St Finian’s Church of Ireland in Clonard, Co. Meath, is believed to have been built on an earlier pre-existing monastic settlement or church. Clonard was home to one of the most anicent monastic sites in Ireland and was known as a centre of learning throughout Europe. Students from France and Germany came to study at the site St Finian had founded, the monastary was ascetic in model, a model of extreme self-denial and penance, the monastery stood close to the site of this ruin.
The present church, is one of many Board of First Fruits churches in Ireland and was built in 1808 by James Bell, it is noted that it is was built over the remains of an older church, which stood on the site of an even earlier church!
St Finian’s closed in 1991 and nature has been fast to advance her deterioration. The site is overgrown and uneven which can make for a nervous exploration. Below the tower of the church is a rectangular block of limestone known as ‘The Trough’, it is believed to have curative powers, especially in relation to the curing of warts. Local lore states that ‘The Trough’ has never run dry even during the hottest of summers.
The graveyard is also home to a ‘Croppies’ grave. The ‘Croppies’ were Irish rebels who fought during the failed 1798 rebellion. After the Battle of Clonard on 11th July 1798, where many rebels were killed, many of the croppies from Wicklow and Wexford were left lying in fields and ditches, some were buried in a mass grave; others were carried to this graveyard and buried in an unmarked grave.
The graveyard is dotted with beautiful headstones and crosses many dating back to the 1690s. There had been some talk of a local conservation group leasing the site but sadly this has not yet materialised. St Finian’s is set in a very tranquil and beautiful spot and it would be nice to see it put to some use.
GPS: 53.45066, -7.0072