Nestled in the picturesque village of Tuamgraney is the oldest church in continuous use in Ireland, St Cronan's Church. Tuamgraney is one of the most notable and important ecclesiastical and historical places in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It is mentioned in the Annals no fewer than thirty-two times between 735 AD and 1582 AD.
A monastery was founded here in the early sixth century by St Cronan. Originally the monastery would have been built with wood. However, it was looted by the Vikings in 886AD and 949AD. Despite this, the monastery continued to thrive.
The western part of the church was built in the tenth century by the then Abbot Cormac O’ Killeen, while the eastern portion was added in the twelfth century.
The High King of Ireland, Brian Ború, is recorded as having prayed here. It is also said that Brian Ború repaired the church and round tower that once stood here.
St Cronan's Church is the only preserved building with a recorded link to the High King of Ireland. Visitors to the church will be able to walk through the doorway that Brian Ború would have walked through more than 1,000 years ago.
Features — what to expect
Upon entering this historic site, visitors will become amazed by the picturesque doorway. The doorway is a feature of the early Christian Church. This is the same doorway that Brian Ború would have walked through hundreds of years ago.
Marvel at the Romanesque carved sandstone head that is believed to represent the goddess Grian (the sun goddess). This sandstone head was only discovered thirty years ago as renovation works were being completed. According to local folklore, Grian drowned herself in Lough Grainey and was washed up and buried in Tuamgraney. It is said that this is where the placename Tuamgraney comes from — Tomb of Grian.
Nearby St Cronan's Church is O'Grady's Castle, a fifteenth-century castle that was built to protect the church.
Visiting — things to know
St Cronan's Church can be visited daily between April and September. The church is unattended, however, there is plenty of information to be found on site. There is also an audiovisual presentation that outlines the church's rich history.
While there is no admission fee there is a donation box. Any money donated goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of this historic site.
Directions — how to get here