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Through the Ages G

Early Christian Connemara By the 5th

century A.D., Connemara was coming increas- ingly under the influence of the Christian World. A hoard of Roman coins of the Emperor Diocletian, found in Currywongan Bog, Kylemore, by a member of the Joyce family, is indicative of trade or raiding contacts with Roman Britain. Christianity was also introduced to Ireland at this time. In part this was the result of Irish slave-raids on the west coast of Roman Britain during the break up of the Empire. St. Patrick was the most famous of these. His mis- sion to Ireland, following in the footsteps of Paladius and Auxilleus, finally succeeded in absorbing and breaking down the rich pagan Celtic religion in Ireland. Whether this was a peaceful process is still unclear. Te lives of the Saints are filled with tales of martyrdoms and struggles with pagan tyrants such as the formidable Corban of Aran but these may have been copied from continental tales of martyrdom under the Romans or else may be Christianised pagan myths. Te distance in time is now too great for us to be sure.

In any case, Connemara people now frequent two great pilgrimage mountains associated with St. Patrick, Mám Éan


in the Maumturks and Croagh Patrick. Mám Éan was un- doubtedly an important Celtic shrine, too valuable to be left in pagan hands and in oral history is connected with a deity known as Crom Dubh. Today, it is arguably the most impor- tant site in the Connemara mainland, as it preserves a living spiritual link with the beliefs of our ancestors.

Monastic Connemara

By the early 7th century monks had founded important monasteries on the remote and rugged islands of Inishark (St. Leo), on High and Omey Islands (St. Feichin), Inis Ni (St. Mathias) and on Oileain Mhic Dara (St. Mac Dara). St. Mac Dara’s island is still the scene of an important and spectacular annual maritime pilgrimage on the 16th

July. St. Colman, a

monastic exile from Lindisfarne and Iona founded a major monastery on Inishbofin. He brought with him numerous Saxon followers.

As Bede recounts,

‘When he reached this island, he built a monastery and placed in it monks who he had brought from both na-

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