Tuesday 6 August 2013

Saint Mochua of Clondalkin, August 6

August 6 is the commemoration of a County Dublin holy man and monastic founder, Cronan Mochua of Clondalkin. In his account of the saint below, Canon O'Hanlon is unable to bring us many specific details of Saint Mochua as an individual, but compensates by supplying a later history of the monastery he founded. It is impossible for me to reproduce the many footnotes which cite the sources for this history, but if you are interested in following up on any of the references, Volume 8 of the Lives of the Irish Saints is available through the Internet Archive. The references to monastic foundations and their abbots in the various Irish annals is often a clue to the perceived relative importance of the monastery. Clondalkin seems to have suffered at the hands of the Vikings in the ninth century but nevertheless continues to feature in the sources well into the twelfth century, when the potted history given here ends. This would suggest that it recovered from the raids by the 'foreigners', not all Irish monasteries were so fortunate. A couple of final points - I have transferred the stanza in the Martyrology of Oengus for the feast from the footnotes into the main text, but note that Canon O'Hanlon says this entry occurs on August 12. I assume that this is an accidental misquoting, for in the text of the Martyrology cited by the author, the stanza is indeed found on August 6.


That St. Mochua lived at an early period in our ecclesiastical annals is sufficiently manifest, from the fact of his being recorded in the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, and at a time when Clondalkin had already been celebrated for its religious establishment. In the "Leabhar Breac" copy, the following stanza is to be found at the 12th day of August, and it has been translated by Whitley Stokes, LL.D. — Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Irish Manuscript Series, vol. i., part i. On the Calendar of Oengus, p.cxxii.

"Sixtus a Roman bishop bore upwards a buoyant troop:
with Mo-Chua a victorious prince, from multitudinous Cluain- Dolcain."

To this is added a comment, that he was the son of Lugdach or Lugaid, and that he was previously called Cronan. Thus: "Mochua, .i. Mac lugdach qui prius Cronan dictus est."—Ibid., p. cxxix.

According to the O'Clerys, Cronan, or Mochua, belonged to the race of Cathoir Mór, and he was also of the Lagenians. Cainer, of Cluain-da-Saileach, was his mother, and the mother of the other six sons of Lughaidh, who were saints, viz., Lasrain, Baedan, Garbhan, Baothin, Senchan, and Ruadhan. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, we find a festival recorded, at the 6th of August, in honor of Cronan, son of Lugdach. He is the same, we are told, as Mochua, of Cluana Dolcain. This place is now known as Clondalkin, a parish in the barony of Upper-Cross, and County of Dublin.

The first Abbot of this place was St. Mochua, and, it seems probable, he was the founder of a religious establishment there, at a very early period. We are told that he was known, likewise, by the alias name of St. Machotus. It is evident, from the accounts contained in the Irish Annals, which record the deaths of many successors in the monastery of Clondalkin, that Mochua cannot have flourished later than the eighth century, while it is quite possible he may have lived in a still earlier age. According to one authority, St. Mochua was a Bishop and Confessor, so that an ancient tradition seems to have prevailed, that he was elected to discharge the episcopal office here; but, whether for his own early religious community, or on behalf of the people residing near Clondalkin, cannot be ascertained. Frequently, in our Irish Annals, we find the abbatial and episcopal offices united in the same person.

We have on record the decease of these following Clondalkin Abbots, who succeeded the founder, at the several years hereafter named, viz : Aelbran Ua Lagudon, A.D. 776 [recte 781]; Ferfuguil or Fearfughuil, Bishop or Abbot, A.D. 784 [recte 789]; Feidhlimidh Ua Lugadon, A.D. 796 [recte 801]; and Tibraide, son of Rechtabhar, A.D. 828. Lying about four miles south-west of Dublin city, Clondalkin has a Round Tower, still in a good state of preservation. Adjoining it, in a graveyard, are the ruins of an old Church, which is separated from the Round Tower, by the public road, which leads into the town. The etymology of this place has been rendered into English, as meaning, Dolcan's Meadow.

