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School of Clonard



Clonard (Irish, Cluain Eraird, or Cluain Iraird, Erard's Meadow) was situated on the beautiful river Boyne, just beside the boundary line of the northern and southern halves of Ireland. The founder of this school, the most famous of the sixth century, was St. Finnian, an abbot and great wonder-worker. He was born at Myshall, County Carlow, about 470. At an early age he was placed under the care of St. Fortchern, by whose direction, it is said, he proceeded to Wales to perfect himself in holiness and sacred knowledge under the great saints of that country. After a long sojourn there, of thirty years according to the Salamanca MS., he returned to his native land and went about from place to place, preaching, teaching, and founding churches, till he was at last led by an angel to Cluain Eraird, which he was told would be the place of his resurrection. Here he built a little cell and a church of clay and wattle, which after some time gave way to a substantial stone structure, and entered on a life of study, mortification, and prayer. The fame of his learning and sanctity was soon noised abroad, and scholars of all ages flocked from every side to his monastic retreat — young laymen and clerics, abbots and bishops even, and those illustrious saints who were afterwards known as the "Twelve Apostles of Erin". In the Office of St. Finnian it is stated that there were no fewer than 3000 pupils getting instruction at one time in the school in the green fields of Clonard under the broad canopy of heaven. The master excelled in exposition of the Sacred Scriptures, and to this fact must be mainly attributed the extraordinary popularity which his lectures enjoyed. The exact date of the saint's death is uncertain, but it was probably 552, and his burial-place is in his own church of Clonard. For centuries after his death the school continued to be renowned as a seat of Scriptural learning, but it suffered at the hands of the Danes, especially in the eleventh century, and two wretched Irishmen, O'Rorke of Breifney and Dermod McMurrough, helped to complete the unholy work which the Northmen had begun. With the transference by the Norman Bishop de Rochfort, in 1206, of the See of Meath from Clonard to Trim, the glory of the former place departed forever. Irish Life in Book of Lismore; HEALY, Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars (Dublin, 1890).

JOHN HEALY








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