The name Monaincha comes from Mainistir Inse na mBeo meaning The Monastery of the Island of the Living, originally the monastery was on a small island surrounded by water, but agricultural drainage works in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries drained the lake and left the monastery perched conspicuously on top of a mound in a low boggy field.
|The beautifully decorated Romanesque doorway|
‘There is a lake in the north of Munster which contains two islands, one rather large and the other rather small. The larger has a church venerated from the earliest times. The smaller [Monaincha] has a chapel cared for most devotedly by a few celibates called ‘heaven-worshippers’.
No woman or animal of the female sex could ever enter the larger island without dying immediately. This has been proved many times by instances of dogs and cats and other animals of the female sex. When brought there to make a trial, they immediately died.
A remarkable thing about the birds there is that, while the males settle on bushes everywhere throughout the island, the females fly over and leave their mates there and, as if they were fully conscious of its peculiar power, avoid the island like a plague.
In the smaller island [Monaincha] no one has ever died or could die a natural death. Accordingly it is called the Island of the Living. Nevertheless the inhabitants sometimes suffer mortal sicknesses and endure the agony almost to their last gasp.
When there is no hope left; when they feel that they have not a spark of life left; when as the strength decreases they are eventually so distressed that they prefer to die in death than drag out a life of death, they get themselves finally transported in a boat to the larger island, and, as soon as they touch ground there, they give up the ghost’.
(From The History and Topography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales, translated by John J.O’Meara and published by Penguin Books, 1982)
|Some of the wonderful detailed decoration on the chancel arch|
|The vaulted chamber, perhaps originally a sacristy?|
|A view from the chancel through to the nave of the church|
I also provide downloadable audioguides to Irish heritage sites through my company Abarta Audioguides. Many of these are available absolutely free to download and are packed with original music and sound effects, they are a fun way of discovering the story of Ireland through its places visit www.abartaaudioguides.com to discover the sites we have covered. Why not try a free one like The Rock of Dunamase, Kells Heritage Town or the M6 A Route Through Time?
All photographs © Neil Jackman / abartaaudioguides.com