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Jul 6 – St Moninne of Killeavy (d.c.518) virgin and foundress

06 July, 2012

St Moninne is associated with the area of Slieve Gullion and the parishes of Killeavy (Upper, Middle and Lower) in South Armagh. She may also have had a significant role in starting the monastic movement in Ireland. Patrick Duffy explains. Links with Patrick, Brigid and Ibar Moninne’s original name was Darerca and she seems to […]

Founded by St Patrick in the mid-5th century the church in Armagh soon developed on native monastic lines with abbots who were at first also bishops

Founded by St Patrick in the mid-5th century the church in Armagh soon developed on native monastic lines with abbots who were at first also bishops

St Moninne is associated with the area of Slieve Gullion and the parishes of Killeavy (Upper, Middle and Lower) in South Armagh. She may also have had a significant role in starting the monastic movement in Ireland. Patrick Duffy explains.

Links with Patrick, Brigid and Ibar
Moninne’s original name was Darerca and she seems to belong to the very early period of Christianity in Ireland. She is said to have received the veil from St Patrick and to have founded a community of eight virgins and a widow with a baby near Faughart, north Louth. She fostered the widow’s baby, Luger, and he later became a bishop. She moved, perhaps with her whole community, to a place near Begerin in Co. Wexford to be under St Ibar for counsel and stayed there for some time. She later came back to Cill Shléibhe Cuillin (Killeavy, South Armagh) and settled in a remote spot in the shadow of  Slieve Gullion. She is also associated with St Brigid, having stayed with her at Kildare on her way to and from Wexford.

Association with St Ninian
Moninne seems to have had difficulty in founding and maintaining a religious community of women without getting support from monks. Liam de Paor is of the opinion that it may have been communities of women who actually pioneered the great monastic movement that became so influential in the Irish Church from the sixth to the twelfth century. She sent at least one of her companions, Brignat, across the sea to St Ninian’s Candida Casa at Whithorn in Galloway to learn good monastic practice.

Did she go to Whithorn herself?
Another tradition says she went to Whithorn herself. Her adopted or pet name Moninne could be a feminine version of ‘my Ninian’. Another story says that she cured a dumb poet, whose first words were ‘Ninna, Ninna’ or ‘my Ninna’. Because of this name, her cult became confused with that of St Modwenna, the patron of Burton-on-Trent in England. And it is to this confusion that we owe the survival of much of the information about her.

Moninna's WellGrave and well at Killeavy
There is a large granite slab at Killeavy that is pointed out as her grave, and a nearby holy well is visited by pilgrims on her feast day, 6th July. The well is known as St Bline’s Well, Bline being a corruption of Moninne’s name that is still used locally. However, on the well erected in 1929 an inscription in Irish reads Tobar Naoimh Blathnaid. Blathnaid is the name of a woman associated with the Irish legendary hero Cúchulain. See St Moninne’s Well

Tribute of St Oengus
In his Félire, or calendar of Irish saints, St Oengus refers to Moninne as:

Moninde of the mountains,
Cuillin, a beautiful pillar.
She gained a triumph, a hostage of purity,
A kinswoman of great Mary.