Hogan, Saint Finien prêchant aux moines de Clonard. 1957,
Vitrail de l'église Saint-Finian de Clonard, County Meath, Ireland
Saint Finnian de Leinster
abbé en Irlande (✝ 552)
Devenu chrétien grâce aux disciples de saint Patrick, il passa dans le pays de Galles qu'il évangélisa avec saint Gildas et saint Divy. Il est le fondateur d'un célèbre monastère à Clonard, qui marque le seuil de la grande période monastique et missionnaire de l'Irlande.
À Clonard en Irlande, l’an 549, saint Finnian, abbé, qui fut le fondateur de plusieurs monastères, le père et le maître d’une multitude de moines.
Finnian (Finian, Finden) of Clonard B
Born c. 470; died c. 549-52. Irish monk who followed in the path of Saint Patrick and began the initiator of a strict form of Irish monasticism. Finnian had close relations with the British Church. The contemporary collection of regulations for penitents, ascribed to Vinnianus, was probably not the work of this Finnian but perhaps by Finnian of Moville. Unreliable legend has him born at Myshall, County Carlow, Ireland, and spending several years in Wales at monasteries under Saint Cadoc and Saint Gildas. He became a monk in Wales, returned to Ireland, and founded several monasteries, most notably Clonard in Meath, which was the greatest school of the period, renowned chiefly for its biblical studies (Finnian was a great Biblical scholar). He died at Clonard of the yellow plague, which swept Ireland. Though called a bishop in Ireland, it is doubtful if he was ever consecrated. He is often called the "Teacher of Irish Saints" and at one time had as pupils at Clonard the so- called Twelve Apostles of Ireland, including Saint Columba of Iona, Saint Ciaran of Clommacnois, and Saint Brendan the Voyager (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
St. Finian, or Finan, Bishop of Cluain-Irard, or Clonard, Confessor in Ireland
AMONG the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of St. Finian 1 is one of the most famous next to that of St. Patrick. He was a native of Leinster, was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of St. Patrick, and out of an ardent desire of making greater progress passed over into Wales, where he conversed with St. David, St. Gildas, and St. 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, St. 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.
St. Finian was chosen and consecrated bishop of Clonard. 2 The great monastery which he erected at Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning. 3 St. 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, Ant. Brit. c. 18, p. 493, and Index Chronol. p. 531. Sir James Ware, Ant. Hib. c. 29, de Eccl. Cathedr. p. 291, and on the Bishops, p. 136. See also the note on St. Ultan, 4th of September.
Note 1. Fin, in Irish, signifies white, as does Gwin or Win in Welsh. See Usher, p. 494. [back]
Note 2. Simon Rochfort, the last bishop of Clonard, translated this see to a monastery of Regular Canons, which he built at Trim in honour of SS. Peter and Paul, in 1209. He and his predecessor, Eugenius, first took the title of bishops of Meath; to which two other sees were united about the thirteenth century, namely, that of Kenlis or Kells, where St. Columkille founded his monastery of Cells about the year 550, and that of Duleek, anciently called Damliag, which bishopric was founded by St. Cianan, who is honoured on the 24th of November. [back]
Note 3. The monastery of Regular Canons of St. Austin, which subsisted at Clonard till the dissolution of religious houses, was erected upon the ruins of St. Finian’s abbey, in honour of St. Peter, by Walter Lacy, lord of Trim, son of the ambitious Hugh Lacy, who having conquered this country was made lord of Meath by Henry II. but afterwards beheaded by one O’Meey, an Irishman, as he and O’Meey were measuring the fosse which surrounded the castle then erecting at Dairmagh, now called Durrow. See Littleton’s Henry II. and Harris’s Hib. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866
A pious youth, he founded three churches in Ireland while still a layman. Studied in Wales under Saint Cadoc of Llancarvan and Saint Gildas the Wise. Monk. Great admirer of Saint Patrick. Considered one of the great founders of Irish monasticism. Founded the monastery at Clonard, Meath, Ireland c.520 which lasted a thousand years, and was a training center for great Irish saints. Spiritual teacher of Saint Columba of Iona, Saint Columba of Terryglass, Saint Ciaran of Clommacnois, Saint Brendan the Voyager, Saint Nathy, Saint Nennius, Saint Ruadhan of Lorrha, Saint Daig MacCairaill, and others. Maintained close relations with the British Church. Often referred to as a bishop, there is no evidence he was ever so consecrated.
