Abbot Coman’s Ambition for Linn Duachaill

Abbot Coman wants to build Linn Duachaill into a rival of Armagh and Clonmacnois.  Not exactly a small goal.  Armagh and Clonmacnois were two of the most important monasteries in early medieval Ireland.

In particular, he wants to rebuild Linn Duachaill in stone.  In the west of Ireland, it was common to build in stone, for the very practical reason that there was a lot of it around.  In the east, though, wood was the faster and less costly option.  Rebuilding his abbey in stone would be a marker that it’d made it to the big leagues, monastically speaking.

Abbot Coman’s other ambition is to have a High Cross.  Medieval stone crosses, as this page at the British Museum’s site explains, aren’t all enormous.  Smaller versions appear on individual graves, for instance.  But what Abbot Coman wants is one of the towering crosses.  Pictures do not adequately convey the size.  At 9 feet high, the high cross at Termonfeckin (County Louth, by the way, and not so far from Linn Duachaill)  is one of the smaller ones.  Muiredach’s cross at Monasterboice (also County Louth) is 5.2 meters (17 feet).

Many surviving high crosses are from later than Abbot Coman’s time, but one that is 9th c and which he might have had in mind as a model is the Cross of Sts. Patrick and Columba at Kells:

(Image from

Kells, indeed, had 5 High Crosses and a Round Tower.  It’s highly likely that if Abbot Coman had succeeded in his ambitions for Linn Duachaill to rebuild in stone and set up a High Cross, his sights would have settled next on a Round Tower.  That’s what all the cool kids–I mean cutting-edge monasteries–were doing, after all.



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