St Cronan’s 10thC Church is the oldest church in continuous use in Ireland and the UK with a Church of Ireland Service held on the 4th Sunday each month.
It is open each day for visitors from April to September (incl) and signage explains the history and features of the building. Outside these times the unique doorway can be viewed without going inside.
Both Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic followers are buried in the Church’s graveyard, including historian Edward MacLysaght and the parents of renowned author Edna O’Brien.
St Cronan founded a Wooden Built Monastery here in the 6thC and this site in Tuamgraney is one of the most notable and important ecclesiastical and historical places in Ireland. Despite looting by the Vikings in 886 and 949, it continued to thrive. It is mentioned in the Annals no fewer than thirty two times between 735 AD and 1582 AD.
Brian Boru, High King of Ireland 1002-1014, is recorded as having prayed here and also repaired the Church and its long disappeared round tower – his brother Marcán was Abbot of Tuamgraney at the time.
It is the only preserved building with a recorded link to Brian Boru and visitors to the building enter through the same doorway as he did over 1000 years ago!!!.
The western part of the church was built between 949-964 AD by the then Abbot Cormac O’ Killeen, while the eastern portion was added in the 12thC and contains a number of features of interest from the Romanesque period.
The Doorway is considered a marvel of early Christian Church architecture and features in many publications. Outside the doorway is a large stone similar to the stone the monks used to wash their clothes at Ross Errilly Friary in Galway.
There is a Carved Romanesque Sandstone Head on display that originally came from the outside wall of the eastern gable. It was discovered during restoration works in 1990 and was covered in several layers of plaster, with only the nose visible. The head displays female features and is now known locally as Gráinne (the Irish for Sun is Grían). In a folktale, Grian is a sun goddess who drowns herself in Lough Graney and is washed up and buried at Tuamgraney – Tomb of Grian. It’s also claimed the carving represents St.Cronan himself.
In 1990, a three-light stained glass window by renowned stained-glass artist Alfred E. Child was added to the eastern window of the Church. Titled The Ascension, it shows Jesus accompanied by 2 angels. The window had been commissioned in 1906 by a Miss Ivers, at its former location in the disused parish church of Kilfinaghta, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare. The northern wall includes a 12th-century Romanesque window with chevrons on its arch and sides. The south wall features 4 windows, one decorated with fretwork and another with spirals.
The nearby O’Grady Castle was built in the 15thC by the O’Grady family in order to protect the church. They were Ireland’s leading ecclesiastical family at that time.
Please enjoy your visit to our historic old Church and don’t forget to sign our Visitor’s Book. To assist with ongoing upkeep & maintainance, a Donation Box has been placed beside the door as you exit – Your support would be greatly appreciated.