Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Finian, or Finan, Bishop of Cluain-Irard, or Clonard, Confessor in Ireland

detail of a statue of Saint Fininan of Clonard; by the Studi Nicoli workshop in Italy, date unknown; Clonard, County Meath, Ireland; photographed on 26 August 2007 by Andreas F. Borchert; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Among the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of Saint Finian is one of the most famous next to that of Saint Patrick. He was a native of Leinster, was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of Saint Patrick, and out of an ardent desire of making greater progress passed over into Wales, where he conversed with Saint David, Saint Gildas, and Saint Cathmael, three eminent British saints. After having remained thirty years in Britain, about the year 520 he returned into Ireland, excellently qualified by sanctity and sacred learning to restore the spirit of religion among his countrymen, which had begun to decay. Like a loud trumpet sounding from heaven, he roused the sloth and insensibility of the lukewarm and softened the hearts that were most hardened, and had been long immersed in worldly business and pleasure. To propagate the work of God, Saint Finian established several monasteries and schools; the chief of which was Clonard, in Meath, which was the saint’s principal residence. Out of his school came several of the principal saints and doctors of Ireland, as Kiaran the Younger, Columkille, Columba, the son of Crimthain, the two Brendans, Laserian, Canicus or Kenny, Ruadan, and others.

Saint Finian was chosen and consecrated bishop of Clonard. The great monastery which he erected at Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning. 3 Saint Finian, in the love of his flock, and his zeal for their salvation, equalled the Basils and the Chrysostoms, was infirm with the infirm, and wept with those who wept. He healed the souls, and often also the bodies of those who applied to him. His food was bread and herbs, his drink water, and his bed the ground, with a stone for his pillow. He departed to our Lord on the 12th of December in 552, according to the Inisfallen Annals, quoted by Usher, but according to others in 564. See his life, published by Colgan, on the 23rd of February. Usher, and Index Chronol. Sir James Ware, and on the Bishops. See also the note on Saint Ultan, 4th of September.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Finian, or Finan, Bishop of Cluain-Irard, or Clonard, Confessor in Ireland”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 August 2018. Web. 29 November 2021. <>