Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
Hidden in a corner of County Carlow, about an hour’s drive south from Dublin lies the village of Old Leighlin .
Please come along with me to take a walk through the ecclesiastical village and its important role in determining the calendar !
Old Leighlin lies just off the main Dublin to Waterford motorway , lets park beside the big tree outside the old cathedral and have a look around. The Big Tree at the centre of the village is believed to symbolise the pre-Christian sacred tree “Eo Rossa”, the tree was associated with pagan worship but St. Lazerian did not abolish these customs and instead introduced them into Christianity.
There has been a monastic site in this location since the seventh century and was founded by St. Gobban . Let’s stroll through the grave yard we can see a more modern building -well its dates from the 13th century – that now stands on the site.
This is Saint Lazerian’s Cathedral, named after Saint Molise of Leighlin and is one of the smallest Irish mediaeval Cathedrals.
Sadly, it’s all locked up, but we can admire the fine stonework and carved panels.
Here’s the interesting thing – long ago this was one of the foremost monastic centres in Ireland housing over 1,500 monks. In 630 AD an important synod was held here which decided that the Irish church should follow the Roman calendar as opposed to the Celtic calendar. This decision determined the date of Easter.
This important synod took place in a local field which influenced the entire Christian world. The field known as Pairc Baun or White Field took its name from the gathering of the white-robbed monks.
A pattern day ( or feast day ) is held every year on the 18th April. Starting with an ecumenical service in the Cathedral followed by a procession to the holy well . Let’s follow the processional route and walk a few hundred yards up the road to visit St. Lazerian’s Holy Well.
Through a gate and down a hill we can see the well surrounded by a neatly painted wall.
Take a look at the nearby tree that is decorated with ribbons and tokens. I’m fascinated to see so many face masks tied to the tree- clearly prayers are being said to the Saint to help end the pandemic !
Beside the well is an granite high cross that dates from around the 9th Century . I think that you will agree this is a simple and timeless monument and located in such a peaceful place .
We have the place to ourselves, all I can hear is the drip of water coming from the well and the call of the blackbird . I could sit here for hours !
Let’s take a sip of the water, I’m told that a strong tradition regarding healing powers attributed to the monks of St. Lazerian’s Monastery remains in Old Leighlin. This healing was botanised medicines, the monks used herbs, plants, flowers and various sages, from these drinks and ointments were concocted.
I love how the old and modern traditions come together, and it’s amazing that long ago this sleepy village played such an important role in determining the calendar.
I hope that you enjoyed coming along with me today . We have a selection of Celtic Cross Jewelry on our website