Sunday, 18 December 2016


From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Drogheda on the Meath side of the river Priory and hospital of St John of the order of Cross bearers was founded in it is supposed the reign of King John by Walter de Lacie who was if not the founder at least its principal benefactor It belonged to the grand establishment at Kilmainham This hospital paid annually half a marc proxies to the bishop of Meath Thomas Dane was the last prior and on the 26th of July the thirty first of king Henry VIIL was found seized of a church and belfry chapter house dormitory and dwelling with its other appurtenances In the sixth of Edward VI it was granted with a parcel of its property to James Sedgrave for ever at the annual rent of 10s 10d Carmelite friary on the Meath side of the river and convenient to the castle or garrison of Drogheda This house was founded by the inhabitants of Drogheda for Carmelites in honor of the blessed Virgin In the first year of Edward II it appears by inquisition that the corporation of Drogheda had granted to the friars of this order a piece of land containing eighty virgates and on the 23d of June 1346 Edward LTJ granted a license to Richard the son of William Massager of Drogheda permitting him to assign to this house four acres of land adjoining the same with the appurtenances for the purpose of increasing and maintaining the lights burning in honor of the blessed Virgin in this church In the year 1468 it was enacted by Parliament that this convent should for ever enjoy a chief rent of ten shillings yearly which had been granted to the burgesses of the town Part of this friary was afterwards repaired for the service of the parish ie the Protestant

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Mullingar the capital of the county priory of St Mary This house known by the name of the house of God of Mullingar was founded in 1227 for canons regular of St Augustine by Ralph le Petit bishop of Meath AD 1305 Donat O Flaherty bishop of Killala was interred here AD 1397 Hugh was prior to whom Adam Petyt granted forty acres of land in Killbrena AD 1464 the town was burned and destroyed by the people of Managh AD 1467 the prior Petyt died of the plague AD 1534 John Petyt was the last prior An inquisition was held in the thirty first of Henry VHL and a second in the thirteenth of Elizabeth when three hundred and sixty acres of arable and pasture with thirty three messuages were granted to Richard Tuite and his heirs male by knight's service at the yearly rent of 16 5s 10d Irish money The priory of St Mary's paid annually four marcs to the bishop of Meath Dominican Friary AD 1237 the family of Nugent founded this abbey AD 1278 to 1314 general chapters of the order were held here In the eighth of Elizabeth this convent with one hundred and twenty acres of land were granted to Walter Hope at the annual rent of 10 They were afterwards given to Richard Tuite and eventually became the property of Lord Granard in whose possession they have remained In 1756 the fathers of the order in Mullingar were Laurence Geral dine the prior Thomas Hope Ambrose Higgins James Barnewall Thomas Dalton and Patrick Mac Donagh a lay brother Franciscan friary AD 1622 the friars of Mullifernam began to erect a house for their order in Mullingar but it has remained unfinished

Friday, 7 October 2016


From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Athboy in the barony of Lune six miles north west of Trim A market and borough town which sent two members to the Irish parliament before its extinction by the British government AD 1317 the 17th of October a licence was granted to William de Loundres permitting him to make a donation to the friars of the blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel in Athboy of a lot of ground in the said town whereon this monastery stood AD 1325 a provincial chapter of the order was held before John Bloxham vicar general of the institute in Ireland AD 1372 The friars were indicted for acquiring two gardens contrary to the statute AD 1467 another chapter was held April 31st and of Henry VIII the thirty first the prior of Athboy was found seized of a church and a belfry a cloister a stone tower a mansion a small orchard and six small gardens all within the precincts and of the annual value besides reprises of 2s also eight messuages value 24s The monastery with these and other appurtenances was granted for ever to Thomas Casey in capite at the annual rent of 2s Irish

Friday, 2 September 2016


From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Kells on the river Blackwater gives its name to the barony. Is attributed to St. Columbkille about the year 550 by others to Kellach abbot of Hy who took refuge there from the ravages and attacks of the Danes and who is said to have founded the abbey. However this may be mention is made of abbots of Kells long prior to his flight from Hy.

