Saturday, August 15, 2009

Offaly. CLONMACNOIS. Invadability - Clonmacnois, County Offaly, Geography and history - Geographical Determinism

Clonmacnois Monastery
Flat Terrain, Meandering River
How Easily is a Country Invaded
Geographical Determinism 
Clonmacnois was founded by St. Ciaran in the 6th Century. Christianity was in Ireland before St. Patrick. Ciaran studied at Tours and Rome, but chose to live as a hermit in the Irish Midlands.
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly, Ireland, High Celtic Cross

 This was the contemplative period and branch of Christianity. This period of calm service was not to last, however, once the vast Roman institutions took over, and when the effects of Christianizing northern Europe by force resulted in, or were amazingly simultaneous with, the Viking raids that decimated Irish monasteries for centuries.  This was a particularly ripe one for the taking: a Cathedral, nine churches (10th-13th C), and two round towers, three high crosses, and early Christian grave slabs.  See Heritage Sites of Ireland, Duchas, the Heritags Service, Midlands East 2000.
Much of Ireland is flat land. Imagine the ease of enemy incursion. Where to hide. See Clonmacnois, the monastery founded by Saint Kiernan, see ://

There are long, meandering rivers, like the River Shannon here. Cruise up in your Viking longboat, and make a swift attack. The monks can see you, but where do they hide except in their towers. Not for long. This is Clonmacnois, the old monastery, at the lower part where the river gently sloshes. Vikings regularly glided this way, and became very rich indeed.

Clonmacnois Monastery, Cemetery, County Offaly, River Shannon, Ireland

Here is a virtual tour site - ://


Beaches are stony, and cliff areas are there, but avoidable. So few defenses.  Just move on up the coast a bit.

Hit the rocks at the cliff areas in a storm and that is trouble, as the Spanish Armada found when they were blown off their course from attacking England. But a country easy to invade with its many long waterways doing deep.

Geographical Determinism:  This is an approach to history that focuses on how the land itself facilitates or discourages various invasions, product development, cultura.

It takes a visual overview, and a mindset that adds observation of natural setting to the more usual archeological artifacts.

It takes a mindset to look at many angles at once:

  • What a place looks like, 
  • where is it situated, 
  • then go to the history events - issues, timelines, maps, geneologies. 

Get a start on the topic at Is this like Montessori method, in a sense.  Look at this example of a multi-disciplinary curriculum in order to really learn, at

That site, looking at multidisciplinary approaches to learning, says, in a fair use quote,

"History, geography, and biography—the history of a people cannot be separated from the possibilities of the environment in which it develops, and the leadership of its great men and women."
So: look at Ireland, and other invadable places like Poland, see Poland Road Ways. More geographic determinism.  Flat lands, centuries of being overcome. Watch:

Ireland, seascape1) the invasions of the Vikings and where they chose to go, in light of the shallow, wide rivers meandering right into the heartland of a flat country,;
2) the poverty of the west along with its moonscape rock plateaus, and for that, do an Images search for Ireland West Burren;
3) the saving graces of the Celtic monks, able to preserve a literary heritage because of a leader with vision, and because they were so far in distance from the bookburnings and excesses of Roman Christianity and as the culture of the old Roman Empire fell.