The Island of Inniskeel has a sacred interest in the present and the past with a long, if broken, history to commemorate its former greatness. It is still the seat of a must-frequented pilgrimage in honour of St. Connell, one of the most remarkable of Ireland’s early Saints. It contains his Church and his cell and in it repose his scared remains in the grave that had first closed over the body of his illustrious friend, St. Dallan.
There seems to be no ground for questioning the popular belief that St. Connell founded the buildings, which still remain. At the same time substantial parts were certainly rebuilt at a later period.
The year of St. Connell’s birth is not known with exactness. He died about 596. His name is forever linked with famous Cain Domnaigh, a law prohibiting servile works on Sunday. The prohibition was from Vespers on Saturday evening to Monday morning and should delight the heart of sabbatarian by its exacting observance, did it not in other respects unmistakably savour of Catholic practice. In the “Yellow Book of Lecan” the Cain is prefaced by a statement of its being brought from Rome by St. Connell, on an occasion of a pilgrimage made by him to the Eternal City. Our chroniclers make two notable statements in regard to it. They say it was written by the hand of God in Heaven and placed on the Altar of St. Peter, and secondly that it was brought from Rome by St. Connell. Now, however, one may be inclined to explain away either or both statements, there is no mistaking the avowal of respect they imply for Roman authority nor any serious reason for calling the pilgrimage itself into question. The Cain Domnaigh was never enacted by the states or councils of Erin. That it was believed to have been brought from Rome sufficed to spread its sway.
Dallan was born in Feallach Eatbach, which is taken to be Tullyhain in Cavan. Nothing that parental care could accomplish was left undone to perfect his education in scared and secular subjects. At an early age in his career he lost the use of his eyes. Notwithstanding this dismal failure he became the most eminent man of letters in Ireland. He was antiquarian, philosopher, rhetorician and poet all in one. He was the literary chief, the file laureat of Erin in his day. A saint’s life and a martyr’s death crown the glory of his fame. His best known works are the “Amhra Coluim Cille” or written panegyric on Columcille, a funeral oration on St. Senan, Bishop of Inniscattery, and a panegyric on St. Connell Coel. He was beheaded by pirates who plundered the island. His death occurred about 594. St. Dallan’s Feast occurs on the 29th January. The island is accessible on foot during low tide from Narin beach.
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