St Ciaran of Saighir

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Bishop and monk. St Ciaran was born in West Cork in the 6th century. He came from an Ossory family. Ciaran went to Europe as a young man where he was baptised and ordained. He returned to Ossory and settled at Saighir near Birr in Co Offaly, first as a hermit, then later as the abbot of a large monastery. He may have been consecrated bishop by St Patrick.

There are many legends about St Ciaran. He is said to have had great skills communicating with wild animals. A wolf, a badger and a fox helped him and his monks build their huts.

On one occasion the fox stole Ciaran's shoes and hid them in his lair. The wolf and the badger were given the job of finding the shoes and bringing the fox back to Ciaran. He made the animal do penance and then continue work as before.

Ciaran's monastery became the burial place for the kings of Ossory. Some notable ruins remain there to this day. It is likely that they were built on the site of a prehistoric settlement. As in other Irish sanctuaries, perpetual fire is said to have burnt there. There is another site of St Ciaran, an ancient ruined church, on the island of Cape Clear. This was probably his hermitage.