Calendar of Irish Saints
Saint Mochua (1st January)
Saint Mochua of Balla was a native of Ulster. He studied in Bangor under Saint Comgall at the end of the 6th Century. He finally settled in Balla in County Mayo where he founded a monastery. Today the ruins of the monastery can still be seen.
Saint Brigid (known as Mary of the Gael) (1st February)
Brigid was reputedly born in Faughart outside Dundalk. She became a nun and set up a monastery in Kildare. A fire was kept burning day and night at Kildare by Saint Brigid for the use and comfort of travellers until the suppression of the religious houses at the time of the reformation. The symbol most associated with Brigid is a cross of rushes which she made to explain Christianity to a dying man. The Saint Brigid’s cross is still made for Saint Brigid’s feast day on 1st February and hung in houses to protect the household from evil and bad luck.
Saint Brigid is believed to be buried in Downpatrick along with Saint Patrick and Saint Colmcille.
Saint Bronach (2nd April)
Saint Bronach is associated with Kilbroney church (known also as Bronach’s Church) just outside Rostrevor in County Down . Saint Bronach built refuge for sailors who were shipwrecked in Carlingford Lough. The ringing of Bronach’s bell was always a sign of a rising storm on the dangerous waters of the Lough.
In 1885 a storm brought down an old oak tree near Kilbroney and in its branches was found a 6th century bell. The bell had been hidden during the reformation to prevent its removal and destruction. The bell can be seen in the local church in Rostrevor where it is built into the wall. Bronach’s High cross stands in Kilbroney graveyard and nearby is Saint Bronach’s well. These sites are part of the Saint Patrick’s Trail.
Saint Comgall (10th May)
Saint Comgall was ordained a priest before he was 40 and with several companions became a hermit in Lough Erne. The rule he imposed was so severe that his companions died. Eventually he left the island and founded a monastery at Bangor where he taught the monks including Saint Columbanus. In fact the monastery in Bangor became the most famous monastery in Ireland and it is reported that Saint Comgall ruled over 8,000 monks at that time.
Saint Colman (7th June)
Educated by Saint Machoi at Nendrum he became the first abbot of Muchamore, County Antrim. He founded a monastery in 6th century in Dromore in County Down. He has at least one church named after him in Scotland, Inis Mo-Cholmaig and another in Wales, Llangolman.
Saint Columba (Colmcille) (9th June)
Born in Gartan in Donegal but more associated with Derry and Iona. There is some dispute as to why he left Ireland but the most popular story is that he copied a book belonging to Saint Finian without permission and Finnian demanded its return. Columba refused and the case was brought by Finnian to the High King who ruled ‘To every cow its calf, to every book its copy’ the first known case of copyright law. Columba still refused to return the book and the dispute then led to the battle at Cul Dreimhne which was said to cause the death of 3000.
As a penance Columba vowed to convert as many souls to Christianity that had been lost in battle and so in 563 he set sail from Derry with 12 disciples and headed for Scotland. He set the monastic settlement of Iona which led to a further monastery in Lindisfarne.
Columba was a great poet and inspired others to create great works of art such as the Book of Kells and book of Durrow. He dies in Iona but it is believed that some of his relics were brought to Downpatrick to lie beside Patrick and Brigit.
Saint Machaoi of Nendrum (23rd June)
Machaoi was a herdsman and was baptised by Saint Patrick. He founded the monastery at Nendrum which predates most other monastic settlements in Ireland. Among his pupils were Saint Coleman of Dromore and Saint Finnian of Movilla
Saint Monnina (6th July)
Her real name was Darerca and she was originally from Donaghmore area of County Down. She founded a monastery, the church of Slieve Gullion or Killevy in County Armagh. At this 15th Century Augustinain convent ruin site you will find a large granite slab which is said to mark her grave.
Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne (31st August)
Born in Ireland he became a monk on Iona. He was given the island of Lindisfarne (holy Island) where he established a monastery under the rule of Colmcille/Comumba.
Saint Mirin of Bangor (15th September)
Was a contemporary of Saint Columbanus and was a disciple of Saint Comgall in Bangor. He has a powerful influence in the area of Strathclyde, south of Glasgow. There he founded and was Abbot of Paisley Abbey where he died and was buried. He is venerated in both Ireland and Scotland where there is a chapel dedicated to him among the ruins of Inch Murryn the largest island in Loch Lomond.
Saint Gall (16th October)
Saint Gall studied at Bangor under Saints Comgall and Columbanus. He accompanied Columbanus to France and along with Columbanus founded an abbey at Luxeuil. He also followed Columbanus into exile in 610 and then to Austira where he preached with little success in the region around Lake Zurich and for two years in the area near Bregenz.
When Columbanus went to Italy in 612 Gall remained behind because of ill health and on his recovery he became a hermit on the Steinach River, attracting numberous disciples. Saint Gall monastery occupied this site during the middle ages and was a leading centre for literature, the arts and music.
According to one story Columbanus and Gall parted company because Columbanus suspected Gall of malingering, and imposed a penance on him, which Gall faithfully observed, of not celebrating Mass during the rest of Columbanus’s life.
He died sometime between 627 and 645 at Arbon, Switzerland and is considered the apostle of that country.
Click here to download Saint Gall factsheet PDF
Saint Malachy (3rd November)
Born in Armagh in 1094 Saint Malachy was appointed Bishop of Down and sent to Bangor to revive and reform the monastery which had fallen into disrepair. He was also appointed to the new diocese of Conor. In 1140 he visited Saint Bernard in Clairvaux and was so impressed with the Cistercian way of life that he asked permission from the Pope to become a monk but was refused. Instead the Pope appointed him Papal Legate and sent him home to revitalise the Irish Church.
In 1142 he established the first Cistercian Monastery in Ireland at Mellifont and invited various orders i.e Augustinians, Dominicans, and Franciscans to build new monasteries throughout the country to redress the damage done to the Church.
He set out for Rome once more in 1148 but took ill on the journey and died at Clairvaux where he is buried.
Click here to download Saint Malachy factsheet PDF
Saint Columbanus (23rd November)
Columbanus taught in Bangor Abbey under Saint Comgall until he finally reached the decision that he wanted to go on a mission to Europe. Comgall initially refused but eventually allowed Columbanus, then aged 48, and twelve others to set out for France.
He set up his first house in Annegray in the Vosges Mountains and soon set up a second house at Luxeuil and a third at Fountaines. He soon ran into difficulties with the French hierarchy. His foundation had been set up without the permission of the local clergy and he had opened three religious houses and was following the Irish Paschal cycle which was out of line with the accepted Roman calendar.
Columbanus never shirked controversy and wrote directly to the Pope stating his position. He had his followers were responsible for restoring church practices throughout Europe. Saint Gall moved to Switzerland while Columbanus opened further monasteries in Bregenz and Bobbio.
Today visitors travel from all over Europe to see the location of where Saint Columbanus set out on his mission. There is also an annual Saint Columbanus festival celebrated in various locations in Europe.
Click here to download Saint Columbanus factsheet PDF
Saint Gobhan (6th December)
Seagoe in County Armagh derives its names from Suidhe Gobhain, the seat of Gobhan. He was a saintly man who according to tradition set up a monastery on the bank of the River Bann in Iveagh in Ulster and ‘was leader of a thousand monks’. The ruins of a much later, probably 15th Century church can be seen in Seagoe Cemetery.