BW 5 Molana Abbey

Dec 01, 2021, 05:54 PM

Direction: heading north
Location: Molana Abbey
Coordinates: 51.997327, -7.882004

We let Tony tell you about the Knights Templar's association in the area on the audio here. Meanwhile, the always excellent historian Turtle Bunbury explains the wonder that is Molana Abbey: - 'on the island that stands in the Blackwater, directly in front of present-day Ballynatray House, is one of the most important churches in early medieval Ireland. 

Over 170 years after Patrick, an Irish missionary known as St Maelanfaid, or Molan the Prophet, founded an abbey here on an island known as Dairinis, the island of the oak-tree. It is known today as Molana Island. Maelanfaid's abbey soon became a great centre for learning and religious reform. By the early 8th century, Molana was a major stronghold of the Céili Dé (Servants of God), a monastic order determined to reform the church. Its abbots subsequently played a key role in the subsequent introduction of Continental ideas to Ireland. 

Indeed, as Dr Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel noted in her thesis on the island, the Abbey's greatest hour came in about AD 720 when its Abbot, Ruben Mac Connadh of Dairinis, working with Cu-Chuimne from the island monastery of Iona, produced the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis. This was a profoundly valuable and important book for the church, written in Latin, effectively dictating the first rules of Canon Law. Its very title reflects its origin as a compilation of over two hundred years worth of canon law and synodal decrees. 

The text itself drew heavily upon previous ecclesiastical regulations and histories, all dating from the centuries prior to 725. It also included papal epistles, acts of synods, ecclesiastical histories, a definition by Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, a compusticial tract by Pseudo-Theophilus, spurious 'Acts' of the council of Caesarea, the so-called dicta of Saint Patrick and several quotes from all but one of the works of Isidore of Seville. Indeed, there is reason to believe that Molana Abbey may have been home to the first library in the south of Ireland. 

Unfortunately, none of these original manuscripts have survived but copies can be found in archives all over the Continent. Collectio Canonum Hibernensis was circulated throughout Western Europe for the next four hundred years.