early Christian centre on the left bank of the River Shannon, County Offaly, central Ireland. It lies about 70 miles (110 km) west of Dublin. Clonmacnoise was the earliest and foremost Irish monastic city after the foundation of an abbey there by St. Ciaran about 545. It had become an important centre of learning by the 9th century, and several books of annals were compiled there. The cathedral, or Great Church, was founded about 900 and rebuilt in the 14th century. Other churches are those dedicated to Finian (Finghin), Conor (Connor), St. Ciaran, Kelly, Ri, and Dowling (Doolin). Clonmacnoise became a bishopric, and in 1568 the diocese was merged with that of Meath. The ruins of the churches, known as the Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise, and two 12th-century towers still survive and are protected as part of a national monument. An annual pilgrimage to Clonmacnoise is held on September 9, the feast of St. Ciaran. Attesting to the city's historic and religious importance, Pope John Paul II visited the town during his trip to Ireland in 1979. Pop. (2002 prelim.) 316.
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