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St Brendan’s Church, Clodiagh

(5.1 km from Inistioge via R700)

The Celebration of Mass through the Centuries

Tradition has it that Mass has been celebrated here from earliest times.  It is believed that people have gathered on this site to share the Word of God and break bread for over three hundred years. 

Clodiagh district can claim the almost continuous existence of a church from the sixth century to the present day.  The seclusion of the site ensured that the Cromwellian forces of the mid-17th century and the Yoemen of the 1790s did not detect its presence and hence allowed the locals to gather for Mass uninterrupted through the centuries. Nearby there is the ancient parish church of Cluanamery or Cluen that was used from early times till Edward Fitzgerald fell at the Battle of Aughrim on the 12 July 1691. 

During the troubled years of the middle to late 1600s Mass was celebrated at the Mass Rook at the foot of Brandon Hill – a short distance from here further up the Clodiagh stream at Ballygub.  Here the people gathered to pray watched over by lookouts for fear of the Kings’ army.   

A small, thatched building was built on this present site in 1700 in a deep hollow on the bank of the Clodiagh river.  After being completely hidden for a century the church was re-roofed in 1800 and raised its head above the level of the rock.

The church was extensively renovated in 1931 when it received its present cruciform shape.  It is a source of great local pride that the light of faith has shone brightly continuously right through the ages.

St Brendan’s Church today

Extensive renovation took place in 2015.  A new marble altar, chair, ambo and reredos was installed.  This was gifted to the parish by the Sisters of Charity in Crumlin.  The beautiful relief on the altar depicts Christ welcoming the little children – indicative of the charism of the Irish Sisters of Charity and their care for young people. 

Beneath the Tabernacle is the inscription – in the ancient Irish script – of St Patrick’s Breastplate:  Christ be with me, Christ before me…. The brass relief of the loaves and fishes was for over 20 years on the temporary altar in St Colmcille’s church in Inistioge and a gift of the Keher family.

The statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart now have a place of importance in the church and are a special place of prayer and devotion.

The stations of the cross predate the work of the 1960s and continue to be a place of prayer during Lent and Holy Week.

The baptism font is 19th century and hand made with distinctive chisel marks bearing testimony to its age.  It is unpolished as it would have been from its earliest years.  Placed now near the altar it emphasises the link between Baptism and Eucharist.  It was rededicated by Cardinal Brady during his visit in 2016 when the nearby church in The Rower celebrated its bicentenary.

Clodiagh Church and the association with St Brendan

St Brendan never came to Clodiagh!  He went west and discovered America. Remembered as a native of Fenit in County Kerry he is ranked with Colmcille and Columbanus among the most important of the Irish Saints.  He is mentioned in a ninth century manuscript as Brendan the Navigator.  The feast day of St Brendan is May 16th.

His association with this area may be connected with the Church at Cluen.  The patron saint of Cluen is St Broondhawn.  A list compiled by Bishop Phelan incorrectly attributes patronage to Sanctus Brandanus Abbas but the diocesan historian of the early 20th Century, Canon Carrigan, firmly states that this was incorrect.  Regardless, the present church is under the patronage of St Brendan and this beautiful area of our parish has been strengthened and blessed by this association.

The windows to the left and right of the Altar depict St Brendan – holding his boat and oar – and of Our Lady.  The inscription invites us to remember the Brown Family of Coolnamuck and while not dated perhaps were installed during the work of 1931.  Of European origin the veining in the white glass is deliberate to diffuse the light from outside and thus enable viewing of the stained panels. 

Built upon a firm foundation….

Displayed in the church are three altar stones that recall the rich Christian tradition of the locality. 

The flat stone recalls the monastic tradition at Cluen.  The church, a parish church, can be dated back to the early 1300s and comprised the townlands of Ballygub, Bishopsland, Cloneamery, Coolnamuck and Oldcourt.  The nave of this ruin is the most ancient, the chancel being added in the 12th century and was used until late in the 19th century. The larger stone is from the site of the Mass Rock at Awltharaysh situated in Ballygub, upriver along the banks of the river Clodiagh.   Mass was celebrated here during the penal times. The flat and inscribed altar stone was in the altar that was replaced in 2015 by the marble altar.

The Grounds

The church of St Brendan is built on the banks of the Clodiagh River, a tributary of the River Nore.  The trees are over 100 years old and are similar to the very fine trees in the nearby estate of Woodstock.  The Belfry is similar to a structure that was in the grounds of St Colmcille’s Church in Inistioge…it is hoped to be renovated in the near future.  In 2017 further refurbishment will be carried out.