Pilgrimage at St Patrick’s Holy Well Marlfield Clonmel

Last week on the 25th of June I attended an event at St Patrick’s holy well at Marlfield Clonmel.  This is one of my favour holy wells and it has a rich history which I have discussed in a previous post.

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St Patrick’s Holy Well Marlfield, Clonmel

The well is visited throughout the year but each Summer the people from the village of Marfield and surrounding parishes in Clonmel  town, come to the well for an annual gathering that takes the form of a mass.

This year the mass was held at 8pm and a large crowds  attended. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Cullinan, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore.

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Bishop Cullinan the new Bishop of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore.

People gathered in front of the old medieval church others sat around the holy well and the boundary walls.

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People gathered in front of the old medieval church

The waters of the well  were bubbling forth  in the background , birds singing. Despite the crowds the site was very peaceful.

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People standing around the well during mass.

The large crowds emphasized the size of the area around the well which really is quiet vast. There was a real festive feeling with lots of singing and live music.

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Pilgrims at St Patrick’s holy well

I look forward to returning to the well later in the summer .

 

Reek Sunday 2014: my pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick

This year I joined with thousands of pilgrims  in the annual pilgrimage to  Croagh Patrick. For those of you who might not know,  Croagh Patrick is a holy mountain  located on the western coast of May on of the southern shores of Clew Bay associated with St Patrick.  The mountain is  764m (2510 ft) in height.  Pilgrimage can place throughout the year but the main focus for pilgrims takes place the last weekend of August.  The  Friday of this weekend is generally the day local  people climb the mountain and the  Sunday often called Reek Sunday is the main day for pilgrims from a wider geographical hinterland.  Each year on this weekend thousands of people  make pilgrimage and ascend the mountain to pray at its summit.  There is a long history of pilgrimage at this site  which I have discussed in a previous post.

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Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo

Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick  2014

On  the morning of  the  27th of  July  I joined with circa twenty thousands  pilgrims in the annual pilgrimage  to the summit of Croagh Patrick. There are a number of approach route the summit. The majority of pilgrim climb from  the townland of Murrisk following a track worn by centuries of feet known as the Cásan Phádraig (the Path of Patrick).

I arrived  by car to the base of the mountain  about 10.00am.  An early start for a Sunday but not at Croagh Patrick, where pilgrims had begun climbing in the early hours of the morning to arrive at  6 am on the summit.  I parked my car in one of the fields converted into temporary car parks to cope with the influx of traffic  and paid a  5 Euro fee for the  day.    As I pulled on my walking boots and pack my rucksack with food and water,  I noticed many of the  people  in my car park were having picnics out of their cars , tea and sandwiches, a reward for a pilgrimage completed or perhaps fuel for the climb ahead.  To begin my climb   I a short distance to a small laneway located beside  the car park of the Croagh Patrick  visitor centre.

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Pilgrims begin their climb at the car park at the base of the mountain.

I have  climbed this mountain many times over the years  in various weather condition while doing research for my PhD thesis  but this was my first climb with actual pilgrims.  I was slightly apprehensive.  I am not a fan of very large crowds  and knowing how difficult the terrain of the mountain is I worried  crowds the  would make the climb uncomfortable however  once I began my fears were soon allayed but I was conscious throughout the climb of what was going on about me.

On the main pilgrimage day  Mountain Rescue groups and the Order of Malta have a very visible presence and  they do really excellent work to help pilgrims get up and down the mountain safely.  Croagh Patrick can be a dangerous mountain.  Much of the route  and in particular the conical top  of the mountain  is covered by loose shale which moves under foot and can be very slippery in wet weather.   The terrain is difficult especially in the final stages.  The weather conditions on the summit can be very changeable  and temperatures at the top of the mountain can be up to 10 degrees colder than at sea level.  It is very important to be prepared for the climb and to  have good footware, appropriate clothing water and a stick.  As I walked to the summit I noticed blood on some of the stones on the path and I witnessed at least 3 people fall  and many more stumble but retain their balance because of their sticks.

The following day I read that there had been 17 casualties on this years pilgrimage   with four people  taken off the mountain via stretcher, and two helicopter evacuations. On my way up I saw one person being carried by stretcher from the cone of the mountain and one person being  air lifted from the mountain during my decent.

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Helicopter getting ready to take an injured person off the mountain

 

The Cásan Phádriag

The pilgrim climb in Murrisk begins at the  base of the mountain at a small laneway on the east side of the carpark of the visitor centre.   This path  takes you passed numerous  stalls  such as the legion of Mary  as well as vendors selling religious items.

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Vendor selling religious items.

At the top of the lane  you come face to face with a large statue  of   St Patrick and get a great view of the mountain looming behind. The weather conditions were pretty good it was a warm day with a slight refreshing breeze.  During my climb summit of the mountain was covered with low-lying  cloud, that cleared  intermittently to reveal the top. I could see  people  on the summit who from a distance looked like tiny colourful ants.

