Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Posts from the ‘Pilgrimage’ category

Battle of the Saints!

For the day that’s in it!

I don’t know if their paths ever crossed, but two of our local Saints, Columbanus and Laserian, (Naomh Eoin and Old Leighlin!) were central figures in the debate over the date of Easter back in the 6th and 7th centuries!

 

St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin

St Columbanus, reputedly born on the slopes of the Blackstairs, became one of the great Irish Missionaries in Europe founding many monasteries along with his followers in France, Switzerland and Italy. While located in the area under the auspices of the Frankish Bishops he became embroiled in a major controversy because he and his followers celebrated Easter according to the Celtic Calendar. The Bishops tried to censure him but he refused to cooperate and wrote to Pope Gregory .

There is no record of the Pope replying and Columbanus moved on to eventually settle in Bobbio, Italy.

 

Bobbio, where Columbanus founded his last monastery. Thrilled to have cycled to here in 2010 and on to Rome along the Via Degli Abati.

 

St Laserian spent 14 years in Rome where he was educated under Gregory. When he returned to Ireland he took over the monastery at Old Leighlin and became a strong advocate for the Roman method of calculating Easter. A synod was held at Old Leighlin and it agreed to send a delegation to Rome. It still took some time for the change to Roman calendar to be fully adopted.

Isn’t it remarkable how these monks travelled and communicated with far distant lands in the 6th and 7th centuries?

Molaise’s Well and Cross

 

Front cover of Cardinal O Fiaich’s book

The assertion he may be from Carlow..

Columbanus is known as the first European, as he advocated for a system of federalism and was the first Irishman to have a book written about him some years after his death, by one of his monks, Jonas.

Carlow’s ‘Boyne Valley’ Revisited!

I love getting a Saturday afternoon to explore a bit of our historic and fascinating county. Today I went down South – again to the Rathanna, Ballymurphy area.

A phone call from Eamon Coleman a couple of months ago to tell me that he had cleared a path to the ancient rock art and holy water wells that are situated on his land had me planning to head down when football commitments allowed.

First port of call was Killoughternane

This single cell Church was built in the 5th Century by St Fortchern. There is a well across the road that has a really interesting history. It was forgotten about until 1880 when the land owner found a bottle with a message inside, written in a foreign language which when translated contained directions to the well! It must have attracted visitors from continental Europe at some point. This obviously created great excitement and the Well became a pilgrimage site with may cures attributed.

Subsequently a lady was cleaning out the well when she unearthed a mud encrusted item from the bottom of the well. It turned out to be a Chalice and Paten – probably hidden in penal times. The Chalice is now in St Andrews Church, Bagenalstown.

 

Headed over to Tinnecarrig Ballymurphy then to meet Eamon Coleman and view the rock art that is well hidden from view in an ancient overgrown graveyard on his land.

Its hard to make out the cups on this stone but if you look carefully you can see many deep cups peppered all over the surface. What did they signify? Who knows at this stage but its great see that rock art many thousands of years old is still present across the county.

Indeed you could say that this area is the Boyne Valley of the South as there are numerous examples close to the foothills of the Blackstairs!

One of the Holy Wells well hidden from view.

Holy wells or water fonts….

Time to head home but a short dash across to Rathgeran and Carlow’s finest example of rock art beckoned.

There are many more ancient heritage sites in this small area of the County – I often think we undersell what we have to offer…

 

Rathgeran

The Green Fields of France

I never gave much thought to the First World War. Sure I learned about it in history class but our interest in history would have been Irish history and while we did cover WW1 I don’t remember talking very much about the loss of life suffered by the thousands of Irish men who fought in The Great War.They fought for a variety of reasons – many fought to put food on the kitchen table, others for the promise of Home Rule yet others fought for the Crown and ‘the freedom of small nations’. I guess we were ambivalent about it at best. Yet almost 50,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the most inhumane conditions imaginable.

