Saint of the Day – 25 September – Saint Finbar of Cork (c 550– 623) Bishop of Cork and Abbot – born in c 550 at Connaught, Ireland as Lóchán and died on 25 September 623 at Cloyne, Ireland of natural causes. Patronages – City and Diocese of Cork, Ireland, Barra in Scotland. Finbar is also known as Bairre, Barr, Barrocus, Finbarr, Findbar, Finnbarr, Fionnbharr, Lochan, Finbarro.
Several lives of this saint have been written. According to these, the saint’s original name was Lóchán but when he went as a young man, to be tonsured as a Monk for the first time, the man shaving his head said: “The hair of this servant of God is beautiful.” Another said: “You have spoken well, because his name will be changed and he shall be called Finn-barr, that is ‘beautiful hair’, from the beautiful head he offered in sacrifice to God.” So he was called Finbar by some and Barra by others, Barra being generally used in the Irish language.
Finbar was the son of a metal-worker. He studied in the Monastic school and was Ordained. On completion of his education he returned home and lived for some time on an island in the small lake then called Loch Irce. He founded a number of schools in the surrounding area. He did not hesitate to join in the manual work of constructing the buildings for his community.
He went on Pilgrimage to Rome with some of the monks, visiting St David in Wales on the way back. Whilst there are also many places in Scotland that have the name Barra this is probably more due to missionary journeys made by Finbar’s disciples than to journeys made by himself.
He settled for about the last seventeen years of his life as Bishop, in the area then known as the Great Marsh of Munster, now the City of Cork, where he gathered around him monks and students. This became an important centre of learning, giving rise to the phrase, “Where Finbar taught, let Munster learn” which is now the motto of today’s University of Cork.
The Church and Monastery he founded in 606 were on a limestone cliff above the River Lee, an area now known as Gill Abbey. It continued to be the site of the Cathedral of his Diocese.
Finbar died at Cell na Cluaine, while returning from a visit to Gougane Barra. He was buried in the cemetery attached to his Cathedral in Cork.