Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Comgall, Abbot in Ireland

[Saint Comgall of Bangor]Article

He was one of the most illustrious founders of monastic Orders in Ireland. He was born of noble parents in the north of Ulster, in 516, and was brought up under Saint Fintan, in his monastery of Cluain-Aidhnech, at the foot of the Bladmahills, from whence arise two rivers, the Barrow and Nore in the Queen’s County. He came out of that school of piety and monastic discipline an accomplished master, and founded, about the year 550, the great abbey of Benchor or Bangor in the county of Down, which was the most numerous and most celebrated of all monasteries of Ireland, as that of Bangor in North Wales, was the most considerable among the Britons, which was in a flourishing condition soon after the death of Saint Dubritius, about the middle of the sixth century. Camden is mistaken when he writes that Saint Comgall first instituted monks in Ireland; it being certain that Saint Patrick himself had founded monasteries there, having perhaps learned the monastic rule of Saint Martin in France. But Saint Comgall exceedingly propagated that state in Ireland. He is said to have governed in Benchor and other houses three thousand monks; all which religious men were employed in tillage or other manual labour. Columban, who was his disciple at Benchor, settled his rule in Britain, France, and Italy; and many other abbots, bishops, and saints, came out of his nursery. All the holy men of that age sought his friendship and acquaintance, and the ancient writers highly extol his sanctity and prudence. Notker says, he was, in an extraordinary manner, the heir of the virtues and merits of Saint Columba, or Columbkill. Jonas, in the life of Saint Columban, and Saint Bernard, in that of Saint Malachi, are very profuse in his commendations. The latter says, that the monastery of Benchor having been long before destroyed by pirates, Saint Malachi restored it, because the bodies of many saints reposed there. Usher thinks Saint Comgall to have been the same with Saint Congellus. Seven years after he had founded Benchor, he went to Wales, and there built a monastery, in a place then called the Land of Heth.—On his return to Ireland he founded another monastery, called Cell-Comgail, now Saynkille, at present annexed to the archbishopric of Dublin. He died on the 10th of May, in 601.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Comgall, Abbot in Ireland”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 May 2013. Web. 18 November 2017. <>