A.D. 692 Muredach O Cricain was abbot.
A.D. 713 in the seventy fourth year of his age the abbot Foylcow died.
A.D. 802 the abbey of Kells was destroyed by fire.
A.D. 804 it was rebuilt in honor of St Columba.
A.D. 806 the Danes having killed many of the monks of Hy the abbot Kellach sought safety in Ireland.
A.D. 899 the abbey was sacked and pillaged.
A.D. 919 the Danes plundered Kells and laid the church which was of stone level with the ground.
A.D. 1061 died the blessed St. Ciaran famed for his great erudition wisdom and exemplary piety.

This abbey is remarkable for many memorable events. The Danes having made a furious attack in the year 967 on this monastery were routed with great slaughter by Ó Neil, the Great king of Ireland. In 1152 the famous synod of Kells was held under cardinal Paparo at which three thousand ecclesiastics attended besides the bishops. The abbey was destroyed six times by fire but was afterwards rebuilt in a style of greater magnificence partly by the bounty of the princes of Ireland but chiefly by the revenues which were attached to it. It possessed the most splendid library of any monastery in the kingdom having been celebrated for its manuscripts among which was St. Columbkille's book of the four Gospels adorned with gold and precious stones. Richard Plunket was the last abbot when in 1537 Henry VIII took into his own hands the extensive possessions of this abbey.

The grants of De Lacie in 1173 consisted of 36 townlands. In Kells it possessed 90 acres, in Grangestown 86, in Corbally 82, in Malerdone 16 messuages and 300 acres, in Kilbride 220 acres in Kiltome 350 acres together with 19 rectories. These several possessions were granted to Sir Gerald Plunkett.

At Kells is still to be seen St. Columba's house situated outside the boundary wall of the cemetery on the north side in its ground plan it presents a simple oblong form measuring externally twenty three feet nine inches in length and twenty one in breadth the walls being three feet ten inches in thickness. It is roofed with stone and measures in height from its base to the vertex of the gable thirty eight feet. The lower part of the building is arched semicircularly with stone and has at the east end a small semicircular headed window about fifteen feet from the ground. At the south side is a second window with a triangular head about the same height from the ground and measuring one foot nine inches in height. Those windows have a considerable splay on the inside. The apartment placed between the arched floor and the slanting roof is six feet in height and appears to have been originally divided into three apartments of unequal size of which the largest is lighted by a small aperture at the east end. In this chamber there is a flat stone six feet long and one thick called St. Columba's penitential bed.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Kinnegad

The excellent website 'Buildings of Ireland' describes the Kinnegad Parish Church as follows: 

Detached Roman Catholic church on cruciform plan, built 1904-09, comprising four-bay nave, two bay transepts to east and west and a three-stage tower on square-plan with broached spire over, offset, to east end of entrance front (south). Single-bay single-storey gable-fronted entrance porch to the centre of entrance façade (south) and with a buttress to the southeast corner of the nave rising to a pinnacle over. Pitched natural slate roofs with decorative clay ridge tiles, raised verges with cut stone copping, cast-iron rainwater goods and cut stone cross finials. Iron Celtic cross finial to spire. Constructed of rock-faced limestone with ashlar limestone detailing. Paired pointed-arch headed lancet windows to the nave, separated by clasping buttress, with three lancet openings to gable ends of transepts. Two twin-light Geometric windows with hoodmouldings over to entrance front with quatrefoil window over to gable apex. Rose windows over pointed-arched door openings to east and west ends of transepts (south facing elevations). Attached tower has cusped lancets to first two stages with open belfry over. Open gablets with Geometric tracery to broached spire. Square-headed doorcase set in pointed-arched recess to entrance porch with timber double-doors flanked by paired marble colonnettes with carved stone panel above. Entrance porch flanked by cusped lancets with hoodmouldings over. Interior retains original marble altar goods and has stained glass windows by Mayer of Munich. Set slightly back from road in a prominent location in the centre of Kinnegad with parochial house (15316006) adjacent to north. Landscaped area to west with marble statue set on raised plinth, cast-iron gates and railings to east side of church. Former Roman Catholic church on cruciform to the rear (north), now roofless.