 

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Statue of St Patrick at the base of Croagh Patrick.

On the way up the path was very busy with  a constant stream of people coming up and down the mountain passing each other by. The pilgrims were made up of  all age groups from  as young as 7/8 to  people in their 80’s.  Some people walk alone while others  walk in small  groups of friends or family.

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Pilgrims climbing the lower sections of the Cásan Phádraig.

People climb and participate in Reek Sunday for  many reasons some for religious and spiritual reasons, others to carry on family traditions and other to  experience this unique occasion and to enjoy the amazing scenery.  As I walked along I saw a wide range  of human emotions; a father and his small child  quarrelling about the climb, a woman sitting down and spontaneously crying, children racing along like mountain goats and a woman helping bandage the hand of a stranger who had fallen and cut his fingers.  There was a great sense of  comradery among pilgrims. I noticed  people would often stop and help people who slipped or ask others  who stopped for their breath, if they were ok.  In the final stages of climbing the cone those coming down the mountain would offer words of encouragement “your nearly there now”  “Nearly at the top now”.   I also noted a handful of people climbing the mountain in their bare  feet as part of their penitential pilgrimage.

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Pilgrims walking the lower section of the Cásan Phádraig

Climbing the Croagh Patrick on such a busy day means that you must pay extra attention to where you walk. One often needs to   manoeuvre and avoid  walking in the path of those  coming down  the mountain  as well as those walking  ahead at a slower pace  or those who  stop suddenly in front of you. You also need to be aware of where to put your feet and to try and choose the best path ahead.

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Views of Clew bay from the lower section of Croagh Patrick

Depending on your level of fitness and weather conditions it can take anywhere between 1.5 to 2/3  to reach the summit.  It took me ages as I was constantly stopping to take photos.

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Cásan Phádraig as it levels out before reaching the cone.

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Pilgrims approaching the cone of Croagh Patrick

At the base of the cone of the mountain pilgrims encounter the pilgrim station known as Leacht Mionnáin/Benan. This is a large cairn of stones probably of 19th century date.

 

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Pilgrims walking in prayer around Leacht Benan a the base of the cone.

Pilgrims preforming the rounds (traditional prayer focused on a number of holy foci ) walk in a clockwise direction around the cairn reciting the following prayers; 7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Mary’s and  the Creed. Having finished they embark on the final climb  to the summit. The steepness of this section of the route and the movable terrain underfoot  make this the most difficult section of the climb.

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Pilgrims starting to climb the cone of the mountain the final stages of the ascent.

As I climbed upward the summit was hidden from by the clouds. The final stage of the climb is very steep and lots of concentration is needed to keep your balance but  almost without realising it the ground suddenly becomes flat and you realise you have made it in one piece to the summit.

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Some pilgrims perform their pilgrimage barefoot

The first thing I did was to sit down and catch my breath. I was sitting on the left hand side of the church  lots of pilgrims were sitting down in this area too.    It wasn’t long before I noticed the cold air and I was very glad of the fleece top I had packed at the bottom of my rucksack.  The summit is a large flat area enclosed by a dry stone wall  in poor condition on the top are  toilets,  a small church and a number of pilgrim stations.

The pilgrimage rituals on the summit include  visiting the remaining stations or foci of devotion,  as well as attending mass and confession. The first station is an unnamed cairn of stones.

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The pilgrim kneels at the cairn and recites 7 Hail Marys, 7 Our Fathers, and 1 creed.  Next the  pilgrim prays near the modern chapel for the Pope’s intentions and walks 15 times round the oratory reciting 15 Our Fathers, 15 Hail Marys and 1 Creed.

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The back the oratory on the summit of Croagh Patrick

Finally, the pilgrim proceeds to the station known as Leabha Phádraig/Patrick’s bed. This is a small hollow defined by a metal railing. The pilgrim walks clockwise around  reciting  7 Our Fathers, 7 Hail Marys and 1 Creed.

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The small chapel on the summit provided the sacrament of confessions begin on the summit at 7:30am and continuing until 2:00pm.   The first Mass on the summit began  at 8:00am and every half hour thereafter until the last Mass which at 2:00pm.

 

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Pilgrims attending mass on the summit.

Traditionally  the final pilgrim station of the pilgrimage was a visit to large possible Bronze age enclosure called Roiling Mhuire (Virgin’s Cemetery) on the western side of the mountain. Three cairns of stones are found within the enclosure and the pilgrim walked 7 times round each cairn, saying 7 Our Fathers, 7  Hail Mary’s and 1 Creed and finally go round the whole enclosure seven times praying.  The majority of modern pilgrims skip this final stage and finish their pilgrimage on the summit.