Legend attributes many miracles to him. Birds would gather around him because of his gentle holiness. Reported to have cleared parasitic insects, worms and vermin from the island of Flathlom and the regions of Nantcarfan. One story says that he fended off a party of Saxon raiders by causing an earthquake to swallow their camp.
- c.549 to 552 at Clonard, Meath, Ireland of plague
- relics originally enshrined in Clonard, but were destroyed in the 9th century
Below is a reproduction of a biography of Saint Finnian from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record (Volume 13 (1892), 810-815). This reproduction is taken from the Under the Oak blog that is written and maintained by one of our parishioners.
ST. FINNIAN OF CLONARD.
SAINT FINNIAN of Clonard, " Tutor of the Saints of Ireland," lived in the sixth century. He was a native of Leinster ; his birthplace is generally supposed to have been near the present town of New Ross. Saint Finnian was of the race of Ir, and belonged to the Clan na Rudhraidhe. His name appears to be a diminutive of Finn, "white." He was a contemporary of Finnian of Moville, whose name comes next in the list of saints of the second class.
Saint Abban baptized Finnian, and at an early age he was placed under the care of Bishop Fortchern of Trim. With him he remained thirty years. At the end of that period Finnian proceeded to Britain, and settled at Kilmuine or Menevia, where he placed himself under David, Gildas, and Cadoc. David was grandson of an Irish prince, Bracan. He taught St. Aidan of Ferns, was first Bishop of Menevia, and died A.D. 589. Gildas was the author of De Excidio Britannia, according to the Annals of Ulster. He died A.D 570. Cadoc is represented as cousin to St. David, and was a pupil of St. Thaddeus, an Irishman. Saint Finnian is said to have founded three churches in Britain, but they have not been identified. While a monk at the monastery of St. David, Finnian on one occasion was asked to supply the place of oeconomus, or house steward, in the absence of the monk who generally filled that office. Finnian replied that he would be unable to do so, as he was unprovided with the necessary requirements for carrying wood and provisions. His superior having insisted on his undertaking the task, Finnian obeyed, and we read in his life that an angel came to his assistance. What before had seemed an impossibility he was able to accomplish by the aid of this heavenly messenger.
How long Finnian remained at St. David's monastery is uncertain. Lanigan thinks he returned to Ireland about A.D. 520. Before leaving Britain Finnian determined to undertake a journey to Rome, but an angel warned him not to do so, but to return to his own country " Redite ad vestras plebes, Deus enim acceptat intentionem Vestram." Finnian was accompanied to Ireland by several friends, among whom special mention is made of Biteus and Genoc. On his passage to Ireland, says Dr. Lanigan, he stopped a while with his friend Caimin, and landed at the port Kille-Caireni, in Wexford.
Finnian sent messengers to Muiredeach, sovereign of Ky-Kinsellagh, asking permission to enter his territory. The king generously acceded to his request, and came himself to see Finnian, in whose presence Muiredeach prostrated himself on the ground, and promised the saint a site for a monastery. Saint Finnian erected an establishment at Achadh Abhla ; i.e., “Field of the Apple-Tree," which now bears the name Aghowle, or Aghold, in the barony of Shillelagh, County Wicklow. It was anciently called Crosalech. Here St. Finnian resided for sixteen years. At Mughna, County Carlow, he erected another monastery, and is said to have lectured there for seven years on the Sacred Scriptures. It is probably while there that he preached on one occasion in presence of St. Brigid.
We now approach the most important event in St. Finnian's life in his settlement at Clonard, County Meath, which during his lifetime became the most celebrated sanctuary in Ireland for piety and learning. Cluain-Eraird i. e., Erard's Lawn or Meadow is the derivation given by O'Donovan. Erard was a man's name, very common in Ireland, signifying lofty or noble. Again, we find it related in the saint's life that an angel appeared to him directing him as to where he should take up his abode. Saint Finnian entered Clonard repeating the psalm " Haec requies mea in Saeculum Saeculi hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam."