Appraisal A substantial church, which retains its early form, character and fabric. This church was built to designs by T. F. McNamara (1867-1947), a noteworthy architect of his day. McNamara also designed the Roman Catholic church in Castletown Geoghegan (1885) and completed the new Roman Catholic church in Ballynahowen (1902), amongst other commissions. The church in Kinnegad is built in a subdued Gothic Revival-style, which was rather old fashioned for the date of construction. This church impresses principally with its scale and it dominates the centre of Kinnegad. The combination of the rock-faced walls and the ashlar window and door surrounds, creates textural variation. The severity of the lancet windows is softened by the addition of rose windows to both transepts and the Geometric tracery to the entrance facade. This mixture of window styles, along with the ornate entrance door, adds an artistic quality to the church's façade. The interior retains the original altar fittings, some good quality mosaic tiling and is well lit by the stained glass windows by Mayer of Munich. This church replaced an earlier Roman Catholic church in Kinnegad, built c.1820, the roofless shell of which can still be found a short distance to the north behind the parochial house. The remains of this modestly scaled former church to the rear adds considerably to this composition and it provides an interesting contrast with the present edifice in terms and scale and decoration, reflecting the increasing power, wealth and influence of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century. The present church building occupies a prominent location on Main Street and, together with the landscaped area to the west side of the church and in front of the parochial house, makes an important contribution to the townscape in this location. The present church was built on the site of a former market house (map 1838).

Friday, 8 July 2016

Kilbeggan Abbey

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

19th Cent. Convent, Kilbeggan

Killbeggan in the barony of Moycashell on the river Brosna. The abbey was subsequently called de flumine Dei by allusion probably to that river. The ancient establishment of Killbeggan is attributed to St. Becan, brother of St. Cormac, of the royal blood of Munster, and of St. Evin of Ross, in the county of Wexford. In the life of St. Cormac mention is made of Becan Sanctus Becanus in Mumonia remanens monasterium de Killbeacain alias Cluan ard Mobecoc crexit et sanc tissime rexit. The highest encomiums are paid to his extraordinary sanctity the austerity of his life and the miracles which he wrought. We are told that he used to sing the whole Psalter every day whether dry or wet, cold or warm, by the side of a stone cross in the open air outside the monastery. St. Becan lived in the sixth century. His memory was revered on the 26th of May.

A.D. 1200 the family of Dalton founded a Cistercian abbey here under the invocation of the Virgin Mary and probably on the site of the ancient edifice. It was supplied with brethren from the abbey of Mellifont.
A.D. 1213 Melaghlin Mac Coughlan, prince of Delvin, died here in pilgrimage.
A.D. 1218 his sons died here.
A.D. 1236 Hugh O'Malone, bishop of Clonmacnois, died here.
A.D. 1298 the abbot William O'Finan was made bishop of Clonmacnois. Maurice Ó Shangane was the last abbot. In the thirty first of Henry VIII an inquisition was held and its property confiscated. Its possessions consisted of one thousand and twenty acres of wood arable and pasture, three water mills, nineteen messuages, eleven cottages and twenty six rectories. In the eleventh of Elizabeth eight carucates of this land were granted to Robert Dillon at the annual rent of £6 15s. The remainder had been parcelled out in 1618 by James I to different favorites to be held of the king as of the castle of Dublin in free and common soccage.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Kilschire Abbey

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Killschire in the barony of Kells bordering on Westmeath. This church was erected under the invocation of the holy virgin St. Schiria whose name it bears. She was venerated on the 24th of March while Corcaria Caoin, a sister of hers, is not met with in the calendars. They were the daughters of an Eugene who was great grandson to Fergus a brother of Neil Negilliach. St Schiria was living in 580.

