This is where Colmcille is said to have lived with his foster father Cruithneachán. There are two parts to the site – the left hand side is linked to Colmcille while the right side is the site of a 19th century Church of Ireland church.
This site formed part of a medieval pilgrimage route linking those sites in the Gartan area which were associated with the early life of Colmcille..
It was common for the sons of important families to be raised and educated in a foster family. Cruithneachán was a priest and would have been responsible for Colmcille’s religious education as well as teaching him the skills of a nobleman such as marksmanship, riding and swimming.
“The noble priest Cruithneachán son of Ceallachán baptised him immediately following his birth and gave him the name Crimthann. Cruithneachán fostered and instructed him after that, as the angels of God had told him to. Crimthann means the same in Gaelic as ‘deceitful one’ or ‘fox’ means in Latin. It seemed to Almighty God that this wasn’t a kind or suitable name for the quality or goodness of the holy boy, so He put it into the hearts and minds of the children and boys that played and sported with him to call him Colum Cille. Or was it His own angels that were sent to them to tell them to call him that…
As the holy youth was being trained in the nearby monastic settlement of Doire Eithne (‘Eithne’s Oakwood’), that is known today as Kilmacrennan, the children that played with him called him Colum (‘Dove’) of the Cill (‘Church’). That is how Colum Cille was his name.”
Manus O’Donnell p33
Tradition says that Colmcille returned to this site in order to found a monastery sometime before he left Derry for Scotland in 563. This foundation is said to have survived until 1129 when it was raided and burned down.
There was a later Franciscan friary on the site, founded by Manus O’Donnell in 1537. O’Donnell was responsible for the ‘Life of Colum Cille’ which was completed in 1532. This extensive account of the saint’s life is the source of many links between Colmcille and this area.
The local O’Donnell chieftains were said to have been inaugurated on this site. The ceremony took place in two parts – the religious element here at Kilmacrenan and the civil ceremony at Doon Rock.
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