 

While the pilgrims pray and perform their rounds  other pilgrims take the opportunity to relax after their arduous climb many  take the opportunity to sit and eat the food they have brought with them or purchased at the food stall that sells tea and sandwiches.

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Stall selling food and hot drinks on the summit.

The summit was covered in cloud but intermittently the cloud would clear to reveal the stunning scenery and let the sun warm the weary pilgrims.

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Views of Clew Bay from the summit.

I also notice people taking selfies on their mobile photos in front of the church or  Leabha Phádraig  while others posed beside a signs placed here in 2013  which says Croagh Patrick Ireland’s Holy Mountain. I am not sure sure why you need a sign to tell you your are on the summit  but those who were photographed beside it seem to like it.

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Sign on top of Croagh Patrick.

 

The final part of the pilgrimage is the decent.  Climbing back down is as difficult if not more so then the ascent. This is also when most accidents take place.  It was here that I found my trusty  stick  most useful.

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Climbing down Craogh Patrick.

Taking part in this pilgrimage was a wonderful experience and I hope I will be lucky enough to take part again in the future. Pilgrims  who climb here should also be aware that the constant foot fall of pilgrims and tourists whose numbers can be up to 100, 000  during the year  is causing sever erosion of the mountain. To find out more about this check out  Mountaineering Ireland website.

Having returned safely down the mountain I  ended my pilgrimage here by  visiting the nearby sites of Glaspatrick and Kilgeever-   posts to follow.

Further reading on this years pilgrimage.

http://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/croagh-patrick-pilgrimage-17-people-3922909

http://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0727/633338-croagh-patrick/

http://www.mountaineering.ie/aboutus/news/2013/default.aspx?iid=305

https://pilgrimagemedievalireland.com/2012/07/29/an-overview-of-the-history-of-pilgrimage-to-croagh-patrick/

http://liminalentwinings.com/path-croagh-patrick/

 

 

 

2013 Pattern day at Old Leighlin Co Carlow

Last year I attended the pattern/patron day celebration in honour of St Laserian  at Old Leighlin, Co Carlow.  I had planned to write this post the following day but life got in the way as it so often does, and before I new it days, weeks, months and over a year had gone by.  So better late than never.

Old Leighlin is a small sleepy village  a short distance from Carlow town.  St Gobban founded a monastery here in the  7th century.  He was succeeded by St Laserian  also known as Molaisse , who became the patron saint of the site and surrounding area.  In 630 AD, during Laserian’s  rule, a synod was held here to consider the correct time for the celebration of Easter (see my post on the Easter Controversy). Laserian died in AD 639 and tradition holds he was buried  here  and it is likely his grave was visited by pilgrims from an early date, although the site of his grave has long been forgotten.

Following Laserian’s death the  settlement  prospered and grew in strength and influence, becoming one of the foremost churches in Leinster.   By the 12th century it became the see of the diocese to which it gives its name. All that remains of the  medieval settlement are  the medieval Cathedral church, a holy well, bullaun stone,  two early medieval cross slabs and early medieval stone cross.  Following the reformation the Old Leighlin Cathedral came into the possession of the Church of Ireland and  it continues to function as a place of worship.  I will discuss the medieval and post-medieval evidence for pilgrimage  at a later date.

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St Laserian’s Cathedral church at Old Leighlin, much of the fabric dates to the late 13th century.

Modern Pilgrimage

Today as in  medieval times St. Laserian is the focus of a yearly pilgrimage at Old Leighlin  on the 18th of April.  The modern pilgrim celebrations at Old Leighlin  takes place each day  on the saint’s feast day, when an ecumenical  service  is held at  the Church of Ireland Church (medieval cathedral of Old Leighlin) followed by a procession to the nearby holy well dedicated to St Laserian. This year in 2014 the feast day fell on Good Friday and it was held Easter Sunday.

The service is normally presided over by two bishops,  the Anglican Bishop of the United Diocese of Cashel , Ferns, Leighlin, Lismore, Ossory and Waterford and the Catholic  Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, highlighting the importance of St Laserian within both diocese.

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Doorway in the south wall of the cathedral nave.

In 2013 the ecumenical service was held  in the evening  at around 7.30pm.  The Cathedral which is dedicated to St Laserian  is a very beautiful structure.

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The cathedral with a magnificent stained glass window behind the alter.

The Cathedral has many interesting features such as a  magnificent stain glass  window designed  by Catherine O’Brien, in the east gable.  The window depicts Irish and Universal saints  Moling, Bridget, Fiach, Canice, Patrick, John, Paul and  Laserian.

The 2013  service was presided over  by Right Reverend Michael Burrows, the Anglican Bishop of Cashel, Waterford, Lismore, Ferns, Ossory and Leighlin, as the Catholic diocese of Kildare and Leighlin was without a Bishop at the time.  As well as commemorating St  Laserian  with prayers and hymns, 2013 marked a special occasion for Old Leighlin, with the unveiling of an icon of St Laserian that had been specially commissioned for the Cathedral.

