Finbarr of Cork

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Cork (47) 1.jpg
Bishop and Abbot
Born 550
Templemartin, north of Bandon, Ireland
Died 623
Cellnaclona (Cloyne) in Ballineadig, County Cork, Ireland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Gougane Barra, Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral (Anglican cathedral, Cork)
Feast 25 September
Patronage Cork, Diocese of Cork

Saint Finbarr or Finnbarr, in Irish Fionnbharra, very often abbreviated to Barra, (c. 55025 September 623) was Bishop of Cork and abbot of a monastery in what is now the city of Cork, Ireland. He is patron saint of that city and of the Diocese of Cork.[1] His feast day is September 25.


Born in Templemartin, near Bandon, and originally named Lóchán (modern form, Loan), he was the son of Amergin of Maigh Seóla. He studied in Ossory, corresponding approximately to the present County Kilkenny. He was renamed "Fionnbharra" (Fairhead in Irish), reportedly when, on being tonsured, the presiding cleric remarked: "Is fionn barr (find barr, in the Irish of the time) Lócháin", meaning, "Fair is the crest of Loan"), and he then became known as "Findbarr" ("Fionnbarra" in modern Irish).[2] He went on pilgrimage to Rome with some of the monks, visiting St David in Wales on the way back.[3]

On completion of his education he returned home and lived for some time on an island in the small lake then called Loch Irce.[4] The island is now called Gougane Barra (the little rock-fissure of Finnbarr). He is reputed to have built small churches in various other places, including one in Ballineadig, County Cork, called Cell na Cluaine, anglicized as Cellnaclona and sometimes referred to as Cloyne, causing it to be confused with Cloyne (Cluain Uamha) in east Cork.[2]

Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

He settled for about the last seventeen years of his life in the area then known as "Corcach Mór na Mumhan"(the Great Marsh of Munster), now the city of Cork, where he gathered around him monks and students. This became an important centre of learning, giving rise to the phrase "Ionad Bairre Sgoil na Mumhan"[5] "Where Finbarr taught let Munster learn", is the motto of today's University College Cork in English but is not a translation of the Irish motto "Ionad Bairre Sgoil na Mumhan" which means "Finbarr's foundation, the School of Munster."

The church and monastery he founded in 606 were on a limestone cliff above the River Lee, an area now known as Gill Abbey, after a 12th-century Bishop of Cork, Giolla Aedha Ó Muidhin.[2] It continued to be the site of the cathedral of his diocese. The present building on the site, owned by the Church of Ireland, is called Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral. The people of Cork often refer to the nearby Catholic church, also dedicated to St Finbarr, in Dunbar Street in the South Parish as 'the South Chapel,' distinguishing it from the North Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Anne, sometimes called 'the North Chapel.'[6]

Finnbarr died at Cell na Cluaine, while returning from a visit to Gougane Barra. He was buried in the cemetery attached to his church in Cork.[2]


There are at least five St. Finbarr’s Schools in Australia – at Ashgrove, Byron Bay, Sans Souci (South Sydney, spelt St Finbar), East Brighton (Melbourne), and Quilpie (South West Queensland).[7]

Other Saint Finbarrs[edit]

Portal of Cille Bharra on Barra Island

There are five Irish saints named Finnbarr.[1] One scholar has theorized that the Cork saint is identical with Finnian of Moville, a teacher of Colm Cille.[4]

Scotland has place names that refer to Saint Finnbarr, perhaps due to devotion to him having been carried there by disciples.[4] One such place is the Gaelic-speaking island of Barra, where there is a ruined church called Cille Bharra (Church of Finnbarr).[8] Tradition identifies that Finnbarr with the Cork saint, but it has been argued that he was Scottish.[9]