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Early Foundation

Saint Fin Barre

Legend has it that St. Fin Barre was the son of Amergin, whose tribe was descended from Eochaidh Muidmheadoin, brother of the king of Munster. Amergin settled in the territory of Muskerry, in the county of Cork, where he obtained an inheritance and land at a place called Achaidh Durbchon, near the spot afterwards known as Gougane Barra, at the sources of the river Lee. He was chief smith to Tighernach, king of the Hy Eachach of Munster, and he married a young woman of the king’s household. As this was in defiance of the king’s wishes, the couple was summoned before him and he sentenced them to be burned alive. A storm of thunder and lightning, with heavy rain, prevented the decree from being carried out. This was regarded as a divine interposition and they were set free.

A child was born from this union and they returned to Gougane Barra, where the boy was baptised Luan, or Lochan. When he was seven years old three clerics of Munster, returning from a pilgrimage to Leinster, happened to stop at the house of Amergin. They admired the boy for the grace of the Holy Spirit that seemed to them to shine in his face, and were allowed by his parents to take him away to be educated. He studied at a place called Sliabh Muinchill, where, as was usual at the time, he was tonsured and had his name changed. The cleric who cut his hair is said to have observed, “Fair (finn) is the hair (barra) of Luan.”"Let this be his name,” said another, “Barr Finn, or Finn Barr.”

Saint Fin Barre eventually came to the marshes of Cork in 606AD where he founded a monastery with what became a renowned monastic school on the site of the present Cathedral. Christian worship and learning has continued here ever since. He died in Cloyne in 623AD and is said to have been buried in the the graveyard somewhere near the east end of the present Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral.

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