The hill of Tara, the hill of Uisneach and Clonmacnoise
The Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara was once the ancient seat of political and religious power in Ireland – 142 kings are said to have reigned there. Ancient Irish mythology tells us that this was a sacred place of dwelling for the gods, and was the entrance to the otherworld. Long before the Kings moved in, megalithic passage tombs were built on the hill. The oldest is called the Mound of the Hostages, dating back to between 2500 B.C. and 3000 B.C. The passage was subdivided by sill stones into three compartments each containing cremated remains. From the entrance gate you'll have a good view of an intricately decorated stone. It is not clear what the engravings mean; however, historians and archeologists say that the engravings may represent the sun, moon or stars as religious symbols or that the stone may represent a prehistoric calendar.
There is a fascinating 4,500-year-old structure, rivaling England's Stonehenge, at the Hill of Tara that was re-created by archaeologists and computer-graphics experts. This is most likely Tara's oldest monument. It is an excellent representation of a huge, wooden monument that was used for inauguration ceremonies and pagan burials of Ireland’s high kings. It is estimated the mound was raised in about 3,000BC around the same time the pyramids of Egypt were created.
Tara was the coronation place of the country’s pre- Christian kings. Check out the pillar stone, the Lia Fail. Legend has it that when the true king of Ireland stood on this phallic symbol, it would roar.
The Hill Of Uisneach
The Hill of Uisneach is located in the middle of the country in County of Westmeath, about half way between Dublin and Galway. This was the ancient seat of the Kings of Meath. It has as much significance as the Hill of Tara. Uisneach is famous for serving as a meeting place for cattle rituals, Beltane fires and Druidical ceremonies. It is claimed that St. Brigid received the veil from St. Patrick on this site.
The most famous feature on Uisneach is the CAT STONE, named so because it supposedly resembles a cat watching a mouse -check it out and see what you think. It is a huge limestone boulder said to mark the centre of Ireland.
To be truly transported back in time, visit Clonmacnoise with its 700 cross slabs and high crosses. Just south of County Westmeath, in County Offaly, a short distance from Athlone, you'll find this breathtaking monastic site. The extensive ruins include a cathedral, castle, round tower, numerous churches, two important high crosses, and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs (the last two on display in the excellent site museum).
Clonmacnoise was founded in 548 by St. Ciaran, the son of a master craftsman. The settlement, right on the river Shannon, was a major center of religion, learning, trade, craftsmanship and politics. The last high king of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, was buried in the Clonmacnoise cathedral in 1198. The monastic site was designated a national monument in 1877 and is now overseen by the Office of Public Works.
Talk about old, the largest of the churches at Clonmacnoise is the Cathedral, originally built in 909 by the King of Tara and the Abbot of Clonmacnoise. Check out the doorway with its fine carvings of Sts. Dominic, Patrick and Francis. Next take a look at two remarkable crosses. The Cross of the Scriptures one of the finest high crosses in Ireland containing intricate carvings. Dating from about 900 AD, the cross stands 13 feet high and the South Cross, standing about 12 feet high.
In 1534 the catholic religion was forbidden by the English King Henry III and Clonmacnoise was abandoned.
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