The monastic site of Clonmacnoise in County Offaly borders three provinces: Leinster, Connacht and Ulster. Founded over 1500 years ago, it is situated close to both Athlone town in County Roscommon and Ballinalsoe in County Galway. St. Ciaran chose Clonmacnoise to found his monastery because it was at the junction of river and road in Celtic Ireland. Shortly after his arrival, St. Ciaran met Prince Diarmuid who helped him to build a small wooden church, the first of many small churches that now dot the area. Unfortunately, St. Ciaran died four years later at 33 years of age, before his monastery began to flourish. It attracted scholars from all over Europe and soon became world-famous. From the eighth to tenth centuries, it was a scriptorium where skills of calligraphy and illustration were perfected. Metal workers produced some fine Celtic craftwork in gold, silver and bronze.
The settlement was frequently attacked from the eighth to the twelfth century by the Vikings, Anglo Normans and the native Irish; it was destroyed by fire thirteen times. Each time, the monks rebuilt it. In 1552, it was completely destroyed by the English garrison in Athlone and lay in ruins for hundreds of years, until the Office of Public Works decided to turn it into one of Ireland's most important heritage sites. The original high crosses and grave slabs are on display in the Visitor Centre where an audio-visual show is available, along with exhibitions