Irish Pilgrimages for the people of Ireland have always been of great importance. People have been visiting some of the sites we mention dating back to pre-Christian times.
Clonmacnoise Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly
This location is steeped in history. Many people lived on this spot and now hints of the busy monastic settlement it once was. This site was chosen 1500 years ago by St. Ciaran because of its convenient location at the junction of the river and road travel in Celtic Ireland. The monastery is on the east side of the River Shannon, in what was then called, the Kingdom of Meath. Because of its central location, it was also a burial place for kings of the surrounding kingdoms, Connaught and Tara. With the help of Prince Diarmuid, St. Ciaran began by building a small wooden structure and the first of many churches. This small church flourished and became a large monastic settlement including monks living quarters, churches, and a large university-like school. From the 8th-10th centuries it was a Scriptorium. Many scribes worked long hours learning metal-working in gold, silver, and bronze. They produced, what some say is, the finest Celtic craftwork produced to this day and were in what is now known as the Book of Kells and Durrow.
Croagh Patrick Westport, Co. Mayo
This location is the holy ground on which St. Patrick rested, fasted, and reflected during all 44 days of lent in 441 A.D. Here, too, according to legend, is where Ireland’s patron saint banished the snakes from the island. It has been a place of pilgrimage ever since. Croagh Patrick is a stony mound of hill that towers above the Clew Bay. It is measured at 2,510 feet high. A stone church is at the summit. The people of Ireland come by the thousands to this place to kneel on cold rock in prayer. Near the base of the mountain is Tobair Pardraig [Patrick’s Well]. This is where St. Patrick first baptized Irish converts. At the base is a statue of St. Patrick where the faithful begin their long journey to the top.
Faughart is a shrine to St. Brigid, a woman as highly regarded in Ireland as St. Patrick and St. Columcille. There is a place to begin the Stations of the Cross amid many tall trees and next to a stream. At the end of the Stations of the Cross, a rock is there said to contain the impression of St. Brigid’s knees when she knelt in prayer. There are two chapels, and one holds masses and the older of the two built in 1933. It is 4 miles north of Dundalk.
Knock, Co. Mayo
Knock has grown to the status of an internationally recognized Marian Shrine, visited by Pope John Paul in 1979. Mother Teresa of Calcutta also visited the Shrine in June of 1993. Knock was deemed a holy place after fifteen people witnessed Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John appear to them on the south gable of the Knock Parish Church. This holy occurrence happened on the 21st August 1879. The grounds of Knock now hold the Parish Church, the Shrine Chapel, the Basilica, and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The witnesses of the apparition are buried adjacent to the grounds and their graves are appropriately marked.