Last updated

Saint Gobnait
Saint Gobnait.jpg
Saint Gobnait
Bornfl 6th century
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 11 February
Patronage bees

Saint Gobnait (fl. 6th century?), also known as Gobnat or Mo Gobnat or Abigail or Deborah, is the name of a medieval, female Irish saint whose church was Móin Mór, later Bairnech, in the village of Ballyvourney (Irish : Baile Bhuirne), County Cork in Ireland. [1] She was associated with the Múscraige and her church and nunnery lay on the borders between the Múscraige Mittine and Eóganacht Locha Léin. [1] Her feast day is 11 February.

Irish language Goidelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic and Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country.

County Cork County in the Republic of Ireland

County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is the largest and southernmost county of Ireland, situated in the province of Munster and named after the city of Cork, Ireland's second-largest city. The Cork County Council is the local authority for the county. Its largest market towns are Mallow, Macroom, Midleton, and Skibbereen. In 2016, the county's population was 542,868, making it the third-most populous county in Ireland. Notable Corkonians include Michael Collins, Jack Lynch, and Sonia O'Sullivan.

The Múscraighe were an important Érainn people of Munster, descending from Cairpre Músc, son of Conaire Cóem, a High King of Ireland. Closely related were the Corcu Duibne, Corcu Baiscind, both of Munster, and also the Dál Riata of Ulster and Scotland, all being referred to as the Síl Conairi in Irish and Scottish legends. A more distant ancestor was the legendary monarch Conaire Mór, son of Eterscél, son of Íar, son of Dedu mac Sin.



No hagiographical Life is known to have described her life and miracles, but she appears in the Life of her senior companion St Abbán moccu Corbmaic, [1] written in the early 13th century but known only through later recensions. Saint Finbarr's Life implies that Gobnait's church belonged to Finbarr's foundation at Cork by alleging that it was not founded by her, but by one of his disciples. [1] In spite of this, Gobnait's cult continued to thrive here and the ruins of a medieval church dedicated to her are still visible today. [1]

Abbán saint

Abbán moccu Corbmaic, also Eibbán or Moabba, is a saint in Irish tradition. He was associated, first and foremost, with Mag Arnaide and with Cell Abbáin. His cult was, however, also connected to other churches elsewhere in Ireland, notably that of his alleged sister Gobnait.

The Félire Óengusso and the Martyrology of Donegal give her feast-day on 11 February. [1]

"Mo Gobnat from Muscraige Mitaine, i.e. a sharp-beaked nun,
Ernaide is the name of the place in which she is.
Or Gobnat of Bairnech in Món Mór in the south of Ireland,
and of the race of Conaire she is; a virgin of Conaire's race"
Note to the Félire Óengusso, tr. Whitley Stokes, p. 73


Gobnait was born in County Clare in the 5th or 6th Century, and is said to have been the sister of Saint Abban. She fled a family feud, taking refuge in Inis Óir in the Aran Islands. [2] Here an angel appeared and told her that this was "not the place of her resurrection" and that she should look for a place where she would find nine white deer grazing. She found the deer at the place now known as St. Gobnet's Wood. Saint Abban is said to have worked with her on the foundation of the convent and to have placed Saint Gobnait over it as abbess.

St Gobnet's Wood is a protected area of oak woodland at Baile Bhuirne, County Cork, Ireland. It is on the north-east side of a hill immediately south of the village. Along with Cascade Wood it is included in a fragmented Special Area of Conservation.

Celtic lore held bees in high esteem, believing the soul left the body as a bee or a butterfly. Gobnait is said to have added beekeeping to her life's work, developing a lifelong affinity with them. She started a religious order and dedicated her days to helping the sick. It has been speculated that she used honey as a healing aid. [3] She is credited with saving the people at Ballyvourney from the plague. [2]


Harry Clarke's design drawing for the Saint Gobnait window in Honan Chapel, Cork, Ireland (1914). The bottom of design features the story of Gobnait driving off the brigand. St. Gobnait stained glass window design.tif
Harry Clarke's design drawing for the Saint Gobnait window in Honan Chapel, Cork, Ireland (1914). The bottom of design features the story of Gobnait driving off the brigand.

One story tells of how she drove off a brigand by sending a swarm of bees after him and making him restore the cattle he had stolen. [2]


St Gobnait's well (also known as St Debora's, Deriola's or Abigail's well) is situated to the North of Ballyagran in a high field to the left of the road to Castletown. Rounds were made and a pattern was held on 11 February until around 1870. The well has now dried up but the site is still known. It is said that a white stag could sometimes be seen at the well. [4]


In 1601 Pope Clement VIII granted a special indulgence to those who, on Gobnait's day, visited the parish church, went to Confession and Communion and who prayed for peace among 'Christian princes', expulsion of heresy and the exaltation of the church. [5]

Gobnait was originally a patron of ironworkers. Excavation at the church in Ballyvourney yielded considerable evidence of ironworking on the site. [6]

The saint is still locally venerated today, [1] and is among a group of Irish saints whose feast day has been given national rather than just local recognition. The main centres of devotion to Gobnait are Inis Oírr (Aran Islands), Dún Chaoin in West Kerry and Balleyvourney near the Cork / Kerry border. [5] She is depicted on a stained glass window at Honan Chapel in Cork, which was made by artist Harry Clarke in 1916. [7]