Having established themselves very securely in Dublin, and in other cities around the coast, the Scandinavians meditated the entire conquest of Ireland. Being so near to Dublin, and almost necessary for their preservation within its walls, Clondalkin was held as an outpost and fortified. However, having adopted Christianity, together with its accompanying civilization, at an early period, Clondalkin seems to have still preserved its Irish inmates, in the monastery which had been there founded. It would appear, that Amhlaibh, King of the Danes in Dublin, had a fort or palace here; but, at what period it had been erected does not seem to be known. From him, it was called Dun-Amhlaeibh, signifying Auliffe's, Aulaft's or Amlafi's Fort. In the year 832, Clondalkin was plundered; and, as we are told, by the foreigners. In 865 or 866, Dun Amhlaeibh was set on fire, and destroyed by the son of Gaithen and by Mael Ciaran, the son of Ronan; while the Scandinavian defenders were slain, and one hundred heads of the foreigners were exhibited —according to the war usage of that period—after their slaughter at Cluain-Dolcain.

That Clondalkin was an ancient episcopal see appears from various entries in the Irish Annals. Besides St. Ferfugil, we read about the death of Bishop Cathal, son to Cormac, who was Abbot of Clondalkin, likewise, and who died A.D. 876, according to Archdall, or 879, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. During the ninth and tenth centuries, the abbatial succession at Clondalkin was kept up by Ronan, son of Cathal, who was abbot here, and he departed this life, A.D. 885. Maelinmhair Ua Glascon, abbot of Cluain-Dolcain, died A.D. 920. Duibhinnreachr, the son of Ronan, was abbot here, and he died A.D. 938.

In the year 1071, Clondalkin was burned; while the Annals of the Four Masters record at the same date the burning of Kildare and of Glendalough. These fires were probably accidental. About this period, a son of Maeldalua appears to have been chosen as an Abbot in Cluain-Dolcain; but, one Ua Ronain had usurped the Abbacy, and this was the occasion of a great scandal. In the year 1076, Clondalkin was again invaded; for, at this date, an aimy was led by the clergy of Leath-Mhogha, with the son of Maeldalua, to Cluain-Dolcain, to expel Ua-Ronain from that place, after he had assumed the abbacy in violation of the right of the son of Maeldalua. On this occasion, a church, with its land, at Cluain-Dolcain, was granted to Culdees forever, together with twelve score cows. These were given' as a mulct to the son of Maeldalua. In 1086, the death of Fachna, Archdeacon of Clondalkin, is recorded. In the Annals of the Four Masters, at the same date, he is styled Fiachna Ua Ronain. In the year 1152, when the Synod of Kells assembled, the rural bishopric of Clondalkin was united to the See of Dublin. Afterwards, in 1179, Pope Alexander confirmed Clondalkin, with all its appurtenances, to the See of Dublin; while the old Danish or Irish occupants of a large portion of the land, Macgilleholmoc and Dervorgilla, his wife, surrendered to the use of its Church—expressly called the Church of St. Machotus—all their ancient inheritance. About the year 1184, Prince John, King of Ireland, confirmed by charter Clondalkin and its tithes to the see of Dublin, as did Pope Clement III., in 1187, Pope Celestine III., in 1191, and his successor, Pope Innocent III., in 1218. Clondalkin Church, the old ruins, the Round Tower, and a rude Celtic cross, are shown in Grose's "Antiquities of Ireland." This church was made prebendal by Archbishop John Comyn; and afterwards, Henry de Loundres, who succeeded in the see of Dublin, established the dignity of Dean for St. Patrick's Church, assigning for his support the Church of Clondalkin, with its appurtenances. Furthermore, this locality has an interesting medieval history.

No records, which might serve to elucidate the acts of St. Mochua, founder of Clondalkin, have been preserved. Neither has the year for his happy departure to a brighter and better world been ascertained. At the 6th of August, the Martyrology of Donegal registers the feast of St. Mochua of Cluain Dolcain. He was also venerated in Scotland, at this date, as we find his name in the Martyrology of Drummond, as having been a Bishop and Confessor. Local traditions have survived the lapse of time, and on that day, the people living in and near Clondalkin formerly held a patron at St. Mochua's well, near Celbridge, in the parish of Kildrought, and Donoghcumper, in the County of Kildare.

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