4. DHS - St. Asicus's Grave

Aug 12, 2021, 09:08 AM

Shrine Four: in a league of his own.
Location: 54.570482, -8.132844
Speaker: Pierce Ferriter
Theme: gathering to salute a talented, but humble man.

Tucked up the top of a hill on the outskirts of Ballintra, look out for the unlikely burial site of the Elphin diocese in Roscommon's patron saint. St. Asicus, the patron saint of coppersmiths, having been St. Patrick's very own coppersmith and silversmith. You don't have to go too far to see his work - his copper work can be seen on the shamrock patterned beaten brass alter screen in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo. In the Cathedral you can also see a stained glass representation of St. Asicus.

When St. Patrick established the diocese of Elphin in County Roscommon, circa. 450 AD, he appointed Asicus as its first bishop and later Abbot-Bishop of Ireland. It is said that he was a humble man who did not believe himself worthy of his high office in the Church. He left Roscommon and travelled to Rathlin O'Birne Island in Donegal Bay where he resigned his office and became a hermit, living for a while at the top of Slieve League along the area called The Pilgrim's Way. He remained there for seven years until the monks of Elphin tracked him down and persuaded him to return to Elphin with them. However, he was not in good health and died on the journey back to Elphin (circa. 490 AD).

He is buried where he died, but it is only in the last sixty years or so that his existing grave with ornate stonework was built. His feast day is the 27th of April and is still commemorated as it should be - immense talent is rarely joined by such austere modesty. Quietly salute this humble pilgrim if you can.

Across the road, you'll find another sacred site, that of a fairy tree. There are many 'fairy trees' along the roadsides of Donegal and especially at the crossing of roads throughout Ireland. Usually these are gnarled old hawthorn bushes. Also considered sacred were the oak and the ash. While many magic wands were made from the rowan branch, it is considered a profanation to destroy them or even to remove one of their branches. Many different types of otherworld creatures are said to dwell in the tree or nearby. Some may scoff at the notion of the power of a fairy tree, but few would ever cut a fairy tree down. Would you?

Audio taken from Donegal's Hallowed Sites on the Racontour Archive.
Spotify URL: Donegal's Hallowed Sites playlist on Spotify