In the townland of Churchland, in the village of Clareen, Co. Offaly, is the site of Seir Kieran. The site comprises a complex of features (OF039-003:001-028), including an early medieval monastery, holy well and rag tree and a deserted medieval settlement/episcopal borough.
The early monastery is attributed to St. Kieran/St. Ciaran in c. the 5th century AD/CE. A monastic enclosure, Round Tower base and 9th century stone High Cross base are amongst the archaeological remains of this period. The site was reputedly the burial place of the kings of the ancient Gaelic kingdom of Ossory at that time.
The site was raided by the Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries, and later developed as an important Anglo-Norman fortification, with a probable Motte located on the site. An Augustinian Priory was founded at the site in the 12th century, later to be dissolved in c. 1552. A 16th century gun battery and 19th century church is also extant at the site. This church, built in 1844, replaced the medieval church, which remained at that time. The Pattern (Saint’s feast day) of St. Kieran is still celebrated each year on the 5th March at Kieran’s well, Kieran’s Bush (rag tree) and the 19thcentury/medieval graveyard.
In August 2017 the Irish Heritage School (under the auspices of the Irish Archaeology Field School) partnered with Prof. Bodhi Michael Rogers of Ithaca University to undertake 3D scanning, or digital conservation, of the standing remains. This data will be an important monitoring and conservation tool for the site. The results of this survey, and a detailed historical summary of the site have been published by the IAFS in Offaly Heritage.
O’ Sullivan, M., Rodgers, M., Shine, D. and Mandal, S. 2018. Seir Kieran. Place, pilgrimage, and tradition in the monastic midlands. Offaly Heritage 10, 21-42.