The date of the saint's arrival at Clonard is said to be about A.D. 530. It is a matter of doubt whether St. Finnian was a bishop. The Four Masters simply term him abbot. Such is the title accorded to him in the Martyrology of Donegal and other Irish calendars. Dr. Lanigan seems to think that St. Finnian was only abbot. It is, doubtless, a fact that Clonard was an episcopal see, but it is quite possible that it did not become so till after Finnian's time. His successor at Clonard, St. Seanach, is called bishop by the Four Masters. The school of Clonard in a short time became famous in Ireland. Those great men who were afterward called the Twelve Apostles of Ireland came to seek instruction from Finnian viz., Columba, the two Brendans, Ciaran of Saigher, his namesake of Clonmacnoise, Columb of Tir-da-ghlas, Mobhi Claraineach, Molaish, Canice, and Ruadhan of Lothra. Three thousand scholars are said to have been educated at Clonard during the saint's lifetime, and the holy founder was justly termed "Magister Sanctorum Hiberniae sui temporis." In the Life of St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise we read : " In schola sapientissimi magistri Finniani plures Sancti Hibernise erant ;" and in that of St. Columb of Tir-da-ghlas : "Audiens famam S. Finniani Episcopi de Cluain-Eraird, ut Sacram Scripturam addisceret accessit ;" and, lastly, we find it said of St. Ruadhan :"Legens diversas Scripturas et multum proficiens in eis." Colgan enumerates thirty two saints who received instruction from St. Finnian, and bears testimony of the fame of Clonard, where students assembled from various parts of Europe.
Saint Finnian did not permit his multifarious labours in behalf of learning to interfere with his duties towards the needy and afflicted. We read in his life that he was a father to all who sought help from him: " Flebat cum flentibus." "Infirmabatur enim cum infirmis." On a certain occasion a bard named German presented St. Finnian with a beautiful poem, in which many of his virtues were extolled; the bard demanded from the saint not gold or silver, or any worldly substance, but only fertility of produce in his lands. Finnian answered him, and said : "Sing over water the hymn which thou hast composed, and sprinkle the land with that water." The bard did as he was directed, and his land produced abundant fruit.
In the historical tale "The Expedition of the Sons of Carra," published by O' Curry in his MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, we have a description of St. Finnian's interviews with the three brothers, who had plundered the churches of Connaught. O 'Curry observes that while these tales often contain matter without resemblance to facts, we are not to reject them wholly on that account, but rather make allowance for poetic embellishment, at the same time having good ground for believing that a foundation of truth exists. The story is as follows : -
" Three brothers actuated by an evil spirit plundered the churches of Connaught. In their wicked enterprise they were joined by a band of adventurers as daring as themselves. They commenced by pillaging the Church of Tuam, and never ceased till they had laid waste more than half the churches of the province. When the three brothers arrived at the Church of Clothar, they determined to kill the old man, who was the Airchennech of that place ; he was their grandfather; but he, though suspecting their evil design, treated them with kindness, and assigned to them a comfortable resting-place. Lochan, the eldest of the three brothers, that night had a vision, which alarmed him so much that he became conscience-stricken. He saw represented before him the eternal joys of heaven and the torments of hell. When morning came he acquainted his brothers of what he saw, and like him they felt remorse for their wicked deeds. The brothers Carra sought the pardon and prayers of their grandfather. They took counsel with the old man as to what course they should pursue in order to obtain God's forgiveness and to make reparation for the past. He told them to repair to St. Finnian, the great teacher, and to submit themselves to his spiritual direction. The Ua Carra immediately put off their warlike attire, and donned the garb of pilgrims, and with staves instead of swords hastened to Clonard. At their approach the inhabitants fled, for the fame of their evil deeds had spread far and wide. St. Finnian alone came out to meet them ; the brothers threw themselves on their knees, and besought his friendship and pardon. ' What do you want, said Finnian.' ' We want,' said they, ' to take upon us the habit of religion and penitence, and henceforward to serve God.' ' Your determination is a good one,' said Finnian, ' let us come into the town, where my people are.' They entered the town, and Finnian took counsel with his people respecting the penitents. It was decided that they should be placed for the space of a year under the direction of a certain divinity student, with whom alone they were to converse during that period. The Ua Carra faithfully complied with the mode of life laid out for them, and when the year expired presented themselves before St. Finnian for his benediction. The saint blessed them, saying, ' You cannot restore to life the innocent ecclesiastics whom you have slain, but you can go and repair, and restore as far as is in your power, the churches and other buildings which you have ruined.' The sons of Ua Carra took an affectionate leave of St. Finnian, and as the Church of Tuam was the first which suffered from their plundering, they wished it to be the first that they should restore. They repaired it, and proceeded from place to place, making amends for the injury they had inflicted on the churches of Connaught. Having restored all the churches but one, the Ua Carra returned to St. Finnian, who inquired if they had finished their work. They replied, 'We have repaired all the churches but one.' ' Which is that?'asked Finnian. 'The Church of Ceann Mara (Kinvara),' they said. ' Alas !' said the saint, ' this was the first church you ought to have repaired the church of the holy man Coman ; return now, and repair every damage, you have done to that place.' The brothers obeyed St. Finnian's command, and restored the church. By the advice of St. Coman they built a canoe, and undertook a voyage on the Atlantic Ocean."
