St. Finnian

Also known as Saint Finnian of Clonard, St. Finnian was from Ireland and one of the first men from that country canonized by the Catholic Church. Many credit him with starting the monkhood in Ireland.


Interesting Facts About St. Finnian

  • Feast Day: December 12
  • Patron Saint of Diocese of Meath
  • Date of Birth: circa 470
  • Death: December 12, 549
  • Beatified: Unknown
  • Canonized: Unknown


Early Life

Finnian of Clonard was born circa 470 in eastern Ireland in an area known as the Kingdom of Leinster. Based on early descriptions of his life, historians believe he was born and grew up around the town of New Ross. His father, Findlog, belonged to an older tribe of people in the region called Clanna Rory. Finnian would spend very little time with them as his father gave him to a bishop in the hopes of giving the young boy a better life.


Travels and Education

After a few years of living with the bishop, Finnian traveled to Gaul to learn more about the Church. The time he spent there did him well and led to him studying in Wales. Finnian felt an affinity for Wales and decided to remain there for many years to learn from his elders. Some records show that he stayed there for three decades before moving back to Ireland.


Most remember Finnian today as a teacher. The King of Leinster was so fond of him that he gave him a small tract of land to build a new school. Finnian began with one building that he used for classes but later created a community that people came from other regions to attend. Unlike other religious teachers at the time who lived in large and impressive buildings, Finnian lived in a tiny cell onsite where he believed that he had everything he needed.

Founder of Monks in Ireland

The small cell where he lived showed others that they did not need a lot of possessions and led to Finnian becoming the founder of the monk movement in Ireland. Many of the men who trained under him would return to their hometowns and establish monstrosities similar to the one Finnian created. More than 3,000 men trained with him at a time.


As the Church has no records regarding his birth, historians are unsure of his age. Many believe that he was somewhere between the ages of 60 and 65 when he passed away. Finnian was one of many people stricken with the plague who did not recover. Some records show that he continued teaching and helping others in need until his final days. The Diocese of Meath considers him their patron saint.

Quick Facts About St. Finnian

  • After returning to Ireland, Finnian helped establish several churches in and around County Kerry. One that he had a hand in building is Skellig Michael, which UNESCO now uses a World Heritage Site.
  • Many refer to him as the founder of monks in Ireland because all 12 apostles all studied under him and later left to found monasteries across the country.
  • The site of the main abbey where he taught and lived is a popular tourist attraction for members of the Catholic faith. Though not the most popular in Ireland, it still receives thousands of visitors a year. Parishioners come to pay their respects to the site where the abbey once stood.
  • Though St. Finnian is a saint in both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, neither have any official records to show the reasons for his canonization or which pope oversaw his beatification.