Ireland: Top Saints
Saint Fachtna was born at a place called Tulachteann, in what year we cannot say, and like many other great Irish saints, received his first lessons in piety from Saint Ita of Killeedy, the Brigid of Munster, from whose care he passed, according to some writers, to Saint Finbarr‘s seminary at Loch Eirce, near Cork. He soon founded the monastery Molana, on the little island of Dririnis in the River Blackwater, not far from the modern town of Youghal.
Returning to his native territory, he set about a more important foundation on a rocky promontory situated in the midst of woods and green fields between two lovely bays. This was the monastic School of Ross, called in the “Life of St. Mochoemoc”, magnum studium scholarium, for it quickly became famous for its study of Sacred Scripture, and the attention given to all the branches of a liberal education. Ross is now called Rosscarbery, but was formerly known as Ross-Ailithir from the large number of monks and students who flocked to its halls from all over Europe.
One of the assistant teachers was Saint Brendan the Navigator, whom Fachtna had known and loved as a companion when under the care of Saint Ita. An old document quoted by Usher represents Brendan as being at Ross in 540 AD.
While engaged in teaching here, Saint Fachtna was stricken with total blindness. On appealing to God in his distress, he was directed by an angel to make application to Nessa, the sister of Saint Ita, who was about to become the mother of Saint Mochoemoc. Fachtna did as he was directed and his sight was miraculously restored.
Fachtna is generally thought to have been the first Bishop of Ross. He is sometimes called Facundus, in allusion to his eloquence, to which, as well as to his sanctity, unmistakable testimony is borne by Saint Cuimin of Connor. Cuimin describes him as “the generous and steadfast, who loved to address assembled crowds and never spoke aught that was base and displeasing to God“. He died at the early age of 46, and was buried in his own cathedral church at Ross.
Saint Fachtna of Ross is generally regarded as the same Saint Fachtna who founded the Diocese of Kilfenora, as both the saint’s descended from the princely race of Corca Laighde, and both have their Feast Day on 14th August.
Saint Fanchea, the princess sister of Saint Enda, became a nun and later the abbess of Killeaney.
Saint Fechín / Feithin of Fore
Saint Felim of Kilmore was one of the Children of Dediva
Saint Femia / Feme / Femme / Efemia was one of the Children of Dediva
Fergno Mac Faílbi. abbott of Iona (probably a Briton)
Saint Fiacre / Fiachre / Fiachra / Fiachrius / Fiacrio / Fèfre / Fèvre / Fiakrius (c.599 – 670 AD) is credited with establishing monasteries at Graiguenamanagh and Ullard in modern County Kilkenny. However, his unwanted fame as one skilled with herbs, a healer and holy man, caused disciples to flock to him. Seeking greater solitude, he sought refuge in France, at Meaux, where he lived a life of great mortification, in prayer, fast, vigil, and the manual labour of the garden. He built an oratory in honour of the Virgin Mary, a cell in which he himself lived apart, and a hospice for travellers where he received strangers in what is now Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne.
His relics are installed in Meaux Cathedral, which became the focus of a cult following and continued to be a great centre of devotion to Fiacre, especially during the C17th and C18th centuries. Visitors to his shrine included Anne of Austria, Bousset, and Vincent de Paul.
Saint Fiacre is most renowned as the patron saint of gardeners and gardening, especially of growing food and medicinal plants, and is also sometimes invoked to help heal people of ills. His reputed aversion to women is believed to be the reason he is also known as the patron saint of venereal disease sufferers. He was known to heal haemorrhoids, which were called “Saint Fiacre’s illness” in the Middle Ages – maybe due to the story where he sat sorrowfully on a stone and that stone softened.
Saint Fiacre is also the patron saint of taxi drivers. The connection arose from the fact that the Hotel de Saint Fiacre in Paris, France, rented carriages, usually to travel to the hospice at Saint-Fiacre, Seine-et-Marne. People who had no idea who Fiacre was referred to the small hackney coaches as “Fiacre cabs”, and eventually as “fiacres”. Similarly, Viennese horse-drawn buggies are referred to as Fiaker. Open horse-drawn cabs in Egypt are also called “fiacres”.
