IRELAND OF MY HEART
Bishop of Ardmore, Ireland (5th ce.)
Saint Declan of Ardmore (Irish: Declán mac Eircc, Latin: Declanus, died 5th century), was an early Irish saint of the Déisi Muman, who was remembered for having converted the Déisi in the late 5th century and for having founded the monastery of Ardmore (Ard Mór) in what is now Co. Waterford.
Like Saint Ailbe of Emly, Saint Ciarán of Saigir and Saint Abbán of Moyarney, Saint Declan is presented as a Munster saint who preceded Saint Patrick in bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was regarded as a patron saint of the Déisi of East Munster.
It was through his father that Declán belonged to the royal dynasty of the Déisi Muman. Saint Declan’s mother Dethiden or Dethidin. Saint Declan’s birthplace is said to be Drumroe, near Cappoquin (west Co. Waterford).
Saint Declan first embarks on a journey to Rome, where he studies and is ordained bishop by the Bishop of Rome. At Rome, he meets his fellow countryman St Ailbe of Emly, and on returning to Ireland, he meets St Patrick. St Declan recognises the supreme authority of both saints and with Patrick he comes to an arrangement about the sphere of their mission in Ireland. On St Patrick’s instructions, St Declan founds the monastery of Ardmore (Irish Ard Mór), which lies near the Irish coast, in the southeast of the kingdom of the Déisi Muman, and having obtained Patrick’s blessing, goes on to convert the Déisi to Christianity.
Saint Declan is contemporary of Saint David of Wales in the 6th century. Likewise, the even later saint Ultan of Ardbraccan (d. 655-657) is presented as Declán’s pupil.
The saint later paid a visit to the Déisi of Mide/Meath, where the King of Tara welcomed him and granted him land for the purpose of founding a “monastery of canons”. The monastery founded there became known as Cill Décláin (Kilegland, Ashbourne, Co. Meath).
Saint Declan is one of four Munster saints who they founded monasteries and preached the Gospel in Munster before their younger contemporary St Patrick ever set foot in Ireland. These bishop saints, also included St Ailbe of Emly, St Ciarán of Saigir and St Abbán of Moyarney. The same claim was apparently made for St Íbar of Beggery Island, according to the Life of St Abbán, which identifies him as St Abbán’s uncle and teacher.
According to his Life, St Declan is reposed in the Lord at his monastery in Ardmore and was subsequently buried there. His feast day in the martyrologies is 24 July.
Also, St Declan was responsible for introducing rye (Irish secal, from Latin secale) into Ireland.
The path walked by Declan from Ardmore to Cashel, County Tipperary has been restored as St Declan’s Pilgrim Path.
A round tower still stands at the site of the saint’s monastery at Ardmore as well as earlier ecclesiastical ruins, such as a stone oratory and a small stone church.
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