Máedóc of Ferns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Aedan of Ferns)
Jump to: navigation, search
Máedóc of Ferns
Enniscorthy St. Aidan's Cathedral East Aisle Fifth Window Saint Aidan Detail 2009 09 28.jpg
Stained glass window of Máedóc in Enniscorthy Cathedral
Born c. 558
County Cavan
Died 31 January 632(632-01-31)
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Major shrine Enniscorthy
Feast 31 January
Patronage Patron saint of Ferns and of Templeport parish, County Cavan

Saint Máedóc (fl. 6/7th century), also known as Áedan, (also Aidan, popularly known as Mogue (Mo-Aedh-og = my dear Aedh)) was a saint in Irish tradition, founder and first bishop of Ferns (Co. Wexford) and a patron of other churches, such as Rossinver (County Leitrim) and Drumlane (County Cavan).

Early life[edit]

He was born at Inisbrefny (an island in Templeport Lake) then in the area known as Magh Slécht, now the parish of Templeport, County Cavan, about 558.[1] He was the son of Sedna, a chieftain of Connaught, and of his wife, Eithne. He was a member of a branch of the Airgíalla called the Fir Lurg who were in the process of spreading southwards into Fermanagh and Cavan. The barony of Lurg in County Fermanagh was named after them. He was a first cousin of St. Dallán Forgaill and a fourth cousin of Saint Tigernach of Clones. His father Setna was a tribal chieftain and his mother was Eithne.

There was no boat to take the infant to the mainland to be baptised so he is said to have been miraculously floated across the lake on a slab of stone to where Saint Kilian was waiting to perform the baptism. The holy water font in St. Mogue's Church in Bawnboy is said to be made from part of that stone. Legend says that the "Bell of St. Mogue" was given to the infant on his birth by St. Kilian. The bell is currently housed in the Armagh Public Library.[2]

When a youth he was a hostage of Áed mac Ainmuirech of the Cenél Conaill, High King of Ireland. Ainmire was so impressed with Aedan that he told him he could stay or go. Aedan said he would go, but only if the other hostages were also released, whereupon Ainmire let them all return home.[3]


He studied at the great school of Saint Finnian at Clonard Abbey. While at Clonard Aedan made friends with Molaise, who would later found the monastery of Devenish Island on the River Erne. Even in his early years the fame of his sanctity was widespread and, when many came to the young man and desired to become his disciples, he fled from Ireland to Wales to study under St. David. It is said that one day Aedan was sent to fetch ale for the monks, but the vessel broke and the ale was spilled. Aedan made the Sign of the Cross over it; the damage was repaired and he carried the ale to the monks.[3] Aedan is named as one of David's three most faithful disciples. Many miracles are recorded of St. Maedoc, both in his childhood and during his sojourn in Wales.[1]

He returned to Ireland in 570, landing on the coast of Wexford, and settled at Brentrocht in Leinster. Aedan founded his own monastery at Ferns in Co.Wexford[2] on land granted to him by King Brandubh. Through the influence of Brandubh, Ferns was constituted a see, and Aedan appointed its first bishop. He was noted for his benevolence and hospitality; and was patron saint of Hy Kinsellagh or Wexford.[4]

He was also given a nominal supremacy over the other Leinster bishops by the title of Ard-Escop or Chief Bishop. King Bran Dubh was slain in Ferns in 603.[5] Aedan founded thirty churches and a number of monasteries. The first of these monasteries was on the island of Inis Breachmhaigh where he was born. The ruins of an 18th-century church remain on the island, a church where mass was furtively celebrated during the Penal days. The ruins are surrounded by a burial ground now officially closed except for a few families whose ancestors are buried there. Twenty-five graves are marked with headstones. The clay or mortar from inside the ruins of the church is said to be a protection against fire or drowning and is kept by many local people in their homes.

He also founded monasteries at Drumlane, near Milltown in County Cavan, at Ferns in County Wexford (the main monastery), across the Irish Sea in Wales where he was under the monastic rule of Saint David, at Disert-Nairbre in County Waterford and finally in Rossinver in County Leitrim where, on Lough Melvin’s shore, he died on the 31 January, 632. He is buried in the crypt of St.Edan's Anglican Cathedral in Ferns. His stone tomb is inside the Cathedral and his remains are in under it, in the original cathedral crypt, below.

The Breac Maedoc[edit]

The Breac Maedoc (St. Mogue’s Shrine) dates from the 9th century, and is a example of an early medieval reliquary. It was often used as a sacred object upon which to swear a binding oath. It was acquired by the National Museum of Ireland in the 1890s.[2]


The Catholic episcopal seat of Ferns is now at Enniscorthy,it was formerly Ferns, (but the bishop resides in Wexford, before that, Enniscorthy and before that, again, Ferns - the Anglican diocese is administered from Kilkenny) where there is the beautiful St. Aidan's Cathedral dedicated to St. Aedan, whose patronal feast is observed 31 January. He is patron saint of Ferns and of Templeport parish, County Cavan. His feast is commemorated in Bawnboy with prayerful visits to his church and to the island where he was born. Mogue is no longer used as a Christian name but the name Aidan is popular for boys in the West Cavan area.

St. Aidan is also commemorated at St. Edan's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Ferns. This cathedral is the seat of Church of Ireland Diocese of Ferns, which is part of the United Dioceses of Cashel and Ossory.It was formerly the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ferns, also before it was burnt down in 1575. The cathedral, which is dedicated to St. Aidan/AEdan or Eden, is built on the site of, and partly from the ruins of, the earlier original Catholic medieval cathedral which was burnt c. 1575 by the O'Byrnes of Wicklow. It was ordered to be rebuilt by Queen Elizabeth I,during her rein, but it was only half rebuilt, and the cathedral there today is the "half-built" cathedral. It was supposed to be rebuilt as a large Anglican cathedral, but it wasn't and now it is known as Europe's smallest Cathedral![6] A special service is held each year on the Sunday nearest to 31 January to remember AEdan and mark the founding of the Cathedral and the Diocese.

The church of Llawhaden in Pembrokeshire, Wales, commemorates him.



  • Webb, Alfred (1878). "Wikisource link to Aedan, Saint". A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: M. H. Gill & son. Wikisource
  • Templeport: Rev. Daniel Gallogy (1979)
  • Bawnboy and Templeport: Chris Maguire (1999)
  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
  • McFall, T. H. C. "An Account of the History of Ferns Cathedral Church". Dublin: APCK, 1954 (Reprinted 1999 and 2000)

Further reading[edit]

  • Doherty, Charles (2002). "The Transmission of the Cult of St Máedhog". In P. Ní Chatháin and M. Richter. Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: Texts and Transmission. Dublin. 
  • Doherty, Charles. "Leinster, saints of (act. c.550–c.800)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed: 9 February 2009.