St Finbar, who was he?

Nationa School Pic

Finbar or Baire was founder of the city and see of Cork. His original name was Lochan. He was educated st kilmacahill in Kilkenny. It was here that the monks changed his name to Fionnbarra, which when translated means white head.

After preaching in the various parts of Ireland he eventually set up his monastic retreat in the ‘Green Isle’ in the scenic and mountainous valley name after him Gougane Barra. St Finbar has an unshakeable place in the popular traditional as the eponymous Cork Patron saint. As well as linking Catholic and Protestant transcends and unites city and county.

Finbar late moved his monastery down the river Lee to estuarial headwater. In doing so he made the river an essential symbol of city and county. The monastery soon attracted many disciples and the school exerted a great influence all over the south of Ireland.

Accounts of Finbarr’s life are decorated with some interesting statements and surprising wonders.

Legends say that he went to Rome on Pilgrimage with a fellow preceptor and on the return journey he visited Wales where he met with St David. As he had no means of getting to Ireland, David lent him a horse for the crossing and in the channel he sighted and signaled to St Brendan the navigator voyaging eastwards.

St. Finbar is fabled to have returned to Rome where Pope Gregory would have made him pope but was deterred by a vision in which he learned that haven had reserved this prerogative foe itself. Accordingly when Finnbarr returned to Ireland our Lord brought a miraculous flow of oil from the ground, caught him up into heaven and there consecrated him bishop.

Another charming story tells us that he was visited by a St Laserian and the two monks sat under a hazel bush talking of religious matters. Laserian asked Finbar for a sign that God was with him. Finbar prayed and the spring catkins on the bush above them and fell off, nuts formed grew and ripened and he poured them into Laserians lap.

The death of Finnbarr took place in Cloyne and his body was brought back to Cork for burial. This apparently was an occasion of a very unusual marvel because it is said when he died the sun failed to shine for a fortnight.

Throughout the diocese of Cork the Saint’s name is popular and ubiquitous attesting to a remarkable pride in tradition and strong local pietas. The ecclesiastical and academic legacies of Saint Finbar still flourish.

Various hospital, colleges and numerous sport clubs commemorate him. None perhaps more notable than the famous St. FinbarsHurling club in Cork.”The Rockies thought they were the stars till they met the St Finnbarrs”.

It’s also interesting to note that there is a Finbars GAA club in Louth as well as our own flourishing club in our proud community of Cabra. The feast of St. Finbar is celebrated on September 25th.

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