This pretty town is perhaps best known as the setting for the John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara movie, The Quiet Man, but its real star is the 12th century Augustinian monastery, a site of worship and learning until King Henry VIII of England dissolved the monasteries in the 1530s.
One easily imagines a procession of psalm-chanting monks winding past the ornate stone carvings of the Market Cross carrying the beautiful Cross of Cong, a gold, silver, bronze and crystal ceremonial crucifix now held in the National Museum in Dublin.
On the banks of the Cong River, beside a centuries-old yew grove, stands the Monk’s Fishing House. Inside, there is a hole in the floor where the monks were able to catch fish for the abbey kitchens while staying out of the wintry elements.
Across the river is the Cong Forest Nature Trail which winds through the monks’ woodland, which was enhanced with redwoods, giant sequoia and Monterey pine by Arthur Guinness (Lord Ardilaun) in the mid-19th century when he owned nearby Ashford Castle.
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