With over 300 saints directly associated with the island, Ireland earned the title of “the land of saints and scholars.” However from a global perspective, St Patrick maintains celebrity status among Irish saints…after all, he’s the guy who gives the world an excuse to party every March 17th, right?
I thought I take a moment to introduce you to a few wonderful places in Ireland that are associated Irish saints:
St Brendan of Clonfert: Known as Brendan the Navigator, it’s believed he traveled by sea to North America almost 1,000 years before Columbus. The cathedral at Clonfert, Co Galway, displays a beautiful Romanesque doorway, and Craggaunowen – the Living Past Experience in County Clare houses the boat used by Tim Severin who followed Brendan’s possible route.
St Brigid (Bridget or Brigit): Ireland’s second most well-known saint, Brigid is likely based on a pre-Christian goddess. Although she’s most associated with Kildare, shrines and holy wells bearing her name pop up throughout Ireland. St Brigid’s crosses which are woven from reeds or rushes often appear in Irish homes. more>
St Buíthe (Boetius): St Buíthe is known as the founder of the religious settlement at Monasterboice in County Meath. Today visitors explore the church and round tower ruins which are surrounded by some of the best Celtic crosses in Ireland.
St Canice (Kenny or Kenneth): The town of Kilkenny gets its name from this saint, and at St Canice’s Cathedral visitors get the unique opportunity to climb to the top of the round tower.
St Ciaran (Kieran): Ciaran founded the monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly which is a popular stop along the Shannon River for those planning a trip between Dublin and Galway.
St Columba (Colm Cille): The city of Derry offers self-guided walking tour of sites associated with their city’s patron saint. He later left Ireland for the island of Iona and went on to also be closely associated with Scotland.
St Cronan: Although he founded several monasteries, his most famous was in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where visitors can wander the ruins which include churches, a round tower, and high cross.
St Declan: St Declan’s Pilgrim Path between Cashel, Co Tipperary, and Ardmore, Co Waterford, has been nicknamed the “Irish Camino.” In Ardmore, the dramatic seaside walk takes visitors to ruined churches, old holy wells, and sacred spots associated with the saint.
St Dervla (Dearbhla): Having plucked out her eyes to avoid marriage, St Dervla’s sight was later miraculously restored; and her holy well on the Belmullet Penninsula in Co Mayo is not only a sight to behold, it’s also the go-to place for those suffering from eye ailments.
St Colman: Spending most of his holy life in County Clare and on the Aran Island of Inishmore, Colman is associated with the monastery at Kilmacduagh, near Gort in County Galway, which is home to a round tower that leans… a bit like the Tower at Pisa.
St Féchín (Féichín or Mo-Ecca): With ties to Fore, Co Westmeath, visitors can walk a path celebrating the Seven Wonders of Fore which represent seven miracles associated with the site and St Féchín.
St Finbarr: It is said that Finbarr built the first church at Gougane Barra in County Cork. Although a popular pilgrimage and hiking destination, the idyllic valley doesn’t see many tourists from beyond the Emerald Isle.
St Kevin (Cóemgen or Caoimhín): The famed hermit lived in a cave in the valley of Glendalough, Co Wicklow. The peaceful spot attracted disciples who built a church, round tower, and monastery that are now a popular tourist destination that includes beautiful nature walks.
St Oliver Plunket: When canonized in 1975, St Oliver Plunket was the first new Irish saint in nearly 700 years. Executed by Charles II, Plunket’s head is displayed in a reliquary in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, Co Louth.
Saints associated with places that aren’t quite holy sites:
St Bécán: Founded a monastery in Killbeggan, County Westmeath, which is a town that is home to Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery and is situated only a few miles from Tullamore, Co Offaly, birthplace of Tullamore Dew.
St Brendan of Birr: This Brendan founded a monastery at Birr, Co Offaly. At Birr Castle and Desmense, visitors can visit a science centre and view the enormous telescope that was built in the mid-1800s and held the title of largest telescope in the world for over 70 years.
St Lomman: The Irish saint is associated with Trim, Co Meath, which is home to notable Trim Castle.
More information on Irish Saints:
Feel free to add your favorite Saint-related places in Ireland using the comments section below…