The early church at Clara, known as Churchclara is believed to be a late 11th century or early 12th century structure and predates the Norman conquest of Ireland. Its early date is indicated by the antae (projecting side walls) on either side of the cancel. Churchclara is mainly known for the two early Ogham Stones that form part of the church structure, one of which was only discovered as recently as 1976. The site is associated with a St Colmán Cláraig who died in 749AD and the inclusion of the two Ogham stones would suggest that the site was in use as far back as the 6th or 7th century AD. One of the earliest mentions of the church comes from 1230AD when half of the rectory or church of Clara was granted to the Canons Regular of St. John’s Abbey, Kilkenny. The two red sandstone Ogham stones one of which was used as the sill for the chamfered round-headed east window was inserted in the late 12th/early 13th century, replacing the original window (Ó Carragáin, 2010). The second Ogham stone sits just above ground level in the external face of the north wall immediately to the east of the doorway. Churchclara was certainly in ruin by the early part of the 17th century and is described in the register of the Down Survey 1655-56 as such, ‘There standes on Church Claragh the walls of a decayed Church’. There are later burials from the 19th century dotted around the graveyard. A small holy well dedicated to St Colmán is situated 65 metres to the North West of the church, this combined with two bullaun stones, and the aforementioned Ogham Stones attest to the antiquity of this beautiful site.
GPS: 52.65542, -7.14616