Fiachra, an ancient pre-Christian name, may be a derivative of the word fiach – “raven”. It can be found in ancient Irish folklore and stories such as the Children of Lir.
Saint Fiecre’s feast day is disputed; in Ireland it is 1 September; elsewhere it is variously 1st August, 18th August, or 30th August, but 11th August has grown in acceptance as an official compromise.
To celebrate the Second Millennium, St. Fiachra’s Garden was opened in 1999 at the Irish National Stud, Tully, County Kildare.
Saint Fillan (d.724 AD) was an abbott of Iona.
Saint Finan of Lindisfarne (d.662 AD), Irish by birth, became a monk at Iona and upheld the Celtic traditions against the encroachment of Roman usage. Finan baptized Penda, ruler of the Middle Angles, and Sigebert, ruler of Essex. Elected bishop of Lindisfarne in 651 AD, Finan sent missionaries to Mercia and to Essex. He also debated Ronan, an Englishman, about the correct way to calculate the date of Easter. On Holy Island, he built a wooden cathedral, the roof of which was thatched with seagrass. (A later abbot removed the thatching and covered the building with lead). Saint Cuthbert succeeded him as abbot. Feast Day – 17th February.
Saint Finbarr / Finnbarr / Findbarr / Fin Barre / Fionnbarra, often abbreviated to Barra (c. 550 – 623 AD) was born in Templemartin, near Bandon, the son of Amergin of Maigh Seóla, and originally named Lóchán / Loan. He studied in Ossory, where he was renamed “Fionnbarra” (Fairhead) on being tonsured. On completion of his education he lived for some time on a lake island in what is now called Gougane Barra (the little rock-fissure of Finnbarr). He is reputed to have built small churches in various other places, including one in Ballineadig, County Cork, called Cell na Cluaine, anglicized as Cellnaclona and sometimes referred to as Cloyne, causing it to be confused with Cloyne (Cluain Uamha) in east Cork. He settled for about the last 17 years of his life in the area then known as “an Corcach Mór” (Great Marsh), now the City of Cork, where he gathered around him monks and students. This became an important centre of learning, giving rise to the phrase “Ionad Bairre Sgoil na Mumhan” (“Where Finbarr taught let Munster learn”, now the motto of UCC). He also founded the Diocese of Cork, apparently on the direct authority of God. He as credited with many miracles. When Finbarr died at Cell na Cluaine, the sun failed to set for a fortnight. He was buried in the cemetery attached to his cathedral church in Cork. Feast Day – 25th September.
Saint Finbarr of Termonbarry was probably the same person.
Saint Findbarr Moccu Fiatach is another of the five Irish saints named Finbarr / Finnbar / Findbarr etc. Scotland also has place names that refer to Saint Finnbarr, perhaps due to devotion to him having been carried there by disciples. One such place is the Gaelic-speaking island of Barra, where there is a ruined church called Cille Bharra (church of Finnbarr). Tradition identifies this Finnbarr with the Cork saint, but it has been argued that he was Scottish.
Saint Findan/ Fintan (d. 879 AD) born in Leinster, was made a slave by Norse raiders in the Orkney Islands. Escaping to Scotland, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome and became a Benedictine in Sabina. Findan was a hermit at the Rheinan Abbey in Switzerland for more than twenty years. Feast Day – 15th November.
Saint Finian of Clonard was the foremost of the 12 Apostles of Erin.
Saint Finian Lobhar / the Leper, (d. 560 AD), born in Bregia, Leinster, is said to have contracted leprosy while curing a boy of the disease. He is credited with founding the church and monastery at Innisfallen in Killarney. Later he became abbot of Swords Abbey near Dublin. Feast Day – 16th March.
Saint Finian / Finnian of Moville / Finnen of Magh Bile was one of the 12 Apostles of Erin.
