Upon 'Holy Island' at Gougane Barra will be found St. Finbarr’s hermitage. It is a stone structure  about 18 metres square and 3 metres high built of small field boulders.  It stands upon a levelled platform or terrace which adds another 1.5 metres to its height in places.  Steps at the south side give entrance to an inner grass area.  In the centre of this area is a shallow five stepped pyramid surmounted by a simple wooden cross reaching up about 3 metres.  The thick walls are niched in eight places to make arched cells, some with a raised stone sleeping platform. Around the inner wall are mounted 'Stations of the Cross' plaques.

This structure was begun, around 1700, and occupied until his death by a Fr. Denis O'Mahoney a catholic priest.  It appears that the cells and cross only were constructed at this time. The surrounding wall and Stations of the Cross were added around 1895-1902 when the Oratory chapel was built.

I find it very strange that this structure could have been constructed, occupied and used with impunity right at the beginning of the 'Penal Law' period when priests were being hunted down by law officers. However it was ever a very secluded valley.

Adjacent to the hermitage are the remains of a stone building, said to be a small chapel erected by O'Mahony. It looks much older, with a very low roof line and patched stonework showing many different styles.
No serious archaeological work has every taken place here and no trace of St.Finbarr's monastery are evident. Recently some more traces of old structures were pointed out to me on the island.Continued below gallery

The Grave Slab of Fr. O'Mahoney

Fr. O'Mahony is buried on the 'Mainland', just opposite the causeway. His tomb resembles a gated cave.

Other notable features are:

  • The Oratory, read the article Saint Finbarr's Oratory - Gougan Barra.
  • The Holy Well near the gate, from which St.Finbar is said to have expelled the loathsome snake, Lua, which somehow St.Patrick overlooked.

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