stretching from Achill Island to Moore parish on the Shannon, a distance
of 120 miles, is the largest in the country. Geographically split north/south
by the two lakes, Loughs Mask and Corrib, Tuam has pastoral charge of
the largest Gaeltacht area in the country and of six of Ireland’s island
parishes. It also contains the major pilgrimage centres of Knock Shrine
and Croagh Patrick. Established by the twelfth-century synods of Rathbreasail
and Kells, it subsequently absorbed two other medieval dioceses: Annaghdown
Tuam has its
In 1825, Archbishop
In the nineteenth
In 1800 there
The abbey itself has been restored in several stages since 1890, and in
Mám Éan: St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday and First Sunday in August.
Saints of the Diocese
Most of the information provided is courtesy of Msgr. D’Alton’s History of the Archdiocese of Tuam
Despite the widespread influence of druidism in the fifth century St. Patrick did major work in spreading Christianity in Connacht and in Ireland in general. After spending some time working as a slave in Antrim a vision led him to spend some time in the west preaching Christianity throughout several parishes in the Archdiocese. Following in the footsteps of His Master he fasted and prayed for forty days on Croagh Patrick, near Westport. He is also reputed to have spent some time at Máméan, near Recess. Both places are now recognised Patrician Pilgrimage sites in the archdiocese.
In his earlier life Enda was a warlike chief who led his clansmen to battle. Under the influence of his sister who was head of a convent on the shores of Lough Erne he developed an interest in the religious life. He renounced his chieftaincy and became a monk. He founded a monastery in Louth and later visited Britain and Rome where he was ordained. On his return he settled in Inis Mór of the Aran Islands as he wanted a lonely and retired spot to live in solitude and practice austerities. He was soon joined by others that volunteered to live under his rule. The monks lived in bee-hive cells, they fasted, prayed, fished and farmed on whatever little soil was available. Soon news of the sanctity and virtues of St. Enda spread and even abbots and saints from other monasteries came to sit at the feet of the master, people like Kieran of Clonmacnoise, Brendan of Clonfert, Finian of Moville, Jarlath of Tuam, Kevin of Glendalough and even Columba. Soon the monastery grew to about 150 and became known as Aran of the Saints. St. Enda died in 540 in Killeany Church on Aran.
Brendan was born in Kerry about the year 500. He was quite a traveller and visited Wales and Iona. He founded a monastery in Clonfert and also on the Blasket Islands, Ardfert, Ennis and Erris in Co. Mayo. The one at Clonfert became the most famous and later developed into an Episcopal See. Prior to founding Clonfert, Brendan spent some time with Enda on the Aran Islands. Around 550 he visited the island of Inchiquin on Lough Corrib and established a monastery there similar to the Aran model. Brendan died in 577.
St. Jarlath of Tuam
Jarlath is reputed to have received his early education under Benignus at the school of Kilbannon. After being ordained he founded a monastery at Cloonfush near Tuam. He was a close friend of St. Brendan and St. Coleman of Cloyne. It was Brendan that encouraged Jarlath to set out from Cloonfush and wherever the wheel of his chariot would break down he would found a monastery. It broke at Tuam and there a new Church was founded and the broken wheel became the symbol of the Church. Jarlath died there sometime in the middle of the 6th century in Tuam. His feast day is June 6.
Cuana, born in 590, died in 650, was of a noble Munster family. He founded a monastery at Kilcuana, by the shores of Lough Corrib, in the present parish of Annaghdown. Many legends exist surrounding his sanctity, religious zeal and literary talent.
Fursey’s grandfather was a prince of Munster, and a brother of St. Brendan. Fursey was educated at Brendan’s monastery in Inchiquin by Brendan’s successor Meldun. Having grown up as a learned and holy man he founded a monastery nearby at Killursa. Like Columbanus and Columba he later travelled and settled in East Anglia. He established a monastery at Burghcastle which became a centre of missionary activity. He also travelled to France and did some missionary work there. He died about 650 in Picardy.
Like Cuana and Fursey, Fechin ministered in the seventh century. A native of Sligo, he was from royal stock and was educated under St. Nathy of Achonry. After ordination he settled into the monastery at Ballysodare before heading to the West Coast of Galway. On the way he founded a monastery at Cong, where he is still revered. Afterwards he made his way to Omey Island near Clifden despite the opposition of the natives! He later founded another monastery in a neighbouring island called Ardoilean. Both islands afforded the opportunity for solitude, silence and desolation where prayers could be said and austerities practised amid the howling of the tempests and storms! After evangelising the islands Fechin went to work in Westmeath where he died of the plague in 664. His work was continued by St. Flannan who was ordained around 640.
It is uncertain where Sionnach MacDara was born and educated. What seems certain is that he was a holy man who worked on the island that bears his name off the shore of Carna in West Galway. He was probably a contemporary of St. Fechin. The Church on Mac Dara’s island still exists today and the feast day on the island in July is still well attended. The tradition still exists that sailors passing the island lower their sails out of respect for the saint.
St. Coleman of Inisboffin
Coleman was born in the early part of the seventh century and was educated at Iona. After being involved in the famous dispute about the Roman Calender Coleman returned to the remote island of Inisboffin, which got its name from a legendary white cow that came forth from an enchanted lake and grazed from time to time on the scanty pasture around. St. Flannan probably spent some time on Inisboffin and there is a holy well there sacred to his memory. After some disputes with the inhabitants of the island Colman moved to Balla in Mayo and established a monastery there which became a great monastic settlement. Coleman died there in 674. St. Gerald later became abbot and bishop of Mayo. Because of the frequent visitors from across the water to Mayo it soon got the name Mayo of the Saxons.
St. Mochua of Balla (Cronin)
Born at the end of the sixth century Mochua was a native of Ulster and was educated at Bangor. He was renowned as a holy man and for performing miracles and also for building. At Balla he built a Church and Holy Well and surrounded it with a wall, hence the name Balla. St. Mochua died in 637.
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