Saint Finion, founder of Skellig Michael
Saint Finnchu / Finnchua (died 655 AD) was born and baptised at Mog-Ruth (Fermoy) in Munster, by Ailbe of Imlach Ibair (Emly), and “a screpall, that is seven pennies of gold, paid as a baptismal fee“. As a child he was placed for seven years with king Cumusgach of Teffia (modern counties Westmeath and Longford), then trained as a monk with Saint Comgall of Bangor, where he distinguished himself by his courage in bearding the king of Ulaidh, who insisted on grazing his horses on the monastery lands. Nine years later Finnchu succeeded Comgall as abbot, though he does not appear in the regular lists. After seven years he was expelled from Ulaidh “because of the scarcity of land”.
Finnchu then returned to Munster, where the king of Cashel allowed him to choose a place of residence. Hither came to him Conang, king of the Déisi, who prostrated himself to him, and Finnchu gave him, “as a soul-friend’s jewel, his own place in heaven”. Then, in order to obtain a place in heaven instead of that which he had given away, he suspended himself by the armpits from hooks in the roof of his cell, so that “his head did not touch the roof, nor his feet the floor“. Thenceforth the place was called Bri gobann – “Smith’s Hill” – from the skill shown by the smiths who manufactured the hooks (now Brigown, near Mitchelstown in County Cork) , During seven years he continued to practise this self-mortification until he was visited by Saint Ronan Finn with an urgent request for help from the king of Meath, who was distressed by the inroads of pirates from Britain. After much persuasion, “though sorely ashamed of his perforated body holed by chafers and beasts“, he accompanied Saint Ronan to Tara. On the night of his arrival an attack took place, and on Finnchu’s advice “all, both laymen and clerics, turned right-handwise and marched against the intruders“, with the result that they “slew them, burnt their ships, and made a mound of their garments”.
Returning to Munster, Finnchu was next called to repel an attack from the north, the queen of Ulaidh having instigated her husband to invade Munster to provide territory for her sons. The king of Munster was then living at Dun Ochair Maige (the fort on the brink of the Maige), now Bruree, in the modern county of Limerick, and when he and his consort beheld “the splendid banners floating in the air, and the tents of royal speckled satin pitched on the hill“, they sent for Finnchu, who had promised, if occasion required, to come, “with the Cenn Cathach [head battler], even his own crozier“. After vainly trying to make peace, he “marched in the van of the army with the Cenn Cathach in his hand, and then passed right-handwise round the host”, For the complete victory which followed the king awarded “a cow from every enclosure from Cnoc Brenain to Dairinis of Emly, and a milch cow to the cleric carrying his crozier in battle“.
Ciar Cuircech, nephew of the king of Kerry, having been sent adrift on account of suspected treason, had been taken by pirates, and was retained by them as guide, and for three autumns they harried Kerry, and carried off the corn. The king sent for his relative, Finnchu. The saint came to the rescue, and “his wrath arose against the maurauders, and the howling and rending of a hound possessed him on that day, wherefore the name of Finnchu [fair hound] clave to him“.
The last warlike adventure in which Finnchu was engaged was the repelling an invasion of the Clanna Neill. The people of Munster, who were then without an overking, elected Cairbre Cromm, a man of royal descent, who was at this time “in waste places hunting wild swine and deer”. He consented to lead them on condition that Finnchu accompanied him. On coming in sight of the enemies’ camp the Munster men “flinch from the fight in horror of the Clanna Neill”, but stirred by the warning of Finnchu that not a homestead would be left to them if they did not fight, they gained the victory. Cairbre Cromm was then made king of Munster, but being dissatisfied with his appearance, as “his skin was scabrous“, he besought Finnchu to bestow a goodly form on him, and the saint “obtained from God his choice of form for him“. His shape and colour were then changed, so that he was afterwards Cairbre the Fair.
After this Finnchu made a vow that he would not henceforth be the cause of any battles. He gave his blessing to the rulers of Munster, and they promised to pay the firstlings of cows, sheep, and swine to him and his successors, together with an alms ‘from every nose in Fermoy. Then he went to his own place, and thence it is said to Rome, for he was penitent for the battles and deeds he had done for love of brotherhood.
