St. Ciarán was an Irish man who shares his name with another saint, which is why some call him St. Ciarán the Younger. He helped establish a church in Clonmacnoise and served as its first abbot. Though historians are unsure about much of his life, we’ll look at some of the things they do know and the reasons why Ciarán became a saint in this article.
Quick Facts About St. Ciarán
- Feast Day: September 9
- Patron Saint of Connacht
- Born: Circa 516
- Died: 549
- Beatified: Unknown
- Canonized: Unknown
Ciarán was born circa 516 in County Roscommon, which is in the western region of Ireland. To help his family make ends meet, he began herding cattle at a young age. His father served as a carpenter and often made chariots. Ciarán later traveled to the Clonard Abby and began training under Finnian who would also become a saint in Ireland. Finnian was so impressed with his training that he asked the young man to stay on and become a teacher.
While working with Finnian, Ciarán began wondering if there was more to the world and traveled to Inishmore. Enda of Aran became his new teacher and was the one who welcomed Ciarán to the priesthood and gave him his official orders. Though the two grew close, Enda believed that Ciarán would do more in central Ireland and asked him to move there and establish a new church. Not only would Ciarán build that church, but he would also found a monastery.
When Ciarán was around the age of 25, he moved to Scattery Island and spent some time there studying with Saint Senan before moving to Clonmacnoise where he established a monastery and became an abbot. Less than a year after construction began on the new monastery, Ciarán became a victim of the plague and passed away. Historians believe that he was likely in his late 20s or early 30s when he died.
The Miracles of St. Ciarán
The Catholic Church recognizes Ciarán as a saint due to some of the miracles attributed to him. One claims that he had a trusted cow that he took everywhere with him. When he couldn’t afford to pay for his time in an abbey, he used his cow to provide the monks with milk. Another story claims that when his cow died, he used its hide as parchment for letters. Early documents about his life also claim that he used a fox to carry his letters to others and that he found the fox as a small kit.
Interesting Facts About St. Ciarán
- Some historians still claim that the two men named Ciarán were the same man, but most distinguish between them and call them Ciarán the Elder and Ciarán the Younger.
- The National Museum of Ireland is home to the Clonmacnoise Crozier, which was originally one of the treasures on display in his tomb. All of the other treasures were destroyed or given away over the years.
- Though the name of the Clonmacnoise Cathedral changed several times, it always included the Clonmacnoise name to honor St. Ciarán who established it.
- Historians do not know much about his mother except that her name was Darerca and she was from County Kerry. Most believe that she worked as a homemaker.
- Both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church recognize Ciarán as a saint and celebrate him on September 9 every year. No records indicate why Ciarán became a saint or when the canonization occurred.
- Though we don’t have many records about his life, historians know that Ciarán had seven brothers and sisters. Two of his brothers would join the priesthood also.