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Life of St Senan, Bishop, Patron Saint of West Clare


The four centuries between the death of St. Patrick and the invasion of Ireland by the Danes may be likened to the four seasons of a year. There was the season or period when the seed of God's word was implanted in the hearts of the Irish people. (432-600).

This was followed by the period of burgeoning and blossoming (600-700). Then the ‘flowers appeared in our land’. Monasteries sprang up and flourished throughout all the land of Eire.

Then came the season when the results of all the preceding centuries showed forth an abundant yield, (700-800). This was ‘the golden age’ when Ireland was known as the ‘island of saints and scholars’.

To Irish centres of Christian learning and sanctity, to Bangor, Armagh, Kildare, Clonmacnois, Aran, came scholars from Britain and Gaul and even from Rome.

Alas, that a cruel winter should come! And such a winter as spread destruction and desolation through all the land. This was the long and terrible winter of the Danish invasion. (800-1000). At first the Norsemen struck at the Northern and Eastern coasts, but soon, realizing the divided and distracted state of Ireland, they extended their incursions. Monasteries were their first targets; for in them they found splendid booty in rich shrines as well as in gold and silver vessels. Books and illuminated manuscripts they destroyed.

The island of Iniscathaigh, the first and largest in the Shannon estuary could not hope to escape. In the year 816, the monastery was plundered by the Danes, who massacred the clergy and destroyed the monument (shrine of St. Senan). From then onwards through a period of two hundred years the island was never safe from their attacks. When the Danes were defeated and driven from Limerick in 968, they withdrew to Iniscathaigh and held the island for ten years until Brian Boru took the place by storm. The annals of that period tell us that the bones of eight hundred slaughtered Danes covered the island for a long time afterwards.


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Excerpts from various annals and manuscripts
relating to Iniscathaigh

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Iniscathaigh after the Danish Invasions