Saint Finnian

Saint Finnian Finnian of Clonard is generally regarded as the father of Irish monasticism. He was born in Co. Meath towards the end of the fifth century and it is said that all the birds of Ireland gathered as a portent of the holy life he would lead. As a young man he founded three churches in Ireland before being attracted to monastic life in Wales. He studied under Saint Cadoc at Llancarfan, Glamorganshire, and was much influenced by Cadoc's pupil Gildas, who was critical of the worldliness and wealth of British bishops.

Finnian became convinced that the ascetic life offered the best way of consecrating one's life to God. It was a belief well-suited to Ireland, with its population dispersed in small rural kingdoms. Finnian's first monastery was at Aghowle, Co. Wicklow, but he settled c. 520 at Clonard, Co. Meath, on the River Boyne. Clonard becarne the most famous monastic school of the sixth century, its importance derived from the number of disciples who left to found other monasteries. Finnian's most prominent pupils have been called the twelve apostles of Ireland. The saint died of plague c. 549, but the monastery at Clonard survived until the sixteenth century.