Fenloe monastery was originally known as Tuaimfinlough meaning 'The Burial Mound of the Fair Lake' or 'The Tumulus of the Fair Lake'.
It is the oldest known settlement in the Newmarket-on-Fergus area, it's monastery is said to date back to the 6th century. It is located on the Newmarket-on-Fergus to Kilkishen road on a raised site overlooking Fenloe lake.
Fenloe was the site of a monastic settlement mentioned in The Annals of the Four Masters and other antiquarian books. St. Luchtigern is credited with opening the original monastery and school here. What remains of the church dates from the 10th century but a lot of rebuilding and renovating occurred throughout later centuries.
For over a thousand years the site was home to a monastic parish church, a centre of learning and Christian living. It is thought that the monastery of St Luchtigern was founded in 540AD and continued until the penal law times. In 1744 it is recorded in a letter from the High Sheriff of Clare that all the churches in Clare were boarded up. This was the end of Fenloe church as a place of public worship.
The crumbling process began and has continued from this time with the north wall collapsing during a thunder storm in July 1907 and the stone carted away for other purposes. In strong winds on the night of 10th January 2007, the east wall came tumbling down, partly due to collapsing stone work but mostly due to the growth of ivy which caught the winds. The stone still remains where it fell, it would be great to have it put back to the condition it was in previous to the storm of 2007. Since all the stone is still there this is possible. What remains is in a fragile condition and care should be taken if you venture close to the church.
A legend connected with Fenloe tells of a mysterious plague which was ravaging the country. The abbot of Fenloe cured the first local person to contract the disease. The abbot banished the plague into a large stone which became known thereafter as the plague stone. This stone is now in the outside of the boundary wall near the south-west corner. On its face it has two circular shapes, one like an inverted saucer and the other with a simple cross cut into it.
Near the south-east corner of the graveyard there are three stone heads on the boundary wall and their story is connected with that of the plague stone.
The story goes that there were three onlookers at the incident of the miraculous cure and one of them was very sceptical. The abbot had three heads carved and mounted over the church door.
Fenloe Stone Heads
The Middle Head
He placed the head representing the unbeliever in the middle, saying it would gradually yield to the elements while the other two heads would forever remain unaffected by weather or time.
Tradition maintains that coffin access to the graveyard is via the field to the south-west of the gate and over the wall into the burial ground.
St Luchtigern's Well located beside the road to the left of the gate is well maintained by local volunteers.
Fenloe Holy Well
Beyond calm waters of nestling swans
And yellow beaked black water hens,
St. Luightighern came and built a church.
A place devout above the verge of Fenloe,
Where long stemmed rushes crowd the shallows
And Granahan spreads an evening shadow.
A place of learning,
Where scholars swamped through Celtic script
And tread beneath the shallow lintel
To kneel and harmonise their praise.
The nave now cradle to the rook and wren.
An open palm stretched out to grasp a shower
To weep within the ivied chancel.
Tall lancet tracery disperses light
Where bread and wine were offered once
To contrite hearts.
The balm of spirits past envelop,
And still the weary soul
In Christ’s eternal sanctuary.
Edwin Bailey 2006
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