Seir Kieran

Seir Kieran Early Christian Monastic Site

St Ciaran of Seir 5th century

Seir Kieran lies in the modern village of Clareen. This is the site of an important monastery founded by St Ciaran in the fifth century. Visible in the field to the south of the graveyard there is a low motte on top of which a timber castle was built by the Anglo-Normans in the twelfth century. Inside the graveyard are the remains of the Augustinian priory, with a late medieval gun turret on its southeast corner and the base of a Round Tower outside its northwest corner. In the east gable of the Church of Ireland church there is a fine thirteenth century traceried window. The decorated base of a large high cross, the shaft and head of which are now missing can still be seen in the centre of the graveyard. The feast of St Kieran is on March the 5th when local people visit the nearby holy well, St Ciaran's holy bush and the church and graveyard.

During the 9th and 10th Century there were numerous Viking raids on the monastery. The impressive enclosing ramparts were erected for protection around this time, reputedly in the 940s.   In 952 the monastery was raid by the Munster men. (Followers of Flaithbertach and the King of Munster, Cormac Mac Cuilennain).

In 1305 there were ownership rivalry between the secular and the ecclesiastical claims and it is possible at this time that the insertion of a great earthen mound into the existing Early Christian ramparts occurred.

According to the “Annals of the Four Masters”, in 1548 Seir Kieran was burned and destroyed by the English and O’Carroll. In 1552 the priory was dissolved and became the parish church for the Church of Ireland community. The church structure survived until 1840’s. The present church in the graveyard was built in 1844 and is likely to be on or near the site of the original church.

High cross base

Ninth century high cross base which was unearthed in the graveyard in the late 1930s and placed in its current position. The base of the cross is decorated with scenes from the bible, such as the fall of Adam and Eve which is visible on the east face of the base in the lower right hand corner. On the north face there is scene which depicts a procession of figures carrying spears possibly an army marching towards a band of horsemen. The shaft and head of the cross have never been found and locals believe that the water which collects in the socket of the base acts as a cure for people with warts.

Round Tower

Only the base of the round tower survives built up against the outer face of the northwest angle of the Augustinian priory. This tower was probably built in the tenth or eleventh centuries as a bell tower for the monastery and acted as a place of refuge for the monks and their valuables when the monastery was under attack.

Today Seir Kieran monastic remains are in state ownership and on the 5th of March each year the local parishioners assemble on the site and do pilgrimage to its holy places.

Seir Kieran Early Christian Site Brochure.pdf (size 16 MB)

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