IRELAND & BRITISH ISLES
St Molagga’s Monastery in Timoleague, Ireland
Saint Molagga (Molacus / Laicin)
of Timolague, Co. Cork, Ireland (+655)
Feast day: January 20
St Molagga’s father was named Dubhligh(dh) and his mother Mioncolla, both of whom were of humble stock and they lived at (Cloch)-Liathmhuire, near Fermoy, Co Cork. The parents were quite old and without children when St Cu(o)imin Fada (12th November) with his brother St Comdhan and some companions passed the way and asked for assistance which was given. After being told of the circumstances of the couple, St Co(u)imin informed them that they would beget a son who would become famous in Ireland for his virtues, sanctity and learning. Also, that he would be a glorious light in his generation, the counsellor and director of the country people and their shield in adversity. Soon, Dubhligh and Mioncolla experienced a miraculous change in their persons; they lost all the signs of age and looked young again. Further, Mioncolla conceived and bore Molagga after 7 months. The people wondered at the changes and how they could have a child. The circumstances of his Baptism also had a miraculous character, which was performed by St Cuimin by happy chance, as the parents met him while intending to go elsewhere. Nearby, a new fountain and stream suddenly appeared to provide water for the Baptism and St Coimin saw angels present at the ceremony.
When growing up, St Molagga acquired many virtues and much knowledge from a number of holy masters and teachers. It is thought that he was trained for a time by St Coimin. When he became an adult a number of disciples attached themselves to him and he founded a monastery near Fermoy, possibly at Tullach-Mhin, Co Tipperary or at Teampall-Molagga, about one mile North-East of Kildorrery (Cill-dá-rí or Church-of-the-Two-Kings), in County Cork. Nearby are found a number of L(e)abba (=bed of)-Molagga which became scenes of miracles for pilgrims in later times.
Around 620, accompanied by other saints and companions, St Molagga visited the court of the local King Cuanna whose queen had just died in childbirth. He Baptised the boy-child as Cuíganmáthair (Caoi-gan-má÷air meaning, sorrow-without-mother) and expressed a wish that the child should not be without a mother, upon which the queen was restored to life. He also predicted an important future for the child.
Some time later, to show his disapproval of the actions of the King and nobles, St Molagga left the area and travelled to Conor (Co Antrim). On the journey he had to pass over water which was accomplished miraculously using merely a framework of twigs in place of a boat. In another place he left his bell behind him and it was miraculously restored to him and the place where this occurred was subsequently called Tearmonn-an-Chluig, or Sanctuary or Glebe or Place-of-the-Bell. Next, he crossed the sea to Scotland and cured a 17-year-old boy who had been dumb from birth. Afterwards he travelled to St David’s monastery in Wales and restored a dead monk to life. There, after some time, he had a vision from an angel who instructed him to return to Ireland. He landed near Dublin where he cured a chieftain of a wasting ulcer. The chieftain thereupon gave him a site for a Church and monastery in Fingall. There he brought bees from Wales and so the place was henceforth called Lann-Beachaire or the Church-of-the-Bees. He then proceeded to Clonmacnoise where he remained for a while before returning to his own territory in Co Cork where he was warmly welcomed back and he was given many gifts for his Church and monastery at Tegh (=House of)-Molagga.
While he was away, Cuíganmáthair had grown up and become King of Munster, but had been struck by a disease and feared for his life. Because of his crimes he resolved on a pilgrimage and thus wanted to abdicate. His nobles and subkings were concerned at this because it would de-stabilise the kingdom so they asked St Molagga for help and in return they conferred the privilege of refuge to his Church. A convention of nobles and clerics was called at Tegh-Molagga which included the Abbot of Emly, the Bishop of Cork, St Cuimin Fada and possibly even St Fursey (Abbot of Lagny). All the problems were resolved and the grants to St Molagga confirmed. One prince objected and was chastised by a miracle. However, he repented and St Molagga cured him. Later, he restored 7 others to life in order for them to make repentance. St Molagga is also said to have founded the Church at Timoleague, Co Cork but some scholars disagree.
In 664, Ireland was struck by a devastating plague, called the Buidhe-Chonaill or Yellow Fever. Corcabhaiscind in South-West Co Clare was particularly badly affected. St Molagga went there and found only 33 men and 28 women alive. He blessed them and there were no further deaths from the plague and later they increased and multiplied. Subsequently, St Molagga was held in the greatest of veneration there, even for a long time after his death, and he became Patron of the locality.
St Molagga is said to have survived the plague even though he was very old at the time. He was distinguished for many virtues and miracles and he was loved and admired by all. He died on the 20th of January but the year in uncertain. Tradition says he was buried at one of the Leaba-Molagga. He is listed in most of the Irish Calendars as well as the Kalendar of Drummond in Scotland. His feast was celebrated in early times, particularly in North-East Cork, Timoleague and in Dublin. The original Church at Timoleague was replaced by a Franciscan Friary in 1240, and nothing remains of our Saint’s monastery. There is an old poetic lament in Gaelic ‘Caoine Tí Molagga’ i.e. The Lament for the House (=Church and monastery) of Molagga.
One of St Molagga’s chief objectives was to shed the light of religion and science, by his instructions and example, over those ages which had been kept in the dark. He also wished to demonstrate the greatness of the Church, and her sanctity allied to the constant progress of Christian civilisation. He proved quite equal to such an undertaking, hard as it was, and not unfraught with peril under difficult conditions. Deep erudition was needed, no apocryphal documents would be accepted, no doubtful texts quoted, nor contestable arguments advanced, when he had to deal with those learned men who were his adversaries, when the relics of paganism were not wholly extinct in Ireland, and when Christians needed the wholesome food of sound doctrine, and the salt of true wisdom, to preserve them from contamination and the dangers of their age. And, whenever was it otherwise? As the French say; “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.
St Molagga’s Monastery in Timoleague, Co. Cork, Ireland
Co. Cork, Ireland
The village Kildorrery, Co. Cork, Ireland
where St Molagga founded a small Monastery
To the north of the oratory is the Parish Church known as Templemolaga. It is a large rectangular building, 11.8 metres in length by 7.2 metres wide. Very little remains of the church apart from the low walls. The west wall has been rebuilt. The present doorway may not be original. The original masonry and plinth at the base of the south wall suggests the church may be Romanesque. We do know that by the 16th century the church lay in ruins.
Entrance to St. Molagga’s Graveyard
in Kildorrery, Co. Cork, Ireland
St Molagga’s Well in Templemolaga Monastery
in Kildorrery, Co. Cork, Ireland
St Molagga’s Monastery in Kildorrery, Co. Cork, Ireland
Village Kildorrery, Co. Cork, Ireland
& the river Funshion
Village Kildorrery to Templemolaga Monastery
Fermoy to Templemolaga Monastery
Other one ancient Monastery of St Molagga in
Labbamolaga, Co. Cork, Ireland
The walls of two churches remain within a subrectagular enclosure. The smaller church has deep antae and a lintelled doorway; inside is a slab which tradition holds indicates the grave of the founding saint. The larger and later church had a nave and chancel, but is without any features, and the walls only remain to a height of c.0.60 m.
The monastery can probably be identified as Tulach-min-Molaga, founded by St Molagga, of Timoleague and Lann Beachaire, in the 7th century. Its current name, literally, ‘Molaga’s bed’, probably refers to the saint’s final resting place or grave here.
St Molagga’s grave
Volute on St Molaige’s Bed
The town Fermoy & the river Blackwater