Wednesday, September 3, 2008

St. Attracta (5th Century)

St. Attracta was born in the 5th Century and was the daughter of a noble family. She founded a convent and hospice for travellers, where the seven roads met at Killaraght near Lough Gara, that still existed as late as 1539. She also founded churches and convents in Galway and Sligo.

St. Attracta was a contemporary of St. Patrick from whom she received the veil. A native of the County Sligo, she resolved to devote herself to God but was opposed by her parents. She fled to South Connacht and made her first foundation at Drumconnell, near Boyle, County Roscommon. Thomas Knox, historian, writing on information from the life of Saint Patrick, states that she was a daughter of Cathbad of Gregraide of Lough Techet (Lough Gara) and lived in parts of the fifth and sixth centuries. She is said to have had exceptional powers of curing the sick. Her convents were famous for hospitality and offering charity to the poor.

St. Attracta’s Holy Well is located at Clogher, a short distance from the village of Monasteraden. There is a crucifixion plaque, dating from the 1660s, in the wall on the north side of the well. The plaque shows a crucifixion scene carved in relief. Symbols of the crucifixion are displayed either side of the cross and include: a ladder, whip, hammer and pincers. This cross is thought to be the work of a local artist and there is a slab on the right of the cross, which bears the date 1668 and the letters IG. Healing powers have been attributed to the waters of this well.

Colgan gives an account of the Cross of St. Attracta, which was famous during the Middle Ages, and of which the O’Mochain family were hereditary keepers. The existence of this relic in the early years of the fifteenth century is evidenced by an entry in the “Calendar of Papal Letters” (V1, 451) from which we learn that in 1413 the cross and cup of St. Attracta (Crux ac Cuach Aracht) were then venerated in the church of Killaraght, in the Diocese of Achonry.

On 28 July, 1864, Pius IX authorised the Office and Mass of St. Attracta, which had lapsed into disuse, to be again celebrated in the Irish Church. The feast of St. Attracta, on 11 August, is given special honour in the Diocese of Achonry, of which she is the patroness.

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