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Aug 12 – St Attracta (Adhract) (5th century): co-patron with St Nathy of Achonry diocese

12 August, 2012

Summary: St Attracta: When St Patrick is said to have founded a nunnery at Coolavin, he appointed Attracta as its first abbess. It was called after her Cill Adhracht (“Attracta’s church”, English Killaraght).

St Attracta and her poor The image (left) shows Attracta who  had a reputation for hospitality, charity to the poor and the gift of healing.

Patrick Duffy tells her story.

Renowned for hospitality and charity to the poor
Though no very reliable records of her life remain, Attracta is reputed to have been a contemporary of St Patrick, to whom she made her profession in Coolavin near Lough Gara in south Co Sligo. St Patrick is said to have founded a nunnery there and appointed Attracta its first abbess. Her convent had a reputation for hospitality and charity to the poor.

he convent was actually situated in what is now the old cemetery at Killaraght (Cill Adhracht = Attracta’s Church) between Monasteraden and Boyle. It is in the parish of Gurteen (incorporating Cloonloo, Kilfree and Killaraght), Co Sligo, and there are historical references to it from the 5th century down to 1594.

Her gift of healing
As Holy wellwell as the village of Killaraght, numerous other places in the area were named after Attracta, e.g. Tober (= well) Araght, Clochán ( = stone structure) Araght, etc. A healing well with her name survives at Clogher, Monasteraden which has a reputation for special powers against warts and rickets and a “pattern” is held there every year on her feast day – 12th August.

Relations with her brother

Another tradition is that her half-brother Conall had a church at Drum (Drumconnell), near Boyle and he refused to let her settle near him because he had resolved to avoid the company of women. She, in turn, is reported to have cursed him in suitably robust terms. Both are mentioned in the Irish martyrologies.

Co-patron of Achonry diocese
Along with St Nathy, St Attracta is the co-patron of the diocese of Achonry. During the penal times there was no resident bishop and it was the people who kept the faith through pilgrimages and “patterns” at local wells such as that of St Attracta, as well as through house Masses, confessions, christenings, weddings and wakes.