Thus far the tale refers to St. Finnian ; the voyage and its results does not come within the scope of this paper.
St. Finnian's mode of life was very austere, his usual food was bread and herbs ; on festival days he allowed himself a little beer or whey ; he slept on the bare grounds, and a stone served him for a pillow.
In his last illness the saint was attended by his former pupil St. Colomb, of Tir-da-Ghlas, who administered to him the Holy Viaticum. The Four Masters record his death A.D. 548; but the year 550 or 551 appears to be the correct date. It is stated in some of our annals that Finnian died of the plague ; there is no doubt that the plague was in Ireland during this period, viz., 548 and 551. In the Chronicon Scotorum, under 551, we read : "A great mortality, i. e., the Chronn Conaill." St. Finnian is enumerated among its victims.
This great saint is commemorated by Oenghus in the following verse :
" A Tower of Gold over the sea,
May he bring help to my soul,
Is Finnian fair, the beloved root
Of the great Cluain-Eraird."
St. Finnian's sister, St. Regnach, was Abbess of Kilreynagh, near the present town of Banagher, King's County.
Hardy, in his Descriptive Catalogue of British History, mentions four lives of St. Finnian: viz., Ex. MS. Salmanticensis (which is given by Colgan) ; MS. Life, Duke of Devonshire ; MS. Trinity College, Dublin, referred to by Bishop Nicholson in his Irish Historical Library ; and MS. Bodleian Library, which begins thus : " Fuit vir nobilia in Hiberniae partibus." (Hardy's Catalogue, p. 128, vol. i., part 1.)
December 12th (the day of his death) is observed as his Feast.
JOHN M. THUNDER
©2009-2015 Russian Orthodox Community of St Finnian of Clonard, Belfast
Venerable Finnian, Abbot of Clonard
Commemorated December 12/25
St. Finnian, a native of Leinster in Ireland, was destined to become one of the greatest fathers of the Irish monasticism. His life was compiled in the 10th century. According to the tradition, the future saint was born to a noble family in the second half of the 5th century, most probably in the village of Myshall in the present-day county of Carlow. When his mother was still pregnant, she once saw in a dream that a bright flame flew into her mouth and then flew away like a glorious bird, which at once flew between the northern and southern parts of Ireland, attracting a huge flock of other birds from all over the country, which followed it. The woman told her husband about her vision, and he understood that their child would become a great teacher and mentor. All this later came true.
The young St. Finnian was probably educated in Idrone. His first teacher was St. Fortchern of Trim, a disciple of St. Patrick. Some time later, the Saint founded his first three monasteries, which were situated at Rossacurra, Drumfea, and Kilmaglush. According to some sources, St. Finnian studied for a short time in the great monastic centre of St. Martin in Tours in Gaul. It is certain that this ascetic learned the fundamentals and skills of monastic life in Wales, in the tradition of the great hermits of Egypt. There his teachers included great fathers of the Welsh Church: St. David, St. Gildas the Wise, and, particularly, St. Cadoc. This experience proved to be extremely useful for the saint in the future.
St. Finnian meant to go to Rome after his training in Wales, but an angel appeared to him in a vision and told the saint to return to his native Ireland, where he was to become "a teacher and tutor of Irish Saints". Significantly, among the future disciples of St. Finnian was St. Columba, one of the greatest early Irish missionaries. After some 20 or 30 years in Wales, St. Finnian returned to Ireland, where he founded a great number of churches and monasteries, for example, at Aghowle (in Wicklow) and Mugna Sulcain. The holy man liked Aghowle very much and wanted to stay there forever, but the angel appeared to him again and commanded him to go further, as that was the will of God.