A.D. 745 died the abbot Dubdaleithe Nagraifne.
A.D. 750 died the abbot Daolgus.
A.D. 866 died the bishop, the first and only one at Killschire, St. Conall son of Fiachna prince of East Meath and of the royal blood of Ireland. The memory of St. Conall was revered in the isle of Arran where he is interred with the three other beautiful saints of Ireland in the same tomb.  Many of the Irish saints when their last days were near repaired to this island in order to prepare for the journey to eternity and to have the assistance of those holy men who served God in this famed retreat of contemplation and sanctity.
A.D. 920 died the abbot Allgus.
A.D. 949 the Danes plundered and pillaged this abbey.
A.D. 951 Godfrid son of Sitric at the head of the Danes did again spoil the abbey.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Religious Houses of Trim

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Ruins of the Abbey at Trim

Trim in the barony of Navan and situated on the Boyne. St. Loman the founder of the see of Trim in the 7th century.

A.D. 741 on the 17th of February died the bishop, St. Cormac, the son of Colman. This saint has been confounded with Cormac, archbishop of Armagh. Cormac of Trim is said to have been of the royal house of the Nialls. Three brothers of his are mentioned in the Irish annals: Rumond a very wise man deeply skilled in history and antiquities and who died A.D. 743. In the annals of Tighernach his death is thus recorded: "Ruman MacColman poeta optimus quievit." Ruman is styled by Irish annalists 'the Virgil of Ireland.' St. Baitellach, abbot of Trim, whose death is marked at the 5th of October 752, and Ossan, a priest whose death is not dated and who is not to be confounded with his namesake of Rath Ossan
A.D. 1110 died Flann O Kionedha dean and abbot of Trim and a poet in high esteem.
A.D. 1444 great miracles were wrought before the image of the blessed Virgin which was preserved in this abbey Sight was restored to the blind speech to the dumb and the use of their limbs to the weak and decrepit This is not to be wondered at in other countries similar miracles are recorded. On the 23d of July, 1418, a Swiss soldier struck with his dagger a stone image of the blessed Virgin placed at the corner of the rue aux Ours and the rue de Salle au Compte in Paris and the blow made the blood spout forth in abundance from the stone statue. Similar occurrences have taken place in Italy and a few years ago the conversion of a Jew Monsieur Ratisbon, now a priest, suddenly took place in Rome having been viewing a painting of the blessed Virgin who appeared to him while his friend was praying at the great altar of the church of St. Andrew delle Fratte.
A.D. 1454 Robert Acton senior a canon of this house was elected abbot.
A.D. 1464 numerous miracles were wrought in presence of this image.
A.D. 1484 a parliament was held in Trim.
A.D. 1538 the famous image of the Virgin Mary was publicly burned. The four Masters record the proceedings of this memorable year in the following words: "A heresy and a new error sprang up in England through pride vain glory avarice and lust and through many strange sciences so that the men of England went into opposition to the Pope and to Rome. They at the same time adopted various opinions and among others the old law of Moses in imitation of the Jewish people and they styled the king the chief head of the Church of God in his own kingdom. New laws and statutes were enacted by the king and parliament according to their own will. They destroyed the orders to whom worldly possessions were allowed namely the monks, canons, nuns, brethren of the Cross and the four poor orders: the minors; preachers; Carmelites and Augustinians, and the lordships and livings of all these were taken up for the king. They broke down the monasteries and sold their roofs and bells so that from Arran of the saints to the Iccian sea between France and England there was not one monastery that was not broken and shattered with the exception of a few in Ireland of which the English took no notice or heed. They afterwards burned the images shrines and relics of the saints of Ireland and England. They likewise burned the celebrated image of the blessed Virgin Mary at Trim which used to perform wonders and miracles which used to heal the blind the deaf and the crippled and persons affected with all kinds of diseases and they also burned the staff of Jesus which was in Dublin performing miracles from St Patrick's time to the present and had been in the hands of Christ while he was among men said to have been given to St Patrick in the island of Lerins. They also appointed archbishops and sub-bishops for themselves and though great was the persecution of the Roman emperors against the church scarcely had there ever come so great a persecution as this from Rome when Pagan. So that it is impossible to narrate or tell its description unless it should be narrated by those who saw it."