In 2010 I was fortunate, along with my youngest son Ronan, to have the opportunity to cycle from Canterbury to Rome along an ancient pilgrimage route, The Via Francigena. That was an amazing experience in so many different ways but perhaps the most unexpected was that it brought WW1 right into the present day for both of us. Our planning hadn’t factored in that we would be cycling through areas of France that were in the front line of battle. It was a shock to the system to suddenly come across, on Monday 6th September, small beautifully kept cemeteries along the 60kms of backroads of France between Arras and Peronne.

We stopped and paid our respects at each little graveyard and it was one of the most emotional places and moving things I have ever done. It really brought home the futility of war to walk among row after row of identical white memorial headstones and read the ages of these teenage soldiers who all died in vain, for the nations of Europe were to repeat those mistakes again and again.

I’ve edited out a little video clip at the end of this blog post of our visit to one of the cemeteries as a gesture of remembrance for all the dead on both sides and the civilians who were caught up in this most brutal conflict.

It was lovely to see how well maintained all the cemeteries were.

This post is to mark the one hundred anniversary of Armistice Day and to help us not forget.

Allied War memorial between Arras and Peronne

Respectfully maintained WW1 cemeteries are to be found on the back roads of France. There are many more than the more well known major memorials and serve as a reminder of the futility of war.

Hindu Soldiers honoured

Four years later I was back in France and cycling in the Lyon area and I went astray taking what turned out to be a very long shortcut! But it was very interesting and I came across a WW2 graveyard as poignant as coming across the WW1 graveyards in 2010. But this was even more surprising for this was a cemetery for almost 20,000 German soldiers at a place called Dagneux.

Dangeux WW2

The war graces site at Dagneux was developed by the German War Graves Commission with the permission of the French Authorities during the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Dagneux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pattern at St Mullins

Pilgrimage is back in fashion.Over 300,000 obtained the Credencial upon completion of the Camino Santiago in 2017, the ancient pilgrimage routes across Spain to the tomb of St James.

 

 

Old pilgrimage routes are being revived across Europe as people try to find a greater meaning in life or maybe just go for a long walk!

The Pattern at St Mullins is a 1300 hundred year old tradition linked to St Moling and St James. It is linked ot St James because the date is set on the Sunday before July 25th, the feast day of St James.I wonder was it ever a starting point for the Camino?

Each year thousands gather here to commemorate St Moling and to visit the graves of this picturesque graveyard and monastic site. The pilgrimage starts with the blessing of the water of the well with pilgrims drinking the water which reputedly has been responsible for many cures down the centuries. The water from the well flows through the mill race that Moling dug out over a period of 7 years Mass is then celebrated at the penal altar in the centre of the graveyard. During the time of the Penal Laws, celebration of mass was outlawed and had to be celebrated in secret and a lookout would have been placed on the nearby motte.

St Moling has attracted pilgrims here for hundreds of years to the monastery he founded in the 7th century; it is Carlow’s Clonmacnoise – the Book of Moling can be seen ion Trinity College, Dublin alongside the more famous Book of Kells.

The graveyard holds many famous remains, from St Moling himself, to Art Kavanagh, King of Leinster who was buried here in 1417 having been poisoned in New Ross. There are many graves associated with 1798 including General Thomas Cloney who died at the age of 24.

With the revival in pilgrimage across Europe, there is surely great scope to develop a Carlow pilgrimage route considering the number of really ancient and important ecclesiastical sites across the county associated with St Moling, Columbanus, St Fiacre, St Laserian and others.

Well worth a visit.

All Roads Lead to Rome

The three great pilgrimage routes in Christendom are Santiago de Compostella, Rome and Jerusalem. In 2010 myself and Ronan set out from Canterbury on the ancient Via Francigena, crossing south east England, France, Switzerland and Italy on our bikes, edging ever closer to the Eternal City.

Just discovered my old video files tonight!

The culmination fo that great pilgrimage was arriving into St Peters on our bikes!

Ronan is in Dubai now but there’s is no way I’m joining him to cycle to Mecca!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: