhabitants. When the first Benedictine monks, St. Colum and his followers, founded the monastery in the 6th Century, they attracted a large band of followers which continued through the centuries. Students from afar sailed up the Shannon to be educated at Inis Cealtra, where its fame as a scholastic institution and place of learning was renowned particularly when St. Caimin was abbot.

About Inis Cealtra

Clare County Library: Holy Island (Inis Cealtra)
Wikipedia: Inis Cealtra
Ireland Midwest Online: Inis Cealtra (Holy Island)

Journey to Inis Cealtra

Inis Cealtra is located on Lough Derg, the largest of the River Shannon's lakes. From the town of Mountshannon in County Clare, Ireland, located on the R352, a short boat ride from the harbor takes one to the island.

Map Reference: R6985

Visitors Information

Visitors information may be found at the website. General tourist information may be found on this site and at the Visit Clare website.

Additional Photos of Inis Cealtra

Road Sign for Inis Cealtra
Lough Derg
Boat Ride to Inis Cealtra
Approaching Inis Cealtra
Main Descriptive Sign for Inis Cealtra
St. Caimin's Church and Round Tower
Core of the Monastery Descriptive Sign
West End of St. Caimin's Church
Doorway to St. Caimin's Church
Close-Up of Doorway to St. Caimin's Church
8th-12th Century Grave Memorials Inside St. Caimin's Church
Round Tower Entrance
East End of St. Caimin's Church
Church of the Wounded Men
Bullaun Stone Near Round Tower
Descriptive Sign for St. Brigid's Church
St. Brigid's Church from a Distance
Entrance to St. Brigid's Church
Close-Up of Entrance to St. Brigid's Church
Descriptive Sign for St. Mary's Church
St. Mary's Church
Entrance to St. Mary's Church
Window Arch in St. Mary's Church
Stone Decoration in St. Mary's Church
Cross Slab in St. Mary's Church
Altar in St. Mary's Church
Close-Up of Altar in St. Mary's Church
Holy Well or Lady's Well

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