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Seir Keiran Early Christian Monastic
St.Ciaran of Seir 5th century
Seir Kieran lies in the modern village of Clareen, County Offaly. The monastery was presumably founded in the century pivoting around 500 AD. By the 700 AD the monastery was established as the premier ecclesiastical foundation in Ossory and the rulers of that kingdom were being interred at Seir Kieran. The most famous is Cearbhall who died in 885 and whose name is reputed to be inscribed on a slab found in the graveyard.
During the 9th and 10th Century there were numerous Viking raids on the monastery.The impressive enclosing ramparts were erected around this time, reputedly in the 940’s. These were obviously needed for protection. In 952 the monastery was raid by the Munstermen. (Followers of Flaithbertach and the King of Munster, Cormac Mac Cuilennain).
The Pre-Christian origins of Seir Kieran are given substance by the three venerated features – Bell Hill, St Kieran’s Well and St Kieran’s Bush. In the mid-11th Century the “see of Ossory” moved to Aghaboe on the other side of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and Seir Kieran became a parish in the same diocese.
In 1185, during the Norman Conquest, Seir Kieran was granted to Theobald Walter and as an ecclesiastical site passed directly into the hands of the Bishop of Ossory.
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. The church’s relationship with both 10th Century Cross Base and Round Tower defines a classic early monastic arrangement of the Celtic type.
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.