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Tour of Leitrim
- Fenagh Village

St. Caillin's Abbey

This is where I come from, the parish of Fenagh. The medieval abbey in the above picture is one of two abbeys found at Fenagh, this one is known locally as the 'New Abbey'. This monastry is one of the most ancient monastic sites in Ireland. Its origins are obscure, but they go back to the earliest days of Celtic monasticism. The founder was St. Caillin who was supposed to have arrived in Fenagh from Dunmore in Co. Galway in the 5th century (according to the Book of Fenagh). He was given his monastic site by the head of the local princely family of Ua Ruairc (O'Rourke), of which family in turn he became the ecclesiastical patron. The Abbey had a famous monastic school. An editor of the 'Annals of the Four Masters' (one of writers, Peregrine O'Duigenan, was from Castlefore in Fenagh) stated that the monastery at Fenagh was "celebrated for its divinity school, which was resorted to by students from every part of Europe".

The picture below is the actual village of Fenagh, a small but very hospitable place.

Fenagh Village

The Book of Fenagh

In 1516 the coarab (a coarab was the lay abbot or warden of the lands belonging to the church or monastery) of the time, Tadhg O'Rodaighe commissioned a writer Muirghis MacPhaidin O'Maolchonaire to transcribe and recast the Old Book of Caillin (written between 1350 and 1400). This work of O'Maolchonaire is the Book of Fenagh. Briefly, the book states the various promises the local chieftains made to Caillin and the blessings he bestowed on them. These promises must continue to be honoured, and tributes paid, or Caillin would withdraw his divine intercession and ill luck would befall those tribes.

The book was written completely in Irish. It was bought in 1888 by the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. It was translated into English and published in 1875 and again in 1939. Return to previous.

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