Finnchu was primarily a warrior, whose religious zeal was manifested in ascetic practices of an extreme character. He was supposed to lie the first night in the same grave with every corpse buried in his church. In an Irish stanza current in the north of the county of Cork he is associated with Saint Molagga, Saint Colman of Cloyne, and Saint Declan, all very early saints, and he is termed “Finnchu the ascetic“. It is also said he was “a flame against guilty men”, and that “he proclaimed Jesus“. The year of Finnchu’s death is not on record, but it must have been a long time after he left Bangor, which was in 608. His Feast Day is 25th November.
Saint Fintan (d. 603 AD?) was styled Episcopus Lageniensis – a bishop in Leinster. This does not mean that he was the ruler of a diocese. Rather, it suggests that he was a chorespiscopus – a bishop whose episcopal functions were confined to the monastery of which he was Abbot. There were many such chorepiscopi in the early Irish Church. We know little more about him, except that he followed the Columban Rule.
Saint Fintan / Finten / Finton / Finian Munnu / Munna (d. 635 AD) was disciple of Saint Columba. He stayed in Cluain Inis for eighteen years and then went to Scotland, where he became known as Saint Mundus. Returning to Ireland, he founded Taghmon in Wexford and became its abbot. Developing Taghmon into a famous monastery, Finian attended the Magh Lene Synod in 630 AD, defending Celtic liturgical practices. He also founded a church in Taughmon in County Westmeath. In his later years he suffered from a terrible skin disease, possibly a form of leprosy. Feast Day – 16th March.
Saint Flannan was the son of Turlough, king of Thomond, a devout man who retired in his old age to Lismore to become a monk. In his youth Flannan was placed for a time under the care of Saint Blathmet and then entered Saint Molua`s monastery at Killaloe, where he made such an impresssion that he was appointed Abbot. His time in office was described as a period when “the fields waved with the richest crops, the sea poured almost on the shore an abundance of large whales and every kind of smaller fish, and the apple trees drooped under the weight of the fruit, woods abounded in acorns and hazel-nuts, the most restless nations were at peace, and the poor of every description experienced open-handed hospitality“. He had a great reputation as a preacher and it is thought that he travelled widely. There was a church of his at Inishlannaun in Lough Corrib and another on Inishbofin. He is said to have performed many remarkable miracles. After his death crowds came to visit his tomb. Saint Flannan`s feast day is 18th December.
Saint Foillan was a brother of Saint Fursey and Saint Ultan.
Saint Forannan (d. 982 AD), chosen Bishop of Donoughmore by popular election, obeyed a vision directing him to go to the Meuse; he and 12 companions left Ireland in 969 AD and, as usual with Irish saints, were miraculously conveyed across the sea. He led them to Rome, where he received the title of abbot; received further instruction in the Benedictine rule in a monastery named Gorzia, and proceeded to Walciodorus, (now Wassor, near Charleroi in modern Belgium), where the pious Emperor Otto put him in charge of the abbey (founded in 945 AD and largely staffed by Irish monks, including the first abbot, Macallen, originally a disciple of Saint Fursey / Fursa). His Feast Day is 30th April.
Saint Foirtchernn / Fortchern was the son of the local ruler Feidlimid who granted the site of the monastery founded by Saint Lómman of Trim and inherited it but passed it on three days later.
Saint Funech, founder / first Abbess of Clonbroney
Saint Fursey / Fursa was one of the Top Early Irish Missionaries
Saint Gall / Gallen / Gallus was one of Ireland’s Top Missionaries
Saint Gallen was
Saint Gearoid / Garrett / Gerald
Saint Gerald of Mayo – C7th AD Saxon disciple of Saint Colman; founded Mayo monastery
Saint Gibrian appears to have been the eldest of a Saintly Family associated with the Rheims region.
