Ireland: Top Saints

The 12 Apostles of Erin

 The Twelve Apostles of Erin / Ireland (An Dá Aspal Déag na hÉireann) were 6th AD Irish saints who studied together at Saint Finian‘s famous monastic school Clonard Abbey.

Saint Finian of Clonard

Saint Finian / Finnen of Cluain Iraird, now Clonard in Meath.

Saint Finianof Clonard, ‘Teacher of the Saints of Ireland’ was born near Myshall in what later became Co. Carlow. He went to Wales and studied under monks in that country.

On his return to Ireland he set out to build a church and monastery on in what is now Co. Wicklow, a hill not far from Shillelagh called Aghowle (field of the apples). As he and his companions commenced work he left his cloak on a rock, and the wind blew it across the valley to a different spot. After this had happened three times Saint Finian decided that he was meant to build his church where the wind had left his cloak. That is where the remains of Aghowle church now stands, but it is thought that the present ruins are that of a church built on the site at a later date.

Saint Finian later went to Clonard (on the border of modern Counties Meath and Westmeath, where he founded a great Monastery that sent missionaries all over Europe, thus gaining his honorific title. He died in the year 522.

Saint Ciarán of Saighir / Seir-Kieran, aka Saint  Ciarán / Kieran the Elder is widely regarded as one of the First Christians in Ireland.

Saint Colmcille / Colum Chille / Columba is one of the Patron Saints of Ireland

Saint Colman was .

Saint Ciarán / Kieran of Clonmacnoise


Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise Ciaran of Cluain Mic Nois died in the year 549.

Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise (512 – 546 AD) surnamed Mac an Tsair – “Son of the Carpenter”, was not of noble birth; his father, a carpenter or chariot maker from either Cornwall or Ulster, had settled in Connacht, and Ciarán was born at Fuerty in modern Co. Roscommon. In his early years was committed to the care of a deacon named Justus, who baptized him. He was educated by Saint Finian of Clonard and Saint Diarmuid and later Saint Enda on the island of Inís Mór off the coast of Galway.

He set up a religious community near Lough Rea before travelling down the Shannon to found Clonmacnoise in 545 AD. Shortly after his arrival, Ciarán met Diarmuid mac Cerbaill who helped him build his church – a small wooden structure and the first of many small churches to be clustered on the site. Diarmuid was to claim the title of the first Christian High King of Ireland. Saint Ciarán died less than a year later of yellow plague.

Clonmacnoise went on to become the most important centre of monastic learning in Ireland, renowned throughout Christendom, and educated numerous holy men and political leaders from near and far

Saint Brendan of Birr Brenainn of Birra (d. 29th November 571 AD)- St. Brenainn, or Brendan, of Birra, now Birr, County Offaly.

Saint Brendan of Clonfert /Ardfert is beter known as Saint Brendan the Navigator.

Saint Columba / Colum Mac Crimthainn of Terryglass (d. 552 AD) was abbot of Tir-da-glas, now Terryglass in County Tipperary, and died in the same year as Saint Finen of Clonard.

Saint Mobhí of Glasnevin – Mobhi Clarainech, patron of Glasnaidhen, now Glasnevin, near Dublin. He died on 12th of October 545

Saint Ruadhain of Lorrha – Ruadhain of Lothra – St. Ruadain, the patron of Lothra, now Lorrha, in County Tipperary. He died on the 15th of April 584.

Saint Senan of Iniscathay (Scattery Island)

Saint Ninnidh the Saintly of Lough Erne – aka Saint Ninnadh the Pious, became the patron of the parish of Inis Muighe Samh, now Inismacsaint, in the north-west of County Fermanagh. He was alive in 530 but the year of his death is uncertain.

Saint Laisrén mac Nad Froích – Molaisi, the son of Nadfraech, he was the brother of Aengus, the first Christian king of Munster, and died in 570 AD.

Saint Canice of Aghaboe – Cainnech Mac h-Ui Dalann, the founder and patron of Aghaboe in modern County Laois, died at the age of 84 in 599 AD.

Saint Finian / Finnian of Moville / Finnen of Magh Bile was born near Strangford Lough,  studied under Saint Colman and Saint Mochae,  became a monk in Strathclyde and was ordained in Rome. Returning to Ulster, Finian founded several monasteries, becoming abbot of Moville, now Movilla in modern County Down. He became embroiled over a copy of St. Jerome’s Psalter with Saint Colmcille / Columba, who as his student had to surrender the copy to Finian. He also founded Holywood and Dumfries in Scotland. Finian was known for miracles, including moving a river. He died in the year 579 AD. Feast Day – 10th September.

The twelve saints are found grouped together as such in the text Dá apstol décc na hÉrenn (“The Twelve Apostles of Erin / Ireland”, the modern Irish being An Dá Aspal Déag na hÉireann). The text is preserved in a manuscript in the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels, and elsewhere. It recounts that when the twelve are gathered together for a feast in the house of Saint Finian, a magical flower appeared in their midst. It was decided that a voyage to the flower’s homeland was to be undertaken by one of them, the choice of person then being determined by casting lots. When however, the lot fell on the old Brendan of Birr, his younger namesake Brendan moccu Altae went in his stead. Brendan set out with many companions and underwent many adventures, much as related in Brendan’s Life.

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