Roman Catholic Diocese of Clonfert

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Diocese of Clonfert

Dioecesis Clonfertensis
CountryFlag of Ireland.svg  Republic of Ireland
TerritoryParts of counties Galway, Offaly and Roscommon
Ecclesiastical province Province of Tuam
Metropolitan Archdiocese of Tuam
Area960 sq mi (2,500 km2)
- Catholics (including non-members)

Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Latin Rite
EstablishedBishopric in 550; Diocese in 1111
Cathedral St. Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea
Patron saint St Brendan
Current leadership
Pope Pope Francis
Bishop Michael Duignan,
Bishop of Clonfert
Metropolitan Archbishop Michael Neary,
Archbishop of Tuam
Vicar Generalvacant
Bishops emeritus John Kirby
Roman Catholic Diocese of Clonfert map.png

The Diocese of Clonfert (Irish : Deoise Chluain Fearta) is a Roman Catholic diocese in the western part of Ireland. It is in the Metropolitan Province of Tuam.


The Most Reverend Michael Duignan was appointed by the Holy See on 16 July 2019 and ordained bishop on 13 October 2019.


The diocese covers almost the whole of East Galway, with one parish (Lusmagh) in County Offaly while the parishes of Taughmaconnell, Creagh and the half-parish of Ballinasloe lie in County Roscommon. This was the ancient territory of the kingdom of Uí Maine (Hy-Many), as it existed when the diocese was formed. In fact, the bishop of the diocese was sometimes referred to as the Bishop of Hy-Many. The major towns in the diocese are Ballinasloe, Loughrea and Portumna. [1]

The cathedra is currently located at Loughrea but was historically Clonfert Cathedral.


Early history

Established in A.D. 550 as an abbacy, it was promoted to a diocese in 1111. The early Irish monastery and school of Clonfert, founded by Saint Brendan, was the dominant ecclesiastical centre in the area and an important centre of learning in the early Irish church. Cummian, an important theological writer was from there. It was also deeply involved in the eighth century spiritual reform movement of the Céli Dé.

Saint Brendan's fame as a seafaring missionary contributed to its pre-eminence in later times and led to its choice as an episcopal see in the twelfth century. Like most dioceses in Ireland, the present Diocese of Clonfert had its origin in the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1110, reaching its final form at the Synod of Kells in 1152 when it was made a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tuam.

Feudal period

In 1170, the Annals of Clonmacnois record that "there was a great convocation of the clergy of Ireland at Clonfert by commission from the Pope for the reformation of certain abuses of a long time used in Ireland", which was presided over by Saint Laurence O'Toole presided as papal legate.

In the early 13th century its bishop was one of those appointed by Honorius III to investigate a dispute over the election of the Bishop of Ardfert. Later that century it was provided with John, a bishop of Italian birth — one of the very few occasions when this happened in Ireland.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, bishops introduced the mendicant orders: the Franciscans to Kilconnell, Kinalehin and Meelick, with their 3rd Order to Clonkeenkerril and Kilbocht; the Dominicans to Portumna, with their 3rd Order to Kilcorban; and the Carmelites to Loughrea. [1]

Catholic Emancipation

In 1704, the diocese had forty-one parishes but by 1800, these were amalgamated into twenty four. There followed a period of church building. Churches were erected in Ballymacward and Ballinasloe, the latter designed by McCarthy and Pugin. Landlord intransigence prevented the building of a cathedral in Loughrea until 1897 when Bishop Healy laid the foundation stone, which was fortunate because the era of the Celtic Revival and Irish Stained Glass had begun, with happy results in its interior decoration. [2]

The Sisters of Mercy were brought to Loughrea in 1850 by Bishop Derry and spread to five towns in the diocese, operating primary and secondary schools, industrial schools at Loughrea and Ballinasloe and a domestic economy school at Portumna. They also staffed the workhouse hospitals in Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Portumna and latterly the county home in Loughrea. The Sisters of Mount Carmel, who have been in Loughrea since the 17th century, conducted a school there up to 1860 but have since been an enclosed order. In 1945 Bishop Dignan introduced the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood to Ballinasloe, where they built Portiuncula Hospital, which has been enlarged many times since and is now a general hospital under the Western Health Board.

The diocesan seminary, begun at Loughrea by Bishop Derry in the 19th century, was succeeded by St. Joseph's College at Cartron, at Esker and finally at Garbally Park since 1924. [3]


The following is a basic list of the post-Reformation Roman Catholic bishops.

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The Cathedral of St. Brendan, Loughrea, is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clonfert. Though designed in neo-gothic style, it arguably houses the most extensive collection of arts and crafts and Celtic Revival artifacts of any single building in Ireland. Its most noteworthy feature is the extensive collection of stained glass windows by the Dublin-based An Túr Gloine studio. There are also twenty-four embroidered banners, mostly depicting Irish saints as well as vestments by the Dun Emer Guild. Sculptors represented are John Hughes (sculptor) and Michael Shortall, and the architect William Alphonsus Scott also contributed designs for metalwork and woodwork. The foundation stone was laid on 10 October 1897 and the structure was completed in 1902; most of the interior features date from the first decade on the twentieth century with the exception of the stained glass windows which continued to be commissioned up until the 1950s.

Michael Duignan (bishop) Irish Roman Catholic clergyman

Michael Duignan B.Phil. LDT DD is an Irish Roman Catholic clergyman who has been the Bishop of Clonfert since 2019.


  1. 1 2 User, Super. "About".
  2. "Saint Brendan's Cathedral, Barrack Street, Loughrea, County Galway: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage".

Coordinates: 53°12′01″N8°34′12″W / 53.2004°N 8.5701°W / 53.2004; -8.5701