Saint Gobnait (C6th AD?) is held by tradition to have been born born in County Clare and travelled to the Aran Islands, where an angel instructed her to go on a journey until she came upon nine white deer. She duly travelled across the south and found the nine white deer in Ballyvourney, where she stayed and founded a church and a nunnery. Today, Ballyvourney is a major pilgrimage site, one of the most popular with the people of the county, and unmistakably pagan in origin. The tree beside her Holy Well is adorned with votive offerings: rosary beads, holy pictures, little statuettes of the BVM, poems, requests and prayers. Associated with bees and the curative powers of honey, she is invoked to heal the infirm. Her Feast Day is 11th February.
Saint Grellán is the paton saint of Ballinasloe.
Saint Guasacht was a late C5th AD bishop of Granard
Saint Ia of Cornwall, aka Saint Ives / Hia/ Hya / Eia, was a C5th / C6th AD evangelist and martyr, said to have been an Irish princess and the sister of Saint Erth (sometimes identified with Saint Erc of Slane). Legend holds that she and others sailed across the Irish Sea on a leaf which miraculously grew into a boat. Ia was martyred on the River Hayle and buried nearby; St. Ia’s church was erected over her grave, and the town of St. Ives built up around it. The church of Plouyé in Brittany is thought to have originally been dedicated to Saint Ia. Her Feast Day is 3rd February.
Saint Iarlaithe – see Saint Jarlath
Saint Ibar / Iberius / Iubar / Ivor – one of the First Christians in Ireland
Saint Íbar of Killibar Beg – a very obscure C5th Irish saint, after whom Killibar Beg (from Cill Íbar – ‘the church of Íbar’) in in the townland of Liscuib, Ballymacward, County Galway is named. Nothing further is known of Íbar, beyond that he would have been active as an evangelist among the Soghain people of Connacht during or after the lifetime of Saint Kerrill.
Saint Ingean Bhuide – “sister” of Saint John of Mushera
Saint Iserninus – one of the Pre-Patrician Missionaries
Saint Ita of Killeedy / Íte ingen Chinn Fhalad (d. 570/577 AD), also known as Ida / Ides, and called the “Brigid of Munster”, was born in the present County Waterford. She became a nun, settling down at Cluain Credhail, known ever since as Killeedy — “church of St Ita” — in modern County Limerick. She was the head of a community of women that had a school for little boys; pupils are said to have included several future Irish saints, notably Saint Brendan the Navigator. Her legend places a great deal of emphasis on her austerity.Numerous miracles are attributed to her, and she was also endowed with the gift of prophecy. She was held in great veneration by a large number of contemporary saints, men as well as women. She probably died of cancer, though contemporary chroniclers describe how her side was consumed by a beetle that eventually grew to the size of a pig. Her Feast Day is 15th January.
Saint Jarlath / Iarlaithe mac Loga (d. c. 540 AD), of royal lineage, is said to have studied under Saint Benignus of Kilbannon, a disciple of Saint Patrick. Afterwards, he founded his first monastery at Cloonfush, near Tuam. His monastic school is said to have attracted scholars from all parts of Ireland, including such students as Saint Colman of Cloyne and the young Saint Brendan the Navigator, who advised him to leave in a newly built chariot until its two hind shafts broke, because there would be the place of his resurrection (esséirge) and that of many after him. His travel did not take him very far, as the shafts broke at Tuaim da Ghualann (“Mound of two shoulders”), i.e. Tuam. Jarlath went on to study under Saint Enda of Aran around 495 AD, and In retired to Tuam c.520 AD. He was known for his generosity and devotion to prayer (“three hundred genuflexions every night, and three hundred genuflexions every day“). His hagiography in the “Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church” records that as a result of his great asceticism and devotion to prayer he was granted the gift of prophecy. His Feast Day is recorded in the Martyrologies as 25th / 26th December, but it became customary to celebrate it on 6th June, the anniversary of the translation of his relics to a church specially built in his honour next to the Cathedral of Tuam; his remains were encased in a silver shrine, from which the C13th edifice gained the name Teampul na scrín – “church of the shrine”.
Saint John of Mushera – noted for his “sisters”, see Saintly Families.
Saint Justus was both baptiser and teacher of Saint Cierán of Clonmacnoise.