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St Colman's Monastery

St. Colman of Lindisfarne was born in the west of Ireland and educated at Iona in Scotland. He became the third Abbot/Bishop of Lindisfarne in 661 AD after Aidan and Finian. He resigned as Bishop in 664 AD when the Synod of Whitby decided to calculate easter using the Roman method instead of his preferred Celtic method. After returning to Iona he later sailed for Inishbofin, with both Irish and English monks, where he founded his monastery. A number of disputes between the Irish and English monks resulted in Colman moving to the mainland with the English, where he founded a monastery known as "Mayo of the Saxons" Colman died in 676 AD.

The ruins of the 14th century abbey on Inishbofin are said to be built on the site of the original monastery founded by St Colman. We were very lucky to enjoy some wonderful sunshine during our visit. The abbey is situated to the east of the Island, in Knock townland, and offers stunning views of the mainland and surrounding islands. The ruins are quite modest but I was thrilled to wander around the graveyard discovering an array of early christian cross slabs, and medieval graves hidden amongst the vegetation. A survey about fisheries by the Royal Dublin Society in 1890 were informed about a ruined church with a number of skulls. They discovered about forty skulls stored in a recess in the east gable of the abbey. The monastery is located to the east of a small lake which suggests there may have been a water-mill present at the original foundation.

From the south

Looking east to the mainland

Doorway in the south wall

Recess in the east gable and ambry in the south wall

The ruined church is about 18 metres long by 5 metres wide and was lit by five windows, the largest of these is in the east gable. The west gable was inserted into the nave at a later date, shortening the overall length. At the east end of the south wall there is an ambry and in front of the altar there is the large bullaun stone, pictured right. I believe there is evidence of two wells located in the SW and SE corners of the rectangular graveyard. The SW well was dedicated to St Flannan of Killaloe and the other to St Colman. I would have liked to have had time to find the two wells, but unfortunately time was short as we had chartered a boat to take us to the nearby Inishshark. Hopefully I will return soon and spend more time here.

One of the larger medieval graves

Situated: Catch the Inishbofin ferry from Cleggan in Connemara. The journey takes about 40 mins. From the pier take the road east. The abbey is situated on the southside of the road about 20 mins from the pier.

Discovery Map 37: L 5517 6508. Last visit May 2017.

Longitude: 10° 11' 20" W

Latitude: 53° 36' 56" N

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Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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