Anthony St. Leger, knight, and Richard Hayne obtained the possessions of this monastery from Elizabeth. The steeple usually called the yellow steeple was a lofty and handsome square tower one half of which was demolished by Oliver Cromwell against whom it held out a considerable time as a garrison.

Gray friary which was dedicated to St. Bonaventure was originally founded by King John for the order of strict observants. Others say it was founded by the Plunketts. The Observantines reformed this house before the year 1325.
A.D. 1330 the Boyne overflowing its banks the building was undermined and a great part of it fell. Maurice was the last prior who was found seized of the church and steeple, a dormitory, hall, three chambers and sundry other offices within the precincts and of no value. Its possessions in land about one hundred acres &c with appurtenances were granted to Lodwyche O'Tudyr, parson of Roslaye, John Morye, parson of Walterstown and John Wakely at the annual rent of 2s 10d Irish money. This friary has been totally demolished. In the church of this friary assizes were held before the erection of a session house on its site. Father Richard Plunkett who wrote an Irish Dictionary now in the public library of Dublin resided in this convent.

Dominican friary situated near the gate leading to Athboy was founded in honor of the Virgin Mary, A.D. 1263 by Geoffrey de Geneville, lord of Meath.

A.D. 1285 a general chapter of the order was held here.
A.D. 1291 on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Matthew a general meeting was held in this abbey, the four archbishops bishops deans &c attending and enacting measures for the good of the Irish church.
A.D. 1308 the founder of this abbey assumed the habit of the order. In 1273 he had been viceroy of Ireland.
A.D. 1314 died the pious founder and was interred here.
A.D. 1315 a general chapter of the order was held here.
A.D. 1368 the church was consumed by fire.
A.D. 1418 Mathew Hussey, baron of Galtrim and a great benefactor of this convent, was interred here.
A.D. 1446 in a parliament held here it was enjoined that the Irish should not wear shirts stained with saffron.
A.D. 1484, 1487 and 1491 parliaments were held here
A.D. 1756 Sir Arthur Cole created Baron Ranelagh by George II occupied the possessions of this abbey. There were at this time seven friars in the vicinity of their convent Patrick Lynham, prior, Michael Wynn, Thomas Hussey, pastor of the parish of Donore, Thomas Curtis, Philip O Reilly, William Cruice and Vincent Coffey.

Crutched Friary, Trim

Brethren of the cross bearers. This priory was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. A bishop of Meath is said to have been the founder and his successors in the see were great benefactors to it. The last prior, Hussey, with his brethren, abandoned their monastery on the 4th of February and in the twenty seventh of Henry VIII. Its possessions were a church and belfry, chapter house, dormitory, hall, three chambers, a store, kitchen, stable and cemetery, three gardens with an orchard within the precincts. These and other appurtenances were granted for ever to Sir Thomas Cusack, knight, at the annual rent of 8s 5d Irish. This priory was a truly magnificent building.

Nunnery founded in Trim but no account of its history remains.

Greek church. An ancient church existed here of old. A fact which shows that Ireland was the mart of literature and that students from all quarters of Europe flocked to her celebrated schools.

Chantry. A perpetual chantry was founded in the parish church of St. Patrick. Contrary to the statute, they, the priests, acquired a castle and ten messuages in Trim with eight tenements and ten acres of land in Donderry and Irishtown in the county of Meath. In return for the intention of the founder some meek minister of the reformed creed must be incited by the private spirit to curse pope and popery as well as execrate that faith which prompted the pious bequest which gives him aliment while he may be celebrating the victories of the glorious and immortal memory in a bumper of genuine Boyne water.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Slane Abbey

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

Slane Abbey

Slane six miles west of Drogheda and on the north side of the Boyne. It was formerly a town of note and a borough in the palatinate of Meath. On the hill of Slane, visible from the heights of Tara, St. Patrick, in violation of a standing law, enkindled a fire by which he attracted the notice of the monarch and the court. St. Erc was bishop of Slane. Dagobert king of Austrasia, a part of France, was sent to Ireland by Grimoald, mayor of the palace, to be instructed and is said to have remained in Slane many years until he was recalled and placed on the throne.