Former churches dedicated to Gobnait are commemorated in townlands and other places named Kilgobnet (Irish : Cill Ghobnait "church of Gobnait"): in counties Kerry (near Milltown [5] and Dunquin [8] ), Waterford (near Dungarvan), Limerick (in Ballyagran), and Cork (near Glantane, Dripsey, and Clondrohid). [9]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Johnston, "Munster, saints of (act. c.450–c.700)."
  2. 1 2 3 "A Gathering of Irish Saints", AOH division 61, Philadelphia
  3. Nolan, Mark, "St. Gobnait's Day", Enfield Beekeepers
  4. "Holy Wells", Limerick Diocese Heritage
  5. 1 2 3 Diocese of Kerry, St Gobnait.
  6. Duffy, Patrick. "St. Gobnait", CatholicIreland.net
  7. Bowe, "Wilhelmina Geddes", p. 83.
  8. "Cill Ghobnait/Kilgobnet Penitential Station". Placenames Database of Ireland . Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  9. "'Kilgobnet'". Placenames Database of Ireland . Retrieved 13 September 2014.

See also

Related Research Articles

Óengus mac Óengobann, better known as Saint Óengus of Tallaght or Óengus the Culdee, was an Irish bishop, reformer and writer, who flourished in the first quarter of the 9th century and is held to be the author of the Félire Óengusso and possibly the Martyrology of Tallaght.

Saint Carthage the Elder was an Irish bishop and abbot in the sixth century. His feast day is March 5.

Ballyvourney Village in Munster, Ireland

Ballyvourney, is a Gaeltacht village in southwest County Cork, Ireland. It is a civil parish in the barony of Muskerry West, and is also an ecclesiastical parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne.

Honan Chapel Church in UCC campus, Ireland

The Honan Chapel, formally known as Saint Finbarr's Collegiate Chapel or the Honan Hostel Chapel is a small collegiate church located adjacent to the grounds of University College Cork in Cork city, Ireland. The chapel, its furniture and liturgical collection are products of the Arts and Crafts movement in Ireland.

Fachtna of Rosscarbery, known also as Fachanan, was the founder of the monastery of Rosscarbery, County Cork. He died around 600.

Ciarán of Saigir Irish saint

Ciarán of Saigir, also known as Ciarán mac Luaigne or Saint Kieran, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and is considered the first saint to have been born in Ireland, although the legend that he preceded Saint Patrick is questionable. Ciarán was bishop of Saighir (Seir-Kieran) and remains the patron saint of its successor, the diocese of Ossory.

Killeshin Town in Leinster, Ireland

Killeshin is a village in County Laois, Ireland on the R430 regional road. Killeshin is a small rural community situated five kilometres west of Carlow town and overlooks the picturesque Barrow Valley. The church at the foot of the Killeshin hills is the site of an early Christian monastery.

Muskerry is a central region of County Cork, Ireland which incorporates the baronies of Muskerry West and Muskerry East. It is located along the valley of the River Lee and is bounded by the Boggeragh Mountains to the north and the Shehy Mountains to the south. The region is named after the Múscraige, who were an important Érainn people of Munster. It is also the name of an official Gaeltacht region in which Munster Irish is spoken. Gaeltacht villages include Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, Baile Bhuirne, Cúil Aodha and Cill na Martra. Major population centres include Ballincollig, Blarney and Macroom.

Conainne, also known as Dachonna, was an Irish missionary and saint.

St. Goban, St. Gobban, or St. Gobhan is the name of various Saints of early Christian Ireland. However the ecclesiastic integrity and merit of the Saint(s) is often debased by confusing, composite attempted biographies. However by applying objectivity (philosophy) to the analysis of references in pertinent hagiography and eminent biographies we can reach a constructive conclusion; that the number of references to a St. Gobban far outweighs those of a St. Goban. and that the references to St.Gobban link this saint to St Laserian's Cathedral, Old Leighlin plus Killamery:Cell Lamraidhe and identify this saint as Gobban Find mac Lugdach alternatively anglicized as St. Gobhan.

Saint Brónach was a 6th-century holy woman from Ireland, the reputed founder and patron saint of Cell Brónche, now Kilbroney, in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Declán of Ardmore Irish bishop

Declán of Ardmore, also called Déclán, 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 in what is now Co. Waterford. The principal source for his life and cult is a Latin Life of the 12th century. Like Ailbe of Emly, Ciarán of Saigir and Abbán of Moyarney, Declán 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.

Ethel Rhind was an Irish stained-glass and mosaic artist, and was associated with An Túr Gloine.

Kilkea and Moone is a barony in County Kildare, Republic of Ireland.

Senach was a priest of Cill-mór. His mother was Broinsech Breac, who was sister of Iubhar who was son of Lughna. He was brother of St. Abbán moccu Corbmaic. His feast day was November 3rd.

Damán of Tígh-Damáin, in Uí Criomhthannain. He was of the Dál Cormaic of the Leinstermen and a brother of St. Abbán and St. Senach of Cill-mór. His feast-day is February 12th.

Lithghean was an Irish saint, of Cluain-mór-Lithghein, in Uí Failghe in Leinster. Broinnfhinn Brecc, daughter of Lughna, and sister of St. Iubhar, was his mother. He was of the Dál Cormaic, and brother of St. Abbán and St. Senach of Cill-mór. His feast-day is 16th January.


Further reading