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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 7. Corcomroe

Kilfenora Parish—Cathedral Church and Tombs

The name of the parish is supposed to be derived from the situation of the church, “the fertile hill side.” Its first bishop was St. Fachtna, whose festival was formerly kept there on the 14th of August. As to the date of the existing church nothing is known; in the Annals of Inisfallen, under the date of 1055, it is stated that the abbey church of Kilfenora was burned by Murrogh O’Brien. Part of it is used as a Protestant place of worship; the roof of the remainder has been allowed to fall in.

Interior of Kilfenora Cathedral
Interior of Kilfenora Cathedral

Several interesting inscriptions are to be found on tombs in the church and its graveyard. On a flag is delineated, in basso-relievo, the full figure of a bishop with a chalice in his hands, regarded by the inhabitants as a likeness of St. Fachtna. Upon the shaft of a cross forming the headstone of a grave, is the effigy of another bishop holding a crozier in his left hand. In the nave of the church, built into the wall, is the tomb of the family of MacDonogh, former owners of Ballykeal, Ballyshanny, and Ballybreen, with the following inscriptions:—“Donaldus MacDonagh, et uxor ejus Maria O’Connor, sibi et suis ambobus posteris hunc tumulum fieri fecere. An. Dni. 1685, Memento mori.” “Here lie the remains of Dr. Patrick MacDonogh, son of the above Donaldus, and grandson to the Craven. He was a dignitary of the church of France and of the Romish of Ireland. He was intimately acquainted with men of the first rank. Died on the 25th of February, 1752.” A tablet in the same wall has this inscription—Neptunus qui fuit filius Revdi Neptuni Blood, Decani Fenoborensis, ejusque uxoris Isabellæ Blood alias Pullein [9] expiravit I° die Julii, 1683. On a handsome panelled tomb, constructed of cut stone in the form of an altar, is the following inscription:—“William Macancarrigg, and his wife Elizabeth ni Dea made this Tomb Anno Domini 1650.” [10] On a flat tombstone in the graveyard is the following singular inscription:—

“Non quemquam defraudavi : me saepe fefelli :
Et Marti et Baccho saepe tributa dedi,
Patritius Lysaght [11] obiit Anno Dmni 1741 ætate sua 85.”

Around the border of another tombstone the following in inscribed in raised letters:—“Here lyeth the body of Hygarth Lone, who lived 21 years Dean of this church, and died in September, 1638.” Another tombstone has the subjoined epitaph:—“Hic reconditum in spem resurrectionis ad vitam, quod mortale fuit Illmi ac Revdmi D.D. Laur. Arthur Nihelle Primi Unitarum Ecclesiarum Fens Duacs renunciati R. C. Epi, viri optimi, in sacris et profanis literis haud mediocriter eruditi. Qui dum viveret opuscula quaedam edidet fidei et morum eximia, et M.S.S. reliquit edenda, in dulci et utili oe (omne) punctum latura. Obiit in Dno.

Tombs, Effigies and Cross at Kilfenora
Tombs, Effigies and
Cross at Kilfenora
die Junii 29, 1795, aetate sua 69. Requiescat in pace.” Another stone has the following:—“Here lies the body of John Neylan who dyed the 27th of July, 1718, aged 24 years.” In a field, at the distance of about fifty yards to the west of the church, stands one of those fine terminal crosses which adorn the sites of so many Christian establishments in Ireland. Three other such stood on the different roads leading to Kilfenora. It is the general opinion that the use of these crosses was to point out the precincts of the church, within which no lay jurisdiction could intrude. Two of them are broken, and the pieces are to be found in a yard adjoining an inn in the village. Another was carried to Clarisford in 1821 by Dr. Mant, bishop of Killaloe, and placed before his house there, while the fourth is that now under consideration. It is about fifteen feet high, and is inscribed all over with most delicate tracery. It has on its face a raised representation of the crucifixion, and it is in every respect one of the finest sculptured crosses in Ireland. At a short distance from Kilfenora is a holy well dedicated to St. Fachtna. It is called Bullán Fachtna, the word bullán signifying a spring of water issuing from a rock. A small stone-roofed building was raised over it, with the following inscription:—“Deo et B. Fechtnano hocce opusculum fundavit Donaldus MacDonogh, licentiâ et permissione Episcopi Finaborensis Anno Dni 1687.” About a quarter of a mile to the west of Kilfenora is noticed the site of the old church of Kilcarragh, formerly a hospital. [12] It is almost level with the ground. A burial place existed there at one time, at least what appears to have been a tombstone is to be seen near the church. [13] In the townland of Clogher, in this parish, existed an old church and burying ground called Kiltonaghta, and at Cahirminnaun, within the ambit of the caher, is a burying place called after Saint Caimín, with a holy well just adjoining called Tobar Caimín. The parish of Kilfenora has the following castles, viz.—Ballyshanny, Ballagh, Fanta, and Caherminnaun, all belonging in 1580 to Teige MacMurrogh O’Brien, [14] and that of Tullagh, the property of Sir Daniel O’Brien. [15] The cahers and lioses of the parish are not many, but they are in better preservation than most others of their class in the county. On the townland of Ballykinvarga stands a very fine caher, surrounded by a chevaux de frise of large sharp stones placed on end in the field, a kind of defence which made approach to the caher, especially in the night, very difficult. Some time ago an immense number of silver pennies of Edward II. were discovered under one of these upright stones. The rath of Caherminnaun was of very large size, as appears by its remains still subsisting.