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The unveiling of the icon of St Laserian in 2013

The Old Leighlin pilgrimage is one of only a handful  of modern Irish pilgrimages that incorporates a procession.  Following  service all of  those present lined up and walked behind  by the bishop(s) and clergy of both churches in a  processional walk, from the Cathedral along the main road which skirts alongside the north wall of the Cathedral graveyard  to St Laserian’s  holy well.

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Pilgrims leaving the church following the ecumenical service.

The procession began outside the church leaving via the main church gates and on to  St Laserian’s  holy well a  few hundred metres to the west of the church.

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2013 processional walk to St Laserian’s holy well.

As the procession approached the holy well a  band who had been waiting patiently in the car park, beside the holy well, began to play music as the pilgrims approached.

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Procession as it approached the holy well.

The well is located within a landscaped green  field that slopes  sharply to the south.   The  clergy gathered at the well, located at the base of the slope.  Most pilgrims  gathered at the top of the slope  with a second group  standing around the rag tree near the holy well.

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Pilgrims begin to gather for the blessing of the waters.

Once everyone was assembled a short prayer service then took place and the waters of the wells  were blessed.

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Blessing of the waters of St Laserian’s holy well.

 

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Pilgrims gathering for the blessing of the well.

Following the blessing of the water, and despite the rain  most of the pilgrims  assembled at the well to drink  or take home its water.  Many pilgrims had brought plastic bottles with them to carry the water home.

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Pilgrims taking water from St Laserian’s holy well.

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Pilgrims taking water from St Laserian’s holy well.

The  evening ended  on a very social note  with most people  heading to the nearby local community hall for a very welcome cup of  tea, cake and a chat.

Each summer from mid June until the end of August  the Old Leighlin Cathedral is  open to the public from  Monday-Friday from 10.a.m. until 4 p.m  so I hope this post might encourage some of you to visit, as it is an amazing place.    I plan to write another post about  history of the Cathedral the  more ancient  pilgrimage traditions at the site  later in the year so watch the space.

 

Links to information on Old Leighlin

http://www.carlowcountymuseum.com/carlow-county/pages/old-leighlin-cathedral.aspx

http://carlowtourism.com/st-laserians-cathedral-3/

http://cashel.anglican.org/information/diocese/cathedrals/leighlin.html

 

 

The Pattern day at Durrow Co Offaly

Last Monday the 9th of June I  attended the pattern day celebrations in the parish of Durrow Co Offaly.

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Banner of St Colmcille/Columba.

Durrow is a small village about 5-7 km outside of Tullamore town.   St Colmcille/Columba is the patron saint of the parish  and the local community celebrate his feast day on the 9th of June each year.  Tradition holds the saint founded a monastery here in the 6th century close to the holy well.  Durrow was an ecclesiastical settlement of great importance  and part of the  early medieval Columban federation of churches.  I will discuss the  history, the archaeological  remains at Durrow and the medieval evidence for pilgrimage in more detail in a later date.  This post will focus  only on this years pilgrimage.

Modern pilgrimage

Each year  the people of Durrow continuing on a centuries old tradition,  commemorate the feast day of  St. Colmcille.  It is also the traditional day that   the children from the parish make  their first communion.

This year the communion mass  was held at 10 am and a second mass in honor of Colmcille was held at 12am.  Following mass the community walk in procession to St. Colmcille’s holy well and  after  all the religious celebrations  a sports day  was held in the afternoon .

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Processional route from Durrow Roman Catholic Church to St Colmcille’s holy well ( map taken google maps)

When I arrived in Durrow  it was about 12.2o and mass was underway.   The church  was decorated in bunting and flags.

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Roman Catholic Church at Durrow.

Following mass  everyone assembled  at the church gates and  fell into line  behind a banner with an image of the saint.  The parish priest and other  clergy from the diocese and two musicians walked in front with the rest of the pilgrims following.

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Pilgrims beginning to assemble outside the church gates for the procession.

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Musicians John Buttivant and Dick  relaxing before the procession. There are normally joined by a piper who was unfortunately not able to attend this year due to illness.

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The procession as it leaves the church and turns soutj down the N52.

The procession heads from the church gates south along the N52 road .  The event  literally stops traffic as the community walk along this busy road.   St Colmcille’s day is very important to the local community and one lady told me that  many people will take the day off work  to attend.

Everyone was in good spirits  as they walked along  oblivious to the lorries and cars behind them, thankfully the an Garda Síochána were  also present to regulate the traffic.

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The procession as it heads down the N52.

After walking for approximately  0.5 km the procession leaves the N52 road and heads  into Durrow Abbey Demesne.