AD 746 the first abbot of this monastery whose name is preserved in history was Colman son of Faelan and called the Briton

AD 797 died the abbot Aillil, son of Cormac, a man skilled in philosophy and who was an upright and learned judge

AD 838 the Danes plundered this abbey

AD 854 Sodamna bishop of Slane was martyred by the Danes

AD 947 the Danes received a great defeat in this town where Blacar, their commander, with sixteen hundred of his men were slain in battle

AD 948 the Danes set fire to the abbey and Probus, the prelector of the school of Slane, lost his life, together with several of his holy companions and the pastoral staff of St. Erc and many other relics of the saints and the best bell in Ireland were wholly consumed.  Probus or Caenachair was the author of the life of St. Patrick written in two books and which is esteemed as one of the most circumstantial and correct records which has been handed down on that interesting subject. This eminent man was chief lecturer in the schools of Slane in this year and having taken shelter in the belfry of the church with many others was consigned to the flames.

AD 1042 this year Eochagan a celebrated author, professor of Swords and archdeacon of this abbey died at Cologne

AD 1170 MacMurrough king of Leinster with a body of the English led on by Earl Strongbow burned and sacked the town

AD 1175 the English forces repeated their barbarities. They seem to have been more cruel than the Danes who generally were content with carrying off the moveable property of those places which they ravaged. The English depredators not only seized the moveable but they also took possession of the immoveable property of the country without regard to the rights of the native Irish whom they also put to death. Dermot MacMurrogh, who was the Nero of Ireland, died an awful death. By his plunder of the churches he added crime to crime sacrilege to sacrilege and like his prototype Nero gloated over the misfortunes which his crimes and oppressions brought on the unhappy land that gave him birth. Strongbow, to whom he gave his daughter Eva in marriage, died also a death which his crimes against the sanctuaries of Ireland well deserved. The abbey of Slane was rebuilt with some degree of elegance in the year 1512, having been refounded for Franciscans of the third order by Christopher Fleming, lord of Slane, and his wife Elizabeth Stuckle, who finding Malachy and Donagh O'Brine, friars of the same order, dwelling in the ancient hermitage of St. Erc, removed them to this new house, having obtained a proper and sufficient license for so doing. In the present remains of lord Slane's building are several fragments of the ancient abbey and many of the architraves were evidently cut out of the ornamental parts particularly one with the appearance of a head crowned.

In the thirty second of Henry VIII the prior of Slane was seized of a church and belfry dormitory garden and two closes containing one acre annual value 18s. The family of Fleming obtained it by grant. It subsequently became forfeited in the year 1641 and was given to the family of the marquis of Conyngham.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Conversion of Tara

From Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy:

In this territory were many episcopal sees Clonard, Duleek, Kells, Trim, Ardbraccan, Donshaghlin, Slane and Foure. Except Duleek and Kells, they were united before the year 1152 and the common see fixed at Clonard, the sees of Duleek and Kells were also incorporated. In the fifth century the present county of Meath and the greater part of Westmeath were the residences of kings princes and warriors.

In the year 79 of the Christian era the reigning monarch of Ireland, Tuathal, having gained successive victories over the Albanians and his domestic foes summoned a general convocation of his princes and nobles to Tara, the monarch during the session of this national assembly obtained a tract of land from each of the four provinces in each of which he erected a palace and these tracts now form the territory of Meath and Westmeath. The site of the royal residence erected on the Munster tract was called Flactga, that of the Connaught tract was called Visneach, and the third royal seat belonging to Ulster was Tailtean. The palace of Tara was reserved for the monarch himself and here the estates of the kingdom assembled at stated times in order to institute such laws as the well being of the country demanded.

