Saint Kieran

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Saint Kieran
A visionary who founded a great Irish monastery

by Ann-Marie Imbornoni

St. Kieran (516?–549?)
Also known as St. Ciaran

Born in Roscommon, Connacht, Kieran left his boyhood home to study at the famous monastery at Clonard in Meath. From there he went to Aranmore in Galway Bay, where, like most contemporary saints, he communed with the holy abbot Enda. One night, the two men had a shared vision of a great tree, heavy with fruit, by a stream in the middle of Ireland. Enda interpreted this to mean that Kieran should go and search for such a place and found a church there.

Obeying the vision, Kieran eventually settled at Clonmacnoise on the Shannon River and established (548) one of the greatest Irish monasteries, which attracted scholars from all over Europe. Kieran did not direct the monastery for long, however, as he died of a plague in early middle life. Despite Viking raids and a dozen major fires, the monastery survived for 1,000 years, until it was destroyed by the English in the 16th century.

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