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The procession as it enters the N52.

The next stage of the procession, which is about 0.6km in lenght,  could not be more different from the first section of the walk.  The pilgrims  proceeded down a leafy driveway that leads to the St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland and Durrow Abbey House.

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Pilgrims walking along the road within Durrow Demesne.

The procession continued past  St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland

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St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland at Durrow.

and  along a small  trackway which leads  to a D shaped , tree covered marshy area known as the island.

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Pilgrims walking down the trackway leading to St Colmcille’s holy well.

St Colmcille’s  holy well is located at the center of this area.

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St Colmcille’s holy well at Durrow.

Everyone  congregated around the well and tried to avoid the more marshy areas.  Some boards had been placed towards the entrance to make access easier.  Once everyone had arrived a  number of prayers were recited blessing the well and those present.

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Prayer being said at St Colmcille’s holy well.

Following prayers many people  went to the holy well to take home water in plastic bottles and milk cartons.   A young man  and woman  stood by the well and  filled bottles with water for the pilgrims .

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Pilgrims taking water from St Colmcille’s holy well at Durrow.

Durrow was certainly one of the most stylish pilgrimages I have attended, probably because it coincides with communion day and everyone looked great in their suits and dresses.   This  event has such a great community feel and its really a  great social occasion too.

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Pilgrims chatting at St Colmcille’s holy well.

As I headed back up the trackway towards the church, which houses the 9th century high cross (will discuss in another post),  I could hear singing  and when I went to investigate further   I found a fantastic choir  who were singing within the church.

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The choir singing within the church at Durrow.

I really enjoyed my time at Durrow and it was really lovely to attend such  a vibrant pilgrimage.

References

http://www.tullamoreparish.ie/durrow-mainmenu-177%5B/embed%5D

 

 

The Derrynaflan Monastery and Easter Pilgrimage

Derrynaflan is best known for its medieval metal work, including a two-handled chalice known as the Derrynaflan chalice, on display in the  National Museum of Ireland.

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The Derrynaflan hoard (the chalice and associated ecclesiastical objects)

The  chalice along with a paten, a liturgical strainer and basin were part of a hoard of treasure found by metal detectorist on land close to the  monastery of Derrynaflan Co Tipperary.  The complications, surrounding their discovery, helped to instigate Ireland’s current metal detecting laws which make it illegal for anyone to engage in metal detecting without a licence.

As a child I remember going on a school trip to the National Museum at Kildare St. After all these years I still remember  this visit clearly, along with  our teacher pointing out this treasure (Derrynaflan Chalice) found in my home county. I also purchased a small booklet in the museum shop on the chalice which I still have, once a nerd always a nerd.  The craftsmanship of the chalice and other objects  is  true breathtaking.

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Decoration on the Derrynaflan paten (a plate used to hold the host during the celebration of the Eucharist).

Location

The hoard is associated with the monastery of Derrynflan.  The monastery  sits on an island  in Littleton  raised bog,  in the townland of Lurgoe, approx 11km from the  modern town of Thurles in Co Tipperary.

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Aerial shot of Derrynaflan (from the Slieveardagh Rural Development http://www.slieveardagh.com/history/towns-and-villages/derrynaflan/).

In early medieval times  it was located close to the territorial boundary of the territories of the Éile and the Éoghanact.  As you can see from the photo above much of the surrounding bog has been processed and removed by Board na Mona, giving the land a desolate and unappealing vista.  One can only imagine what his site and its surrounding landscape would have looked like in medieval times.

Although  built-in the middle of a bog, Derrynaflan was far from isolated and recent archaeological excavations in the surrounding bogland, has revealed the presence of several bog roads and trackways, some of which line up with the site.  These roads and tracks linked the monastery to the wider world.

The Irish and Latin Lives of St Ruadhán  recounts an interesting tale concerning one of these roads.  St Colmán Mac Dáirne of the monastery of  Daire Mór  decided to bring a gift of butter to St Ruadhán who at the time was residing at Derrynaflan. Conn Manning (1997) has identified the monastery of Daire Mór   as Longfordpass alias Durrihy, located north of Thurlas.   Colmán placed the butter in a vessel which was carried by two oxen and set off on his journey. We are told that he two monasteries were divided by bog but Our Lord miraculously made a road spring up through the bog so that Colmán could deliver the butter.

Founding Saints

Derrynaflan was  founded by  St Ruadhán of Lorrha in  the 6th century (Harbison 1970, 226) but the site gets its name from  two other saints who lived here during the 9th century.  In Irish Derrynaflan  is Doire na bhFlann,  in English the name means ‘the wood of the two Flanns’.  This placename  remembers two  saints both called Flann (meaning red or blood-red) who are associated with the site.  The saints were Flann son of Foircheallach and Flann son of Dubh Tuinne (Conna), both acted as co patrons of the area. The calendars of Irish saints note Flann Foircheallach died in  825 and his feast was commemorated in the 21st of December.

