Fenagh, County Leitrim - History

History

The area was the site of the battle of Fidhnacha in 1094.

Fenagh Abbey is one of the oldest monastic sites in Ireland, believed to date back to the earliest period of Celtic monasticism. The founder was St. Caillín, thought to have arrived in Fenagh from Dunmore in County Galway in the 5th century (according to the Book of Fenagh). The Abbey had a monastic school; the Annals of the Four Masters states that the monastery at Fenagh was "celebrated for its divinity school, which was resorted to by students from every part of Europe".

Magnus, son of Muirchertach Muimnech (from the Annals of Connacht), wrote in 1244:

Fedlimid mac Cathail Chrobdeirg made an immense hosting eastwards into Brefne against O Raigillig, to avenge his fosterson and kinsman, Tadc O Conchobair. They encamped for a night at Fenagh. At that time there was no roof on the church of Fenagh, and the coarb was away that night. And as he was not present, the common soldiers of the host burned the huts and tents which were inside the church, without permission of their leaders, and the coarb's foster-child, God's gift, was suffocated. Now learned men relate that the coarb received this foster-child by finding him on a large stone which stood in that place, and never knew of his having either mother or father; and the coarb loved him and gave him, as it is said, milk from his own breasts. Next day he came to them in anger and indignation at the death of the boy, requiring O Conchobair to pay the blood-fine for his foster-child, and O Conchobair said he could choose what fine he pleased. ‘I choose’ said he ‘the best man among you, as compensation for the child of God whom you have burnt.’ ‘That’ said O Conchobair ‘is Magnus, the son of Muirchertach Muimnech.’ ‘Nay, not so,’ said Magnus ‘but he who is leader of the host.’ ‘I will not go from you so’ said the coarb ‘until I get the fine for my foster-child.’ After this the host departed from that place, and the coarb followed them to Ath na Cuirre on the Yellow River, which was flowing over its banks, so that they could not cross it till they broke up the spital-house of John the Baptist, which stood beside the ford, and used its materials to bridge the river for the host to pass across. Magnus son of Muirchertach Muimnech and Conchobar son of Cormac Mac Diarmata went into the house, and Magnus spoke to a man who was above him, at work on the house-breaking; ‘That’ said he, pointing upwards with the chape of his sword, ‘is the nail which keeps the house from falling.’ As he spoke, a rafter(?) fell on his head and smashed it to pieces on the spot. He was buried outside the doorway of the church of Fenagh, and thrice the capacity of the Bell of the Kings of silver and thirty horses were given as an offering with him. Thus, then, did the coarb of St. Caillin at last recover compensation for his fosterling of God from them. A beautiful monument of carved stone with an excellently wrought stone cross was afterwards made over him, but after a while the Ui Ruairc in their enmity demolished it.

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