Tigernach of Clones (d. 549), patron saint of Clones; Tigernach mac Fócartai

 Clones owes its importance to the monastery that was founded by St Tiarnach, and around which the town grew. Clones is St.Tiarnach's town.

What information there is about him is contained in a medieval Latin life, and is probably more fiction than fact. He is supposed to have been the son of a Leinster father and a Clogher mother. It must be remembered that Heath, which in later Centuries was in Leinster, came as far north as Cumber Bridge. When Tiarnach returned to his native place - ad patriam suam - he set up his first monastery there after having dug a deep trench fossam profundam. This would be translated into Irish as claí domhain. A few miles outside Clones there is a townland called Cladone, and this townland is contiguous to Annakilly (Eanach Cille ) and Analore ( Áth na Lobhar) ecclesiastical centreslater on.

There is a strong possibility that Tiarnach was a native of the area to which he returned to set up his monastery. Tiarnach was an important local saint and since his father was a Leinster man it was necessary to give him an Ulster flavour, and how better to do this than to give him an Ulster mother. His mother was made a Clogher princess and this served to link Tiarnach with an important ruling dynasty. The list of the early bishops of Clogher is interesting, the first one has connections with Louth, the second, Macartan, with Clogher, the third,Tiarnach, with Clones, the fourth, Sinell, with Loch Erne. When all these places are joined together the boundaries of Clogher diocese emerge, so the list may have been put together to justify the limits of Clogher diocese, and to present it as an historical entity. It seems probable therefore that Tiarnach was a native of the Clones area.

St. Tiarnach was born about the years 460 — 480. It is alleged that he received some of his education abroad. On his return home he founded his first monastery which has already been mentioned. His second monastery was on Galloon island, and Clones was his third. It is not possible to say with any degree of accuracy when Clones monastery was established. Since Tiarnach was bishop of Clones when he was consecrated bishop of Clogher in 506, it is likely that Clones monastery was established before that date. He is sometimes referred to as Fear Dha Chrioch because he was bishop of two dioceses. The monastery of Clones was under the patronage of Sts.Peter and Paul. Tiarnach was probably an old man when he died as he was blind for quite some time before his death, which occurred in 548 or 549. His feast day is April the 4th. From the devotees of Tiarnach there comes the name Giolla Thiarnaigh, now anglicised Tierney. Below the fort on the northern side there was a well called Tobar Thiarnaigh, and people leaving the district, especially going abroad, used bathe in it to ensure safe journeying.

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Clones was an important monastery and was similar to other large monastic foundations. The monastic buildings were surrounded by a rath, and within this enclosure stood the main buildings, church, refectory, guest house, cells of the monks, and probably schools. Tradition states that there was a school attached to the monastery, and also a nunnery. Outside the enclosure there were many more buildings, forge, workshops, barns, lime kiln, mill etc., all of which were necessary since the establishment was self supporting. The site of the monastery was in the present Round Tower cemetery,and the monastic site stretched as far as the remains of the Abbey in Mac Curtain Street.

Beside the buildings or in close proximity, there was a vegetable garden and an orchard, Close by there was a small river also which supplied the monks with fish. Settlements of a quasi urban nature existed around most of the main ecclesiastical centres, streets, wooden houses, workshops. In 1022 it is stated in the Annals that Mathghamhain was slain in the " street of Clones." The lands attaching to Clones monastery were quite extensive, 22 tates, which would approximate to 1300 acres, on which there were tenants. The extensive lands, superior administration, more sophisticated methods or agriculture made the monastic settlement an important factor in the Irish economy. The laicisation of the church represents attempts by the secular rulers to dominate and to place under tribute the economic resources of monastic towns. Monasteries became not only wealthy and powerful economically, but also politically. Very often they were the only places which had a food surplus in time of want, and so, very often they were raided by secular rulers. Monasteries must be seen therefore as monastic towns, not just simple monasteries, and Irish kings wanted to dominate them; and to intrude either themselves,or their near relatives, into abbacies. Such a place was Clones monastery, a well known place.

Click here to read  "Tirnach of Clones"   by Ó Dufaigh, Seosamh

Click Here for St. Tiarnach. (Tigernach) History from Sancti Obliti Forgotten or lesser known saints of the Catholic Church.