St Mochua c. 570-630 A.D.
The missionary work of St Patrick is well known. What is not as a well known is the fact that Christianity did not extend to the entire country for at least two centuries after the coming of St Patrick. Many native Irish missionaries took over the work of St Patrick and brought Christianity to the remainder of the country.
One of those native Irish missionaries was St Mochua who was also known as Crónán and he operated in an area now covered by South Dublin and North Kildare. So who was St Mochua.? His father was Lugaidh and his mother was Cainer. It is not known for definite when Mochua was born but it is thought be in the 570 period, approximately one hundred years after the death of St Patrick. His missionary work extended along the eastern section of the Slí Mór which was one of the five principal roads in the country at the time. At the beginning of Mochua’s missionary career there were only two Christian Churches on the section of the road between Dublin Bay and the Bog of Allen, one at Taghadoe founded by St Tua and the other at Donadea founded by St Patrick. A number of other Churches that were close to the road included Donacumper near Celbridge and Clonshanbo near Donadea.
Mochua began his missionary work in Clondalkin where he founded a Monastery and became its first Abbot. He was subsequently appointed a Bishop. His next foundation was at Celbridge where the Sli Mor forded the Liffey. It is likely there were pre-Christian religious activity in Celbridge which was centred at a spring on the west bank of the Liffey. The Christians took over this site, gave the spring a christian meaning and it then became a Holy Well. In later years it was named ‘Thobor Mochua’. Less than half a mile from the well on the site of the ruins of St Mochua’s Medieval Church in Tea Lane Graveyard, Mochua built his second Church.
Mochua then turned his attention to the area of the Sli Mor between Taghadoe and Donadea. There may have been pre-Christian ritual activity at an ancient Iron Age burial site in the townland of Raheen which is situated at the foot of Rathcoffey Hill. Mochua then built his next Church at the nearest section of the road to this burial site. With a Christian community emerging close to the new Church the area became known as Bal-Raheen, the community or settlement of Raheen. This was the beginning of the first Christian community in the Rathcoffey area. It is not possible to put an accurate date on when this Church was founded but it is likely to be in the 620 period. The site of the Church is close to Balraheen Crossroads in the disused graveyard nearby.
The Sli Mor west of Donadea crossed the Bog of Allen through a series of fertile islands in the Bog. One of the biggest of these islands is named Timahoe or Tigh Mochua which translates Mochua’s house. It is not known what connection St Mochua had with the area as the early Christian Church in Timahoe is dedicated to St Kynog, however, as the placename suggests, Mochua had a house in the area which may have predated the building of the first Church.
St Mochua died at the monastery of Clondalkin on 6 August 630 AD and his relics were subsequently kept there for many centuries. In the period following the Norman era devotion to Mochua gradually declined. Details, however, survive of a pattern continuing at St Mochua’s holy well in Celbridge in the late eighteenth century. Pilgrims would even travel from as far as Clondalkin on 5 of August the eve of St Mochua’s feast day for the pattern. It is likely that pilgrims would also have travelled from the Rathcoffey area.
The memory of St Mochua was revived in Rathcoffey in 1930 when the Parish Priest of Clane Fr Laurence Keogh built a new school in the village and named it St Mochuo’s National School. In 1993 historians in Timahoe honoured the memory of St Mochua by naming the new historical society in the area ‘St Mochua Historical Society’. Three years ago a revival of St Mochua’s feast day began in Clondalkin with an Ecumenical Service in St Johns Church of Ireland on the site of St Mochua’s monastery. Last year Celbridge Historical Society with assistance from the local Community Council repaired the damaged Tobar Mochua monument and reinstated it in a prominent position on the Mill wall. Today, we can safely say that St Mochua has been remembered and will continue to be remembered in all four areas that he has been associated with in South County Dublin and in the Northern half of County Kildare.
John O’Donovan, The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters.
Rev John O’Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Volume 8.
Joe Williams, St Mochua and the Round Tower.
Hermann Geissel, The Road on the Long Ridge.
An interesting article on the life of St. Mochua and the establishment of monasteries by him in Co. Kildare. Our thanks to Seamus.