Bishop and confessor, b. at Magh Lacha, Kilrush, Co. Clare, c. 488; d. 1
March, 560, his parents being Erean and Comgella. His birth was prophetically
announced by St. Patrick on his visit to the Hy Fidhgent (Co. Limerick), and as
a boy he was placed under the guidance of a saintly abbot called Cassidan,
finishing his studies under St. Naul) at Kilmanagh, Co. Kilkenny. He commenced
his missionary career by founding a church near Enniscorthy, in 510 (or 512),
and the parish is still known as Templeshannon (Teampul Senain). He then visited
Menevia, Rome, and Tours, and returned to Ireland in 520. Having founded
churches at Inniscarra (Co. Cork), at Inisluinghe, at Deer Island, Inismore, and
Mutton Island, he finally settled at Iniscathay, or Scattery Island, Co. Clare.
He was visited by St. Ciaran and St. Brendan, and other holy men, who had heard
of his sanctity and miracles. Scattery Island became not only a famous abbey but
the seat of a bishopric with St. Senan as its first bishop. This event may be
dated as about the year 535 or 540, and St. Senan's jurisdiction extended over
the existing Baronies of Moyarta and Clonderalaw in Thomond, the Barony of
Connelo in Limerick, and a small portion of Kerry from the Feal to the Atlantic.
The legend of
St. Senanus and the Lady, as told in Tom Moore's lyric, is
founded on the fact that no woman was allowed to enter Scattery Island; not even
St. Cannera was permitted to land there, yet St. Senan founded two convents for
nuns, and was actually on a visit to one of them when he died. He was buried in
the abbey church of Iniscathay on 8 March, on which day his feast is observed.
The Diocese of Inniscathy continued till the year 1189, when it was suppressed.
It was, however, restored by Pope Innocent VI, and continued as a separate see
under Bishop Thomas (1358-68). In 1378 its possessions were divided, and the
island remained a portion of Killaloe, being subsequently merged into the parish
of Kilrush. One of the earliest references to the Round Tower of Inniscathay is
in the Irish life of St. Senan.
COLGAN, Acta Sanct. Hib. (LOUVAIN, 1645); ARCHDALL, Mon. Hib. (new ed., Dublin, 1873): O'HANLON, Lives of the Irish Saints, IV (Dublin, s. d.); FROST, Hist. of Co. Clare (Dublin 1893); BEGLEY, Diocese of Limerick (Dublin, 1906).
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