The festival of Easter was approaching and St. Patrick resolved to celebrate this holy festival in the vicinity of Tara where the monarch and his princes were in convocation assembled. The apostle of Ireland determined to proclaim the mysteries of redemption at the seat of government and before the princes of the nation guided by the example of St. Peter who planted the cross in the imperial city of Rome then mistress of the nations and the patroness of error and superstition as she is now the spiritual mistress of Christ's kingdom on earth and the seat of truth and faith refreshing the people of the universe with the waters of her apostolic fountain. St. Patrick and his companions having reached the plain in which the palace of Tara was situated lodged in the house of a respectable man named Sesgnen by whom they were hospitably received. In reward of his kind treatment he obtained the grace of conversion with his family and his son Benignus who accompanied the Saint to Tara, became the companion disciple and successor of the apostle in the see of Armagh.

In compliance with an usage which was sanctioned by venerable antiquity St. Patrick ordered the paschal fire to be enkindled and thus at once attack in its stronghold the national superstition. This primitive custom of lighting the paschal fire was observed in memory of the resurrection of Christ. The ancient Irish worshiped the sun and this luminary was considered by them as the principal and supreme Deity, hence it is that fire worship was the leading dogma of Irish superstition. In compliance with an annual rite the king and princes of the country were celebrating a festival and in conformity with the Druidical worship the eve of that festival was observed with peculiar religious solemnity. By a standing law all the fires of the country were on this eve to be extinguished and no one was permitted under pain of death to kindle a fire until the sacred one should be first lighted on the hill of Tara, as a signal for the rest of Ireland. In violation of this law, the paschal fire was enkindled on the hill of Slane and, when seen from the heights of Tara, the king and his princes became alarmed and enraged at this opposition, as they supposed to the laws and religion of their country.

"This fire which we see, unless extinguished this very night," said the magi to the monarch, "will burn for ever and moreover will excel all the fires of our rite and he who kindles this fire will scatter your kingdom." Leogaire the monarch then enquired who these were who dared to infringe the law and incur the penalty which the national code enjoined. The king in company with two of the magi and attended with a numerous retinue proceeded to the place where St. Patrick had erected a temporary habitation and, having ordered the Saint to be brought before him, St. Patrick obeyed without delay, and before his arrival in the presence of the monarch, it was arranged that no mark of kindness or attention should be paid him, however, when the Saint was ushered into the royal presence. Here the son of Dego, in disregard of this uncourteous ordinance, arose and accosted him with a kindly salutation. The holy man in return imparted his benediction to the noble and generous youth who greeted his approach, nor was it bestowed in vain, as through the Divine goodness the grace of his immediate conversion to the faith was annexed.

Though the national code enjoined the penalty of death on those who violated the law relative to the observance of the national ceremony it does not appear that the monarch or the magi desired its enforcement. On the contrary, the interview with St. Patrick seemed to allay the fears of the king and conciliate his benevolence towards those strangers. On the morning which calls to our minds the glorious event of Christ's resurrection, St. Patrick for the first time proclaimed the Gospel and the mysteries of redemption to the monarch and nobles of the land assembled in the halls of Tara. On this occasion the most eminent of the bardic institute, Dubtach, arose and saluting the Saint became a Christian. In the national assembly, the bards of Ireland were particularly revered. Theirs were the duties of recording in harmonious strains the achievements of their countrymen, the wisdom of the senator, the bravery of the chieftain, the exploits of the patriot. The care of preserving an exact registry of the genealogies of families and the prerogatives of the nobles and of the boundaries which marked out the possessions of the chieftains was confided to the members of this order and it was wisely ordained that at stated times their writings should be submitted to a tribunal over which the monarch himself and a certain number of nobles presided. Before this tribunal the works of the bards were examined and from the entire collection extracts duly authenticated were deposited in the royal archives of Tara. The acquisition of Dubtach to the cause of truth was a just tribute to the force and power of the Saint's address and which was as irresistible as that of St Paul to the Areopagus at Athens. By it was torn up the bias of education and the prejudice of habit and others followed the powerful example which the conversion of the chief bard afforded in his own person. Yet the monarch hearkened not to the voice of truth but remained obstinate in his superstition although he granted permission to St. Patrick to preach the Gospel on condition that the peace of the kingdom should not be disturbed. St. Patrick, on the following day, repaired to Tailtean, where public amusements were celebrated and which were attended by the court of Tara. There also he multiplied the number of his converts and among them was Conall, brother to the king, who believed and was baptized. Visiting other parts of Meath his preaching was everywhere attended with success. Having erected a church at Drumconrath in the barony of Slane and one at Dromshallon near Drogheda, he directed his course to Delvin and thence to the hill of Usneagh, reducing the whole mass of the people to the sweet yoke of the Gospel.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Scholarship of St. Finian

