St. Moling’s Monastic Settlement
St. Mullins was a famous monastic settlement, but its history goes back a great deal further. Fionn Mac Cumhail is said to have stopped here to consolidate his followers before heading to battle. It is sad that he beheld a vision of angels who foretold of the establishment of the monastery 400 hundred years later. In circa 632 AD St Moling, was guided here from Heaven and began his life’s work. There are many stories told of his achievements, he set up a mill to grind corn for the poor. He dug a mile long watercourse with his own hands to power his mill, a task which took seven years. He was made Archbishop of Ferns in 691. During his lifetime many miracles were attributed to him. He died in 696 and is buried in St. Mullins. It is here that the famous “Book of Mulling” was written which is now on display alongside the “Book of Kells” in Trinity College. It contains a Latin text of the four gospels of the life of Christ, it also contains a supposed plan of St. Moling’s monastery enclosed by two concentric circles.
The Monastic Ruins, which all postdate the lifetime of St. Moling show that his monastic settlement continued for many centuries and with the construction of the Church of Ireland Church in 1811 the site continued to be a place of regular worship right up to recent times. The original Church now houses the St. Mullins Heritage Centre, situated to the left hand side of monastic ruins and cemetery. There are the remains of three churches on the site including the Tempall Mor, the great Church and it is reputed to contain the grave of St. Moling. The remains of some domestic buildings and the base of a round tower complete the main structures. The site also has the cross section of ninth century granite High Cross which depicts the Crucifixion.
Located beside the main site are the motte and the rough outline of the bailey. This man made structure that was raised in the late twelfth century when Richard de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke, granted permission. A wooden fortification was erected on top. Adjoining the west of this motte was the bailey in which the soldiers and out buildings were located. The remains of such buildings can still be traced on the ground.
St. Moling’s Holy well
If you look north from the monastic site at St Mullins, you can see this holy well in the valley below. Dedicated to St Moling the well has been a place of worship since early times. There is a large spring about 3.5 metres in diameter surrounded by trees. From this spring, the water is fed through two slits into a large stone well house. The Annals of Friar Clyn, the Kilkenny chronicler, which dates from the year A.D. 1348 is the first reference to a Holy Well at St. Mullins
Pilgrims would flock to this well during medieval times searching for a cure. In those days, the plague swept across Ireland. They would circle the well in a clockwise direction, while reciting prayers. During the 19th century a pilgrimage to St Molings well would take place twice a year on the 17th June and also on the 25th July. The well house was used for bathing children suffering from a variety of diseases. Today the Patron or Pattern day is held on the Sunday before the 25th July.
Burial Place of the Clans
St. Moling was regarded by the Clan Kavanagh as their special Patron Saint and St. Mullins
Cemetery has been the burial place of the Kavanaghs Kings of Leinster. Amongst the many famous people buried there are, St, Moling, the King of Dal nAraide better known as Sweeney the Madman who came to the House of Moling for help after being cursed by St. Ronan, Bryan na Nestroake who was known to the nobility and gentry of Ireland for his noble action and valour in assisting King James’s troops at the battle of the Boyne and Aughrim. He is buried left of the Penal Altar which is a small stone structure where according to tradition, Mass used to be celebrated in penal times; a scout posted on top of the adjoining moat protected the priest and his congregation against a surprise attack.
In front of the Penal Altar is the tomb of the late Rev. Daniel Kavanagh with which is associated a cure for the toothache. “If you want to be cured you take a small amount of clay from outside the graveyard gate, you place it under the tomb, you get some clay from under the tomb, place it in the mouth and walk on to the Holy Well where you wash the clay from your mouth with water from the well, saying a short prayer to Fr. Kavanagh.”
St. Mullins Heritage Centre
The original Church of Ireland Church, originally built in 1811, now houses the St. Mullins Heritage Centre, situated to the left hand side of monastic ruins and cemetery. It provides a fascinating account of the local history of the area in the form of publications, church records, maps, old photographs and artefacts. The exhibition is presented through eleven story lines in which the River Barrow plays a prominent role.