The monastery acquired its present name by the association with two prominent clerics of the early 9th century, Fland mac Duib Thuinne of Dairinis who died in 821 and Fland mac Fairchellaig, abbot of Lismore who died in 825 (ibid.).

Derrynaflan was linked to the Ceilí Dé movement  and the annals suggest links to other Céili Dé churches at  Lismore, Emly and Cork.  Additionally it is included in a list of sites in ‘union’  with Máel Ruain, and the asceticism practices by Flann son of Dubh Tuinne is elsewhere specified  in the rule attributed to  Máel Ruain who was the patron of Tallaght (Ó’Riain 2011, 345).

The site today

The approach to the Derrynaflan is little bit difficult but so worth the effort.  I visited here during the summer with Conor Ryan of the South Tipperary Development Company who is currently working in a project to develop an   The Derrynaflan trail  linking this site and other church sites such as Holy Cross Abbey in east Tipperary Slieveardagh area.

We approached the site from the north  the townland of Liskeveen and  followed a small  surfaced bog road  and then headed cross county  through some scrub.  It is also possible to  approach  the site from the  south.

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Approach to Derrynaflan from the south

After a little bit of  walking  we came to the base of a hill  and were rewarded with view of the ruins of the monastery sitting on top of a hill.   The monastic site  consists of a series of earth work and the ruins of a church and  a single wall of another monastic  building.  The island was originally enclosed by a bank and outer fosse (ditch) which is visible only in places and the eastern side of the enclosing bank and fosse are now covered by a build up of bog and peat (Ryan 1980, 10).

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View of Derrynaflan church

Today the most visible remains are the church. This is a nave and chancel church with two phases of construction. The nave of the church appears to be pre-Norman, a separate church in its own right. In the 13th century the chancel was added on this earlier church then became the nave of the new building.

Interior of Derrynaflan Church

Interior of Derrynaflan Church

Only the  walls of the chancel  in the north, south and east survive to any great height .  The earlier church (nave) was built of coursed Cyclopean limestone masonry (large blocks), of which only the lower courses of the south wall survive (Ryan 1980, 11).

The east gable contains two single-light trefoil-headed windows, while there are three single-light trefoil-headed windows in the south wall.  At the east end of the south wall  there is a re-used Romanesque window which was used to frame a decorated sandstone piscina.

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Romanesque window reused to frame the piscina

Within the  interior of the church  there is a triangular-shaped gable finial with socket for a cross belonging to the original roof of the 13th-century church.

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Stone roof slates

Along the top of the north side of the east gable are stone roof slates,  additional stone roof slates from the medieval chancel were also found during previous excavations (Ó Floinn 1985, 37).

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East gable of Derrynaflan church

Gobán Saor

Derrynaflan is also associated with a mythical figure called the Gobán Saor.  The Gobán  was a highly skilled smith or architect in Irish history and legend.  Tradition holds he was responsible for  building  many of Ireland’s castles and churches including Holy Cross Abbey.

Local tradition holds that the Gobán Soar was buried at Derrynaflan and the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map marks the site of  his grave to the north-east of the church.

1st ed Ordnance Survey map of Derrynaflan from http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,617960,649614,6,8

1st ed. Ordnance Survey map of Derrynaflan (from http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,617960,649614,6,8)

Farrelly (2011) notes that White writing in  1892 say

‘further down the slope to the north, are the graves of the Gobann and his wife and two children. Stones of coffin shape mark the place and bear quaint figures and curious celtic tracery. Heretofore, these relics were religiously preserved, but latterly they have suffered in some ways. A barabarian smashed one of the stones some years ago and obliterated the tracves with a chisel’. Traditionally the Gobaun was said to have been Grand Master of the ancient order of Freemasons in Ireland (ibid).

Today the area  is  an area defined by a timber fence.   Inside the fence are three  very worn medieval grave slabs one which is held to mark the Gobán’s grave. I will come back to the Gobán again in the new year as I think this very interesting character is deserving of his own blog post.

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Grave of Gobán Saor

  Easter Pilgrimage

This quiet site is transformed into an annual place of pilgrimage at Easter time when there is a celebration of a dawn mass on Easter Sunday. The tradition was started by Canon Liam Ryan, PP, Killenaule-Moyglass, in the 1990s and attracts large numbers of pilgrims from the surrounding areas.  I am hoping to attend this pilgrimage in 2014.

My friends at Abarta Heritage have a great a audio guide for this and some of the other sites in the area .

References

Byrne, F. J. 1980 Derrynavlan: the historical context. In JRSAI 110, 116-26.

