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School of Ross

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The School of Ross — now called Ross-Carbery, but formerly Ross-Ailithir from the large number of monks and students who flocked to its halls from all over Europe — was founded by St. Fachtna, who is generally regarded as the same who founded the Diocese of Kilfenora, for the feast in both cases is kept on 14 August; and in both the saint's descent is traced to the princely race of Corca Laighde. Fachtna was born at a place called Tulachteann, and died at the early age of forty-six, in what year we cannot say, but probably late in the sixth century, and is buried in his own cathedral church at Ross. Like many other great Irish saints, he received his first lessons in piety from St. Ita of Killeedy, the Brigid of Munster, from whose care he passed, according to some writers, to St. Finnbar's seminary at Loch Eirce, near Cork. He founded the monastery Molana, on the little island of Dririnis in the Blackwater, not far from the town of Youghal. Returning to his native territory, he set about a more important foundation on a rocky promontory situated in the midst of woods and green fields between two lovely bays. This was the monastic School of Ross, called in the "Life of St. Mochoemoc", magnum studium scholarium, for it quickly became famous for its study of Sacred Scripture, and the attention given to all the branches of a liberal education. One of the assistant teachers was St. Brendan the Navigator, whom Fachtna had known and loved as a companion when under the care of St. Ita. An old document quoted by Usher represents Brendan as being at Ross in 540. While engaged in teaching here, St. Fachtna was stricken with total blindness. On appealing to God in his distress, he was directed by an angel to make application to Nessa, the sister of St. Ita, who was about to become the mother of St. Mochoemoc. Fachtna did as he was directed and his sight was miraculously restored. Fachtna, it is generally thought by the best authorities, received episcopal orders, and became the first Bishop of Ross. He is sometimes called Facundus, in allusion to his eloquence, to which, as well as to his sanctity, unmistakable testimony is borne by St. Cuimin of Connor. Cuimin describes him as "the generous and steadfast, who loved to address assembled crowds and never spoke aught that was base and displeasing to God".

His immediate successor in the School of Ross was St. Conall, and we read also of a St. Finchad, a former schoolmate at Loch Eirce. Both were probably tribesmen of his own, for we are told that he was succeeded by twenty-seven bishops of his own tribe, whose names unfortunately have not been preserved. Under several ninth-century dates we find in the Four Masters reference to the abbots of the School of Ross; and under date 840 we are told that the institution was ravaged by the Danes. Once only in the two centuries that followed is there mention of a bishop, Neachtan MacNeachtain whose death is set down under date 1085. In all other references to Ross the word airchinnect is used, as if showing that the government of the school had fallen into the hands of laymen, who no doubt employed ecclesiastics to perform the spiritual duties and functions. Nevertheless the School must have continued to flourish, for we read under date 866—according to the "Chronicon Scotorum", 868—of the death of Feargus who is described as a celebrated scribe and anchorite of Ross-Ailithir. But more remarkable evidence still of the extent and variety of the literary work done at Ross is furnished by the geographical poem in the Irish language still extant, composed by MacCosse or Ferlegind, a lecturer at this school, and used no doubt as a text-book in the different classes. When we. take into account the period at which MacCosse lived, his geographical treatise may fairly be thought one of the most accurate and interesting of its kind that has ever yet been written. Of the later history of the School we have but few details, but mention of the native spoiler is not missing in them. In 1127, according to the "Chronicon Scotorum", one Toirdhealbach O Conor sailed to Ross-Ailithir and laid waste the land of Desmond. He was followed by the Anglo-Normans under FitzStephen, who towards the close of the century completed the devastation. All record of this ancient seat of learning is then lost.


COLGAN, Acta SS.; O'HANLON, Lives of the Irish Saints, 14 August; OLDEN in Proceedings of Royal Irish Academy (Jan.1884); HEALY Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars (5th ed.).

About this page

APA citation. Healy, J. (1912). School of Ross. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Healy, John. "School of Ross." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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