From Patrick Joseph Carew's An ecclesiastical history of Ireland:

Of the seminaries founded in the sixth century those of Clonard and Bangor are entitled to particular notice. The establishment at Clonard owes its origin to St. Finnian. In his youth, St. Finnian had been placed under the care of a Bishop by name Fortkern. Having attained to man's estate he left his native country and passing over into Britain became acquainted with David, Gildas and Cathmael, each of whom had then attained a high reputation for sanctity and learning. After the lapse of some time Finnian returned to Ireland. For seven years after his return he employed himself in the study of the sacred Scriptures and in instructing others in the knowledge of them. It was after he had thus attained a high reputation for learning that he formed the monastery of Clonard. His lectures in this new institution were attended by a numerous concourse of students and by many other distinguished persons also who wished to profit by his spiritual advice. In the number of his pupils Finnian reckoned St. Columbkill. (1) In the history of this illustrious Saint we have seen that while his exertions were primarily directed to advance the cause of the Gospel he was not unmindful of the interests of learning. By his influence the Bardic order was rescued from destruction and under his direction the important and useful occupation of transcribing for posterity the learned works of preceding ages was scrupulously attended to by the Monks of Hy. To the Monks of Hy the people of Northumbria owed their conversion to Christianity and also the literary advantages which the institution erected by Aidan at Lindisfarne conferred upon them. Even at the early period we now treat of students began to resort from Britain to Ireland for the benefit of education. Of these Gildas and Petrocus are particularly mentioned by our ancient writers Gildas before he came to Ireland had devoted himself for some years to the cultivation of letters. Wishing however to improve himself still more in philosophy and theology he repaired to Ireland. There his proficiency attracted the attention of his Superiors and he was honoured with an appointment to a professorship in the celebrated school of Armagh. (2) Of Petrocus, from whom Padstow derives its name, we are told that he devoted twenty years in Ireland to the study of general literature and of the sacred Scriptures that he assiduously attended the lectures of masters who were eminent for learning and that he then returned home to distribute to his countrymen the intellectual treasures which he had there acquired.

(1) Besides St. Columbkill two distinguished Ecclesiasticks named Kieran and Columb of Tridaglass studied under St. Finnian. Clonard was devastated by the Danes in 888. It became one of the fixed Sees of Meath in 1118. Duleck became another at the same time. Eugene, Bishop of Clonard, who died in 1194, assumed the title of Bishop of Meath, which has been since retained. In 1206 the See was removed to Newtown. The possessions of the Nunnery of Clonard were confirmed by the Pope in 1195. Another Bishop of the name of Finnian lived in the same century who studied first under Nennio in Britain and afterwards at Rome. This Prelate also founded a religious and literary institution at Moville about the year 540. I may here add that Kieran and Brendan, two pupils of St. Finnian of Clonard, founded two establishments of considerable note the former at Clonmacnois the latter at Birr.
(2) Gildas Britonum historigraphus tunc remanens in Hiberuia sludium regeni et prcedicans in civitate Ardmaca. Caradoc. Vit. Gild.