Poulnabrone portal tomb.
One of the most famous of Irelands dolmens; Poulanbrone lies on the R480 north of the Caherconnell stone fort, in the centre of the Burren. There is a large carpark and a short walk afterwards. The dolmen has been dated as far back as 2500 BC. Known as a portal tomb where several side slabs hold the roof to differentiate from a wedge tomb that is closed on three sides. Here at Poulnabrone a member of the OPW explained the large slab that is lying next to the dolmen is probably another part of the roof and the side slabs buried beneath after collapsing. One of the standing slabs was replaced a short while ago due to it being cracked. As it stands, it seems quite well preserved, but the same man explained that at least twice a year it has to be cleaned and protected from taggers and graffiti artists. That's one of the reasons he sat there all day in a public works van.
After excavation, quite a few remains and bones were found, almost 30 people including all the main bones of a new-born baby. Tests proved that the bodies had been de-fleshed elsewhere and the bones brought here after. A number of different artifacts were also found.
The carpark is well-signed on the R480
Worth noting is that there is a wedge tomb 1 km further north from Poulnabrone, on the same side of the road, but is unmarked and we never found it.
Kilfenora or St Fachtna's cathedral.
Standing right in the centre of the village is St Fachtna's cathedral, dedicated to the saint that built the first monastery on the site in the 6th c.The cathedral was built around the 1200's after a fire burnt the original down in 1100 and has been much renovated and changed with walls falling and additions being made. The "Lady Chapel", now covered with a perspex ceiling is home to the famous Kilfenora High Crosses. Originally 7 crosses were to be found in different parts of the village, one has been removed to Killaloe and the West Cross, the tallest, still stands in a field not far from the cathedral. The most famous, known as the Doorty cross because of its place lying upon the grave of Doorty in the graveyard, although having been renovated in 2003, has some of its figure almost indistinguishable. All the crosses that were left, except for the West Cross, were brought into the Chapel in 2003 to keep them from the elements. Just inside the entranceway are a couple of stone slab effigies, supposedly 13th c that were tomb covers .Another stands upright showing the effigy of a bishop, blessing with his right hand. In the chancel there is a fine 3-light window with some intricate carvings on the right-hand column. In the north wall just by the window is a large sedile, with unforunately one of the columns missing, but has at its apex a carving of a mitred bishops head.
A pity, but the actual cathedral, used by the Church of Ireland was closed when we were there.
Anecdote - By a quirk of language the Pope is Bishop of the See of Galway and thus of Kilfenora.
The Poulnabrone-Dolmen is the most famous of the various megalith tombs that you may find in the Burren. The Poulnabrone-Dolmen dates back to the year 2500 B.C. and still today the scientists do not know exactely, how it was technically possible to build such heavy structures by the primitive tools of that time.
The old Cathedral
The once powerful and important cathedral of Kilfenora dates back to the 6th century and was most probably founded by Holy Fachtnan. In the year 1055 it was mentioned first in the history-books and the cathedral that you may still see today dates back to the 12th century. Untill the 17th century the cathedral of Kilfenora was the the largest church of the area, afterwards it burned down and only at a few places you may still see its former glory and great architecture.
The Doorty Cross
The Doorty Cross,is one of the most unique celtic high-crosses in Ireland, showing a bishop and 2 other persons. The cross is 13 feet high and dates back to the 12th century.
At the small cemetery around the old cathedral-ruins there were once 7 high-crosses
You may enter the cemetery freely and without restrictions during the day !
The cathedral at Kilfenora is dedicated to St. Fachtna, who founded his monastery here during the sixth century. The original church was probably wooden and was later replaced by a stone building. The abbey church was burned in 1055 and many of the inhabitants killed. Repairs were carried out between 1056 and 1058 but the building was plundered in 1079 and accidentally burned in 1100. The present structure dates from between 1189 to 1200.
Renovations in the early 19h century separated the nave and chancel, with the nave becoming the parish (Church of Ireland, ie Protestant) church. The chancel is now roofless, with a fifteenth century doorway leading into the interior. On either side of the three-light east window there is a carved effigy: that of a bishop with his right hand raised in blessing, to the north; and to the south a tonsured, bareheaded cleric holding a book. These probably date from the 13th and early 14th centuries.
The graveyard contains the remains of three high crosse, dating from around 1300 to 1500. It is believed that there were originally seven high crosses here.
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All the crosses
Visiting the graveyard next to the old cathedral, you will discover so many celtic crosses on the graves and so well preserved
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