Monasticism is believed to have been brought to Ireland by Martin of Tours, who died in 397 (Joyce 37). Organized monasticism in Ireland began with Saint Enda (Joyce 37). Born in County Meath, the soldier Enda, a prince of Ergall in Ulster, was converted by his sister Saint Fanchea, abbess of Kill-Aine. He renounced his dreams of conquest and decided to marry. When he found his fiancee dead, he surrendered his throne to become a monk. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and was ordained there.
Enda learned the principles of monastic life at Saint Ninian’s in Galloway, which was where Saint Patrick also studied (Joyce 38). He returned to Ireland and built churches at Drogheda, and a monastery in the Boyne Valley (Saints O’ the Day 1). Enda then established the monastery of Killeaney for himself and his followers, which is regarded as the first Irish monastery. It is also called, “ the capital of the Ireland of the saints” because many saints came and lived there. Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, Saint Finnian of Moville, Saint Brendan, and Saint Columba were all known to have lived at Killeaney (Saints O’ the Day 2).
Last updated on 28th November 2000.