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Ireland: Gougane Barra & Saint Finn Barr’s Oratory


About Saint Finn Barr:

Born to royalty around 550 A.D, in Connaught, Ireland, and baptized Lochan, he was educated at Kilmacahil, Kilkenny, where the monks named him Fionnbharr (white head) because of his light hair.  Even as a young child he was known for his miraculous cures.  You will find his name spelled a variety of ways: Finbar, Finbarr, Finnbar, or Finnbarr, in Irish Fionnbharra, very often abbreviated to Barra.

He went on pilgrimage to Rome with some of the monks, who visited St. David in Wales on the way back.  Then, on another visit to Rome the Pope wanted to consecrate him a bishop but was deterred by a vision, telling the pope that God had reserved that honor to Himself, and Finnbar was consecrated from heaven and then returned to Ireland.

For a while he lived as a hermit on a small island at Lough Eiroe, and then, on the river Lee, he founded a monastery that later became the city of Cork.  His monastery became famous and attracted many disciples. He later became the first Bishop of Cork.

Supposedly the sun did not set for two weeks after he died at Cloyne about the year 633. He is the Patron Saint of Cork, and his Feast Day is September 24.


About Saint Finn Barr’s Oratory at Gougane Barra:

Saint Finbarr, founded a small hermitage here on an island in the lake sometime in the 6th century.   There are remains of this structure, although nothing survives of the original building.  There is a courtyard flanked by Monastic Cells that would have been used at the time. It was a time of the Penal Laws, when celebrating Mass was illegal:  Priests and Religious were murdered and Catholic services were banned.  Gougane Barra, being somewhat remote, offered a chance to celebrate Mass more openly.

St Finnbarr's Monastery at Goughane Barra
St Finnbarr’s Monastery at Goughane Barra

The nineteenth century oratory which stands near the original monastery is famous for its picturesque location and richly decorated interior and is a popular place for wedding photography.  It is a popular pilgrimage site, and many like to drink waters from the holy spring here.

Due to its picturesque location and richly decorated interior, it has become a popular place for wedding photography, even if the wedding is held elsewhere.

Whether there for a wedding or not, it is a remarkably peaceful and beautiful place that you should visit if possible.


Finding Gougane Barra:

Located about 13 miles north of the head of Bantry Bay, about one mile from the road that runs between Macroom and Bantry.

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