Killaloe (Irish: Cill Dálua meaning Lua's church) is a large village in east County
Clare, Ireland, situated in the midwest of Ireland. The village is on the south end
of Lough Derg, while the settlement spreads across the River Shannon, with the County
Tipperary side known as Ballina. The surrounding area is popular for hill-walking.
The town owes its origin to a sixth century monastic settlement founded by St. Molua,
or Lua, originally on an island in the Shannon 1 km below the present Killaloe Bridge
which later moved onto the mainland. In the tenth century it was base for Brian Boru
as it controlled the strategic crossing of the Shannon above Limerick, where the
Vikings were in control. Brian Boru had his palace, Kincora (Ceann Coradh), on the
high ground where the current Catholic church stands. Therefore, between 1002 and
1014, when he was the High King, Killaloe was effectively the capital of all Ireland.
2 km north of the town, his fort, Beal Boruma, stood on the site of an Iron Age ring
at the head of Lough Derg, where a ford crossed the river. The word "Boruma" comes
from the tribute paid by those crossing the river and is thought to be the origin
of Brian Boru's name.
St Flannan's Cathedral (Church of Ireland) was built between 1185 and 1225, with
an oratory for the same saint, who had been the abbot of Killaloe in the seventh
century, and it became the centre of the diocese. The cathedral was destroyed and
rebuilt in the fourteenth century, and of the original building only a romanesque
arch survives. In Elizabethan times, Ennis was chosen as the county town of Clare,
and the importance of Killaloe declined.
In 1650, Cromwell spent 10 days on the opposite side of the Shannon at Ballina, exploring
ways to cross the river, which was the defensive line of catholic and royalist forces
before the Siege of Limerick. 40 years later, Patrick Sarsfield was the leader of
the Jacobite forces here, harrying the Williamite forces advancing on Limerick.
The earliest mention of a (wooden) bridge across the river is in 1013. This was often
repaired and eventually replaced by a 17 arch stone bridge in the early eighteenth
century, later reduced to 13 arches. Most of the houses in the lower part of the
town were built in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century the Shannon
Steam Navigation Company had its headquarters here and constructed a canal to bypass
the rapids below the town.
St. Lua's oratory, built between 1000 and 1150, was moved from Friar's island to
the site of the Catholic Church when the hydroelectric scheme at Ardnacrusha was
constructed in the 1920s.
Killaloe was the birthplace of Ireland's famous High King, Brian Boru. He ruled from
Kincora, which is believed to have been in modern day Killaloe.
Former Ireland rugby international captain Keith Wood, also the inaugural IRB International
Player of the Year in 2001, is a Killaloe native.