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The Burren: Early Churches of the Burren

While the Burren is noted for the variety of its prehistoric monuments, noteworthy also are the remains of over twenty churches constructed between the sixth and twelfth centuries, evidence of the spread of Christianity in this once populous area and an indication of the zeal and inspiration of the early Irish missionaries, including St. Colman and St. Cronan, who laboured in this remote area. Most of these churches are of architectural interest. Some have features of additional interest such as crosses and round towers standing in their grounds, while all have historical associations, in most cases their patrons and founders being known and revered.

Of particular interest are Kilfenora Cathedral, Corcomroe Abbey and Dysert O'Dea, while all of the following churches have interesting features:


Sheela-na-gig, Kilnaboy
Sheela-na-gig, Kilnaboy

On entering here, a double-armed cross, nineteen feet high, may be seen set into the west gable. There are many elaborately carved slab-stones to be seen, including on displaying a tau-shaped crozier and a bell. A Sheela na Gig is set over the south doorway.

A market cross stands on a pier at the pathway leading into this venerable church. The decorated arch over the south doorway is of a unique pattern.

An ancient cross stands on an altar near the west gable. The walls of the O'Davoren Chapel, built in 1725, stand here.

Oughtmama Church
Oughtmama Church

Here, at the 'Breast of the High Pass', are remains of three churches, the smaller two being the most ancient. The main church is dedicated to St. Colman; within the chancel may be seen fragments of slabs with early Irish inscriptions. View ruins of Oughtmama Church

A well-preserved oratory dedicated to St. Cronan. Several corbels with carved heads project from the walls; the south gable has a low doorway with stone lintel. Two ancient house-shaped tombs stand in the churchyard. The shaft and base of a Termon Cross can be seen on a ridge to the north-west.

An extensive monastic site dating from the seventh century. The perfect ninety feet high Round Tower is a prominent landmark. The present Cathedral occupies the site of the original church founded by St. Colman. The remains of other buildings and several churches may be seen, of which the O'Hayne Chapel, on the north side, is the most interesting.

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Kilmacduagh Round Tower
Kilmacduagh Round Tower