Farrelly, J. 2011. ‘Derrynaflan’ http://webgis.archaeology.ie/NationalMonuments/FlexViewer/
Ó Floinn, R. 1987 ‘Derrynaflan’, Lurgoe: Monastic settlement. In I. Bennett (ed.), Excavations 1986: summary accounts of archaeological excavations in Ireland, 33. Bray. Wordwell.
Ó Floinn, R. 1988 ‘Derrynaflan’, Lurgoe: Monastic settlement. In I. Bennett (ed.), Excavations 1987: summary accounts of archaeological excavations in Ireland, 24-5. Bray. Wordwell.

Manning, C.  1997.  ‘Daire Mór identified’ Peritia 11, 359-69.
Ryan, M. 1980 An Early Christian hoard from Derrynaflan, Co. Tipperary. NMAJ 22, 9-26.

http://www.abartaheritage.ie

http://www.abartaheritage.ie/product/derrynaflan-trail-audio-guide/

http://www.nationalist.ie/news/your-community/easter-sunday-dawn-mass-planned-for-famed-derrynaflan-site-1-4929037

The Princess and the Saint: the visit of Princess Grace of Monaco to Croagh Patrick.

I love old  Hollywood films but  I never thought I would be writing about one of my favourite actresses Grace Kelly  and one of my favourite pilgrim sites Croagh Patrick in the same blog post. Grace was born  on the  12 November 1929, as her surname would suggest she was of Irish decent.  Grace  had a short but successful film career staring in some classic films like High Noon and  Dial M for Murder.  She retired at the age of  26 when she married  Prince Rainier of Monaco.

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Grace Kelly

In 1961  Princess Grace and her husband Prince Rainier  came to Ireland.  During the trip they travelled to Co Mayo, visiting the family home place of  Grace’s grandfather John Peter Kelly in the townland of Drimurla, who  left Ireland in 1887 for America.  At the  time of the visit the Kelly homestead was in the ownership of a lady known as the Widow Mulchrone.  According to the Mayo News

For weeks preparations had been made for the special royal visit of June 15 1961. The roof was newly thatched, the hedges cut and the pathway sanded. Dressed in black, and wearing her finest apron, the widow had spent the morning baking griddle cakes and polishing the glassware and good china. Up in “the good room”, which doubled up as the widow’s bedroom, she set the tables with six cups and saucers and bedecked it with a selection of cakes and soda bread. Back in the kitchen a big black kettle hung boiling and hissing over the open fire. According to lore, the widow regaled the royal visitors with stories and, at one point, ordered an on-duty policeman to “wet another cup of tay, the prince could murder another drop”. She even recited a special poem to mark the occasion, which she dubbed the most important day of her life.

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Princess Grace visiting her ancestral home  (http://gracekellyfilmfestival.ie/GKFF_gallery.html#)

During her time in Mayo the princess also made a pilgrimage to  Croagh Patrick, as many of her ancestor had done before her.  Wearing a two piece suit, sun glasses and glamorous headscarf, Princess Grace was one of the most elegant and stylish pilgrims to ever visit the holy mountain.  The photos and film footage of the visit show her  wearing flat shoes and carrying a blackthorn walking stick.  Looking every inch the  Hollywood star she walked  along the laneway  which leads from the modern car park to the statue of St Patrick at the base of the mountain.  The royal couple was followed by photographers, curious local people and members of the  garda síochána.  One can only imagine the excitement of people who lived in the area.

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Princess Grace praying at the base of Croagh Patrick (image taken http://gracefilm.tumblr.com/post/45526095619/princess-grace-makes-her-way-to-the-shrine-of-st)

The princess  didn’t climb to  the summit of Croagh Patrick  but she prayed before the  statue of St Patrick which stands  at the mountain’s base.  There is fantastic film footage of the event  available on the British Pathé website (the link is below in references).

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Coming down the mountain (image taken  http://gracekellyfilmfestival.ie/GKFF_gallery.html#)

 Princess Grace’s visited Ireland on two other occasions but the this first visit is still remembered fondly in Co Mayo.

References

Ryan, A. 2010. ‘Fairtale Princess Grace dreamed of Mayo Roots’, http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12325:fairytale-princess-grace-dreamed-of-mayo-roots&catid=3:news-features&Itemid=29

http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12325:fairytale-princess-grace-dreamed-of-mayo-roots&catid=3:news-features&Itemid=29

http://gracekellyfilmfestival.ie/GKFF_gallery.html#

http://www.dailyedge.ie/grace-kelly-and-ireland-543199-Sep2012/

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/princess-grace-makes-croagh-patrick-pilgrimage-aka

Pilgrimage to St John’s well Carrigaline, Co. Cork

The 24th of June is the feast of St John the Baptist. This day also coincides with the pagan celebration of mid summer and many pagan traditions continue even down to modern times such as the tradition of lighting bonfires.  There are many holy wells around Ireland dedicated to St John the Baptist and pilgrimage is still undertaken on the saints feast day at a large number of them.

