Aedan of Ferns

Aedan of Ferns

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Aedan of Ferns
birth_date=c. 550
death_date=death date|632|1|31|df=y
feast_day=31 January
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

birth_place=County Cavan
patronage=Patron saint of Ferns and of Templeport parish, County Cavan

St. Aedan of Ferns ('Aedh-og or Mo-Aedh-og, Maedoc, Aidan, or Mogue) was an early bishop of Ferns, in Ireland. He was born at Inisbrefny (an island in Templeport Lake) then in the area known as Magh Slécht, now the parish of Templeport, County Cavan, about 550; he died at Ferns, 31 January, 632. He was a first cousin of St. Dallan Forgaill. His father Setna was a tribal chieftain and his mother was Eithne. There was no boat to take the infant to the mainland to be baptised so he is said to have been miraculously floated across the lake on a slab of stone to where Saint Kilian was waiting to perform the baptism. The holy water font in St. Mogue's Church in Bawnboy is said to be made from part of that stone.

When a youth he was a hostage in the hands of Áed mac Ainmuirech of the Cenél Conaill, High King of Ireland. He studied at the great school of Saint Finnian at Clonard and at Kilmuine, in Wales, under St. David, and returned to Ireland in 580. Ainmire went so far as to predict that Aedan would become a leader of the church. While at Clonard Aedan made friends with Molaise, who would later found the monastery of Devenish Island on the River Erne.

He returned to Ireland in 580, landing on the coast of Wexford. In thanksgiving for the victory of Dunbolg, County Wicklow, 10 January 598, in which King Aedh was slain, Brandub mac Echach (d. 603), King of Leinster, convened a synod at which, having represented the great services rendered to the kingdom of Leinster by St. Aedan, notably the remission of the Boromha tribute, it was agreed that Ferns be made an episcopal see - the Diocese of Ferns - with Aedan as first bishop. He was also given a nominal supremacy over the other Leinster bishops by the title of Ard-Escop or Chief Bishop. King Bran Dubh was slain in Ferns in 603 [Date per "The Chronology of the Irish Annals", Daniel P. McCarthy] . St. Aedan, popularly known as Mogue (Mo-Aedh-og = my dear Aedh) founded thirty churches and a number of monasteries. The first of these monasteries was on the island of Inis Breachmhaigh where he was born. The ruins of an 18th century church remain on the island, a church where mass was furtively celebrated during the Penal days. The ruins are surrounded by a burial ground now officially closed except for a few families whose ancestors are buried there. Twenty-five graves are marked with headstones. The clay or mortar from inside the ruins of the church is said to be a protection against fire or drowning and is kept by many local people in their homes.

He also founded monasteries at Drumlane, near Milltown in County Cavan, at Ferns in County Wexford, across the Irish Sea in Wales where he was under the monastic rule of Saint David, at Disert-Nairbre in County Waterford and finally in Rossinver in County Leitrim where, on Lough Melvin’s shore, he died on the 31 January, 632. He was buried there in the church that he had established. A broze reliquary in which his relics were kept is currently preserved in Dublin.


The Catholic episcopal seat of Ferns is now at Enniscorthy (but the bishop resides in Wexford- the Anglican diocese is administered from Kilkenny) where there is a beautiful cathedral dedicated to St. Aedan, whose patronal feast is observed 31 January. He is patron saint of Ferns and of Templeport parish, County Cavan. His feast is commemorated in Bawnboy with prayerful visits to his church and to the island where he was born. Mogue is no longer used as a Christian name but the name Aidan is popular for boys in the West Cavan area.The church of Llawhaden in Pembrokeshire commemorates him.


*"Templeport": Rev Daniel Gallogy (1979)
*"Bawnboy and Templeport": Chris Maguire (1999)
*Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints". 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.

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