The Founding of Killeshin
A monastery was founded at Killeshin about the year 545 A.D.
Its founder and first Abbot was St. Diarmuit. His successor was
St. Comgan, a native of Thomond. He built a church at a place
called Ceann-Indis but it is not known whether he built it
before or after he became Abbot. He was a friend of St. Ita;
before his death he sent for her, so that she might lay her
hands upon his lips and close his eyes in his last moments. From
this it is apparent that St. Comgan died before 570 A.D., the
date of St. Ita's death. There is no record of who succeeded St.
Comgan, but a saint named Muirgein or Murin was abbot for some
period during the seventh century. As we have said he was the
tutor of St. Laserian, first bishop of Leighlin. In the Calendar
or Feilire of Saints written by Oengus the Culdee about 800 A.D.
the three Abbots of Killeshin are mentioned. St Diarmuid is
entered under 8 July:
- Diarmuid, a true flame,
- the bright sun of Glenn Uisean.
- Under 2 February, St. Comgan is entered:
- The Feast of Comgan without reproach,
- Comgan from Glenn Uisean.
- St. Muirgein's entry is under 27 February:
- My Lord loved Muirgein
- A wonderous birth with victories.
Very little is known of these Abbots who helped
to make Gleann Uisean so important a monastery that happenings
there were thought worthy of being set down in the historical
records, principally The Annals of the Four Masters.
- Killeshin ruins from The Dublin
Penny Journal 1832
- Source: Google Books
Abbots and Annals of Killeshin
Killeshin was henceforth a place of note and the deaths of
Abbots, Lectors, Stewards and other prople connected with it are
chronicled by the pen of Brother Michael O'Clery as matters of
importance. Among them were Aedan who died in 843 A.D.; Abbot
Diarmuid, whose grave is still pointed out in the old
churchyard, died-in 874 A.D.; Abbot Cathasach died in 946 A.D.
Except their'names and years in which they died no further
details are given. More exciting events recorded are the battle
of Confey, near Leixlip, in 915, where Archbishop Maelmaedhog,
son of Diarmuid, who was one of the Ui Conannla, Abbot of Gleann
Uisean, a distinguished scribe anchorite, and an adept in the
Scotic language, was slain; a slaughter of the men of Munster by
Donnchadh, son of Aedh, in Gleann-Uisean, 1024 A.D.; and the
burning of Gleann-Uisean with its yews in 1077 A.D. An even more
serious happening was the plundering of Gleann-Uisean by Mac
Mael na mBo in 1041, when the oratory was destroyed, a hundred
people slain, and seven hundred taken away as prisoners. The
compilers of the Annals from which these extracts are taken
were: An Brathair Michael O'Clerigh, Fearfeasa 0 Maolconaire,
Cucoigre 0 Cleirig, Cucoigre O Duigeanain, generally known as
the Four Masters. Two other learned antiquaries assisted in the
compilation of the Annals namely: Muirgheas Ua Maolconaire and
Conaire O Cleirigh. Amongst the illustrious names of the
Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland who gave their imprimatur to
the Annala Rioghachta na h-Eireann is found the name of Dr. Ross
Mageghegan, Bishop of Cill Dara. His approbation is dated 8
January, 1637, ex loco nostrae mancionis — the cabin in* the bog
in which he had to take refuge from Protestant ascendancy in
evil times. They began their great work of compiling all the
available materials on Irish history in the Franciscan monastery
of Donegal during the year 1632, and completed it in 1636,
Events were entered under the years in which they took place,
and the compilers had not time to give more than a bare summary
of what took place each year. The Irish in which they wrote is
now slightly archaic. It is interesting to set forth a few
extracts, in present day Irish, about Killeshin as they appear
in the Annals:
- Aois Crfost,
se sin A.D. 874:— D'eag Diarmait Mac Coirpre, Abb Gleanna
- A.D. 915 —
Thug Sitruig Ua h-lomhair agus na Gaill cath Ginnfuait ar
fhearaibh Laighean agus torchradh ann se cead de
thighearnaibh Laighean . . . Ard-easbog Maolmhaodhog Mac
Diarmata, d'Uibh Conanula do, abb Gleanna Uisin,scrfobh
chlumhail, agus saoi ins an eagna Laideanta agus ins an
- A.D. 916 —
D'eag Domhnall Mac Diarmata, abb Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 946 —
D'eag Cathasach Mac Domhnaill, abb Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 951 —
D'eag Feidhlimidh dalta Maolmhaodhoig, abb Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 986 —
D'eag Caenchomhrac Mac Ainbhithe, abb Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 1016 —
D'eag Caenchomhrach Ua Buithin, abb Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 1024 —
Cuireadh ar ar fhearaibh Mumhan ag Donnchadh Mac Aodha in
nGleann Uisin, tre mi'orbhail De agus Comhdhain.
- A.D. 1037 —
D'eag Fleann, pn'or Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 1041 —
Deineadh Gleann Uisin do chreacadh ag urnaidhe Mac Mael na
mBo, an urnaidhe do bhriseadh agus cead de dhaomibh do
mharbhaidh, agus seacht gcead do bhreith as,i ndi'ol Fearna
Moire do chreacadh ag Mac Briain agus ag Murcadh Ua Dunlaing,
agus in ndfol a bhrathar Domhnall Reamhar.
- A.D. 1045 —
D'eag Cathasach Ua Corcrain, comharba Gleanna Uisin.
- A.D. 1077 —
Loisceadh Gleann Uisin lena chranna iubhair.
- A.D. 1.082 —
D'eag Conchobhar Ua Uathghaile, fear leighinn Gleanna Uisin
agus Dunchadh Ua Ceatfhadha beirt shruith-Sheanoin
leigheanta Cuige Laighean thiar.
St. Diarmuid's Well
St. Diarmuid's Well goes back to the beginning of the sixth
century when St. Diarmuid, the first abbot, founded the
monastery. The Well may be earlier than that date. The early
saints of Ireland had no churches, no baptisteries, no baptismal
fonts. People were baptized in existing wells or wayside
streams. But each well had first to be blessed: it might have
been profaned by evil influences, or the stream might have been
used by the Druids for their pagan worship. It was necessary to
bless the well or stream by exorcism, by prayer and invocation
of the Holy Spirit in order to drive out evil spirits and to
consecrate it to divine worship. Churches were always built
beside wells or streams.
Before churches were built, holy men
and hermits spent their lives near wells or streams, in caves or
huts made of wattles or loose stones. They wore the coarsest
clothes until these clothes fell to pieces from their backs.
Their food was a little corn or roots, with water from the
spring. That fountain was blessed by the saint's prayers and
doubly blessed by his use. Frequently he knelt or stood
knee-deep in the cold stream while he recited the whole psalter.
But his secret was always found out. People came to see him, to
see his grotto, his cave, his hut, hib little church, and the
holy spring which gave him nourishment and kept him alive. St.
Diarmuid's well goes back to the Saint himself, to about 500
A.D. possibly to an earlier date, to the time of the great
apostle himself who came to Ireland in 432, who brought St.
Fiacc to Sletty about 460 and established him as chief bishop of
Leinster. St. Diarmuid's well has been sanctified by the prayers
and penances of the holy men who ministered here down through
On 25 May 1973 the blessing was renowed by the worthy
parish priest Fr. Byrne. We hope that many parishioners and
others will frequent this holy place, hallowed by the footsteps
and penances of innumerable saints of the past; that they will
come here to gain strength and inspiration from the example of
the saints of Killeshin- and to seek their prayers and powerful
intercession. The Mass-hollow is on the lands of Mr. Denis
Doran, Keelogue and the Blessed Well on the lands of Mr. Albert
Fennell, Killeshin. To both we tender our sincere thanks.
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