Location Map of St John's well at the edge of Carrigaline town (taken from Google Earth).

Location Map of St John’s well at the edge of Carrigaline town (taken from Google Earth).

On  Sunday  last, St John’s Eve I attended the annual pilgrimage to St John’s well in the town of  Carrigaline, Co Cork. St John’s well or Tobar Eoin Óg  is  located in small wood in the townland of Ballinrea on the outskirts of the town of Carrigaline.  Also attending the  pilgrimage was  Richard Scriven  (Geography UCC)  who is currently doing very interesting PhD research  on modern pilgrimage in Ireland. For more details of Richard’s research check out his blog liminal entwinings.

St John’s Well

The 1st ed Ordnance Survey map of 1840  records the  well as  St Rinoge’s well elsewhere it is called Renogue’s well . Rinoge/Renogue  is likely a corruption of Eoin Óg  the Irish name for the well.

The site consists of  a spring well covered by a corbelled structure, beside the well is a large tree surrounded by a low circular wall with a stone plaque which  provides a short history of the site.

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St John’s well

A number of benches are located  at the site and  steps made of railway sleepers make the site more accessible. A small stone altar is located opposite the well.

Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland  dating to 1837 gives the following account of the well

At Ballinrea there is a mineral spring, which is considered to be of the same kind as that of Tunbridge Wells, and has been found efficacious in cases of debility; and near it is a holy well, dedicated to St Renogue, which is resorted to by the country people on the 24th of June.

The Carrigaline Parish websites states that

According to tradition the well was discovered by a blind man whose sight was restored. In gratitude he built the beehive shaped stone surround, which can be still seen today.

It is recorded that in the early 19th century huge crowds  of people attended a  patron/pattern day  on St  John’s Eve (23th June) at the well.

According to the plaque at the well, the water  has healing powers and it is customary for pilgrims to say a decade of the rosary at each of the inscribed crosses  that are found in the walls of the well house. The practice of incising crosses is seen at many other pilgrim site such as St Declan’s well at Ardmore, Co Waterford and the practice seems to be a post medieval and  modern tradition.

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Well house showing one of the incised pilgrim cross over the door of the well.

Modern Pilgrimage on St John’s Eve

It is an annual tradition for the people of Carrigaline and the surrounding area to visit St Johns well on the eve of the saints feast.  It’s a tradition which likely goes back generations.  Pilgrimage in 2013 began with pilgrims  gathered on the Ballintrea road close to the Dun Eoin housing estate  at 7.15 pm.  People stood around and  chatted and waited for others to arrive. When a crowd had gathered at 7.30 the Carrigaline  pipe band  began a processional walk to the well. The band was immediately  followed by the  parish priest who was then followed by the rest of the people ( pilgrims). The Procession headed along a lane way with a signpost for the well, past some house,  then on to a grassy lane which leads down into a grove of trees. The band played throughout the procession and were really excellent.

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The Carrigaline Pipe Band heading the procession to St John’s well.

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Pilgrims in procession to the well

The walk  was very pleasant and took about 5-10 minutes to complete.  When we all arrived at the well the band took a well deserved brake  and lines up beside the alter. The rest of the people assembled around the clearing facing the stone alter opposite the holy well . There were  two priest from the parish of Carrigaline present to lead the prayers.

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The prayers began with the  sorrowful mysteries (five decades of the rosary an explanation of rosary is in the references below).  The parish priest lead the prayers  and  moved around the well clockwise, in the same manner as any pilgrim visiting the well to perform the stations would do.

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The a cross was incised with a small stone at each of the crosses around the well.

When each decade of the rosary is begun the pilgrim takes a stone and  scratches a cross into the incised  stone.

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Pilgrim incising cross on one of the stones

These stones five in total are located around the well and have deeply incised crosses. The crosses have been created by generations of pilgrims who visited the well.

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Cross incised by pilgrims at back of the well

Following the rounds of the well  there was a ceremony called Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament  for those of you who don’t know  what that is it is a devotional ceremony, the sacrament (host) is displayed in a monstrance  in this case  on the small stone altar opposite the well.  The  a priest blesses the congregation with the Eucharist at the end of a period of  prayer.

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A number of  hymns were sung by the choir and played by the pipe band such as ‘Faith of our Fathers’. When the ceremony finished  many of those present lined up and took water from the well. Some of them incised the cross over the well door. Unlike other sites people didn’t seem to bring water bottles with them.

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I returned to the well the following morning,  to see what it was like without the hustle and bustle of people.   It really is one of the most beautiful wells I have visited and so peaceful with lots of singing of the birds.

References

http://www.carrigalineparish.ie/index.php/parishhistory/

http://www.carrigalineparish.ie/index.php/parishhistory/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benediction_of_the_Blessed_Sacrament

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary