He was a pupil of the monk Nathan. As a youth, he was one of the fifty hostages whom the princes of Ireland gave to king Lóegaire mac Néill, by whom he was set free at the intercession of Bishop Kieran. He then went into Gaul, and passed some time at Tours in the monastery of St. Martin.
Returning to his native country, he converted great numbers to Christianity in Connacht. Then he went to Leinster, and founded a church in a place called to this day the Wood of Cianán. At length he went into the territory of Owen (Tír Eoghain), who was his mother Eithne's uncle. There he broke down a pagan altar and an idol and on the place built a Christian church. According to manuscripts extant in manuscript in the library at Cambridge, Cianán built here a church of stone, on that account called Damliag, corrupted into Duleek. It was the site of the first stone church in Ireland. He died on the 24th of November, in 489.
Modern research indicates he may have been the namesake of the Ciannachta.
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