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Sep 9 – St Ciaran of Clonmacnoise (6th century) abbot

09 September, 2012

Ciarán the younger was from Connaught and founded a monastery at Clonmacnois that became famous throughout Europe. Pope John Paul II stopped off here on his way to celebrate Mass in Knock in 1979. Patrick Duffy traces Ciarán’s story. Mac an tsaoir The son of a carpenter or wheelwright, mac an tsaoir, Ciarán, is often called […]

ciaran1Ciarán the younger was from Connaught and founded a monastery at Clonmacnois that became famous throughout Europe. Pope John Paul II stopped off here on his way to celebrate Mass in Knock in 1979. Patrick Duffy traces Ciarán’s story.

Mac an tsaoir
The son of a carpenter or wheelwright, mac an tsaoir, Ciarán, is often called “the younger” to distinguish him from Ciarán of Saighir, called Sean Chiarán, or Ciarán the Senior.

Ciarán’s cow
This Ciarán was from Connaught and went to study under Finian of Clonard, taking with him his favourite cow, which his family donated for his education. The monastery could profit from milk and butter, calves, meat or from the hide that would be turned into parchment. The skin of Ciarán’s cow was preserved in his memory and was noted for miracles – it had the reputation that every man who died resting on it would get eternal life. And later, the book written on this famous cow-skin, Leabhar na hUidhre, became one of Ireland’s most important manuscripts. This is the book which preserves the lCiaranegend of the Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Training with Enda and Senan
Ciarán went on to learn from Enda of Aran, where he was ordained priest, and later to Senan of Scattery Island.

Foundation at Clonmacnois
He then made his own foundation with ten companions on the Shannon at Clonmacnois, but died at the age of 33 while it was still being built.

Influence
Clonmacnois later became one of the most influential monasteries in Europe. Alcuin of York (735-804), the most renowned of Saxon scholars who became an advisor at the court of Charlemagne, studied here under Colcu the wise in the eighth century. He wrote letters to him and sent presents from himself and the emperor. The monastery survived the Viking raids and the Norman wars up until 1552.

A place of pilgrimage
Clonmacnois is still an impressive site and a place of pilgrimage, especially for the Catholic group, Youth 2000. Pope John Paul II stopped off here on his way to Galway during his visit to Ireland in 1979.

JP at Clon

Pope John Paul II at Clonmacnois 1979