As was the case with other early Irish saints, St. Finnian became a travelling missionary. On the island of Skellig Michael, not far from the shores of Kerry, which later became one of the most famous bastions of Irish Orthodoxy, St. Finnian built several churches and founded monastic communities. After that the ascetic visited the monastery of Kildare, under the great Abbess St. Brigid, and remained there for some years. He left Kildare to continue his journeys and finally reached Clonard, situated on the River Boyne in the present-day county of Meath. And the Lord revealed that in this very old and pagan place, where there had never been any churches or monasteries before him, the saint’s main labors were to take place.
At Clonard St. Finnian, first of all built a small cell and tiny church, and in the year 520 founded a monastery, which became the largest and the most important in Ireland. St. Finnian became the first abbot of this monastery and organized life there, taking as his model the practices of Welsh monasteries. This form of monasticism was based on the traditions of the holy fathers of the East with the compulsory study of the Holy Scriptures.
St. Finnian was venerated as one of the greatest saints of his time. Numerous disciples flocked to him. According to his life there lived some 3000 monks at Clonard at the same time. Monks and laypeople, bishops and priests, poor and rich—everybody came to him for spiritual advice. The fame of St. Finnian, loved and honoured for his exemplary life, learning, gift of prayer and many miracles, spread all over Ireland and far beyond. Monks and theologians from various countries visited St. Finnian‘s monastery. Over the centuries thousands of monks there studied the Holy Scriptures, the works of the Church Fathers, grew in monastic life and were then sent as missionaries to distant lands. The rule of Clonard was known for its strictness and asceticism. The brethren slept little and rose early in the morning, prayed frequently and fervently, ate little and worked hard.
St. Finnian himself used to sleep on the bare, earthen floor of his primitive cell and never put anything under his head. His iron girdle served him as chains in his ascetic labours. According to the evidence of one of his disciples, the venerable abbot became so emaciated because of his many years of extreme ascetic life that his ribs could easily be seen through his clothes.
The disciples of Clonard established hundreds of churches and monasteries in Ireland as well as in other countries. According to a custom which existed in Clonard, every monk who left the monastery as a missionary took with him a copy of the Gospels, a crozier and some holy object (for example, a reliquary) and later, when building his own church or monastery, placed these relics inside it. Thanks to Clonard and other monasteries of similar reputation, Ireland became known as "The Island of Saints". Under the influence of Welsh saints and, originally, St. John Cassian in Gaul, St. Finnian compiled the first Irish Penitentiary, which, in its turn, influenced St. Columbanus, who compiled his own and more famous version. The Abbot also had a reputation as a brilliant interpreter of the Scriptures.
St. Finnian died of the plague in 549 (others say in 552). His relics remained in the monastery church at Clonard until 887. There is evidence that after his main relics had been vandalised by barbarians in that year, a small portion of his relics were kept in a parish church near Clonard till the 17th century. The monastery flourished till the 9th century and was considered as the second most important monastery in Ireland after Armagh. Unfortunately, following the attacks of the Vikings from the 9th to the 11th centuries, the glory of this monastery faded.
In Clonard today visitors can find a statue of St. Finnian and a church dedicated to him, which contains stained glass of the saint with his disciples. Only minor ruins remain of the former monastery. In the village of Myshall in Carlow, where according to tradition St. Finnian was born, there are ruins of a pre-Norman church, which stood there for many years but was ruined under Cromwell in the 17th century. In the village of Aghowle there are ruins of the ancient monastic church, which was built by St. Finnian himself early in the 6th century. In the 18th century a new church of St. Michael was built near it. An ancient cross of St. Finnian has survived in this village as well. Today there is also a Russian Orthodox mission in Belfast in Northern Ireland dedicated to St. Finnian.
29 / 12 / 2013
School of Clonard
Clonard (Irish, Cluain Eraird, or Cluain Iraird, Erard's Meadow) was situated on the beautiful river Boyne, just beside the boundary line of the northern and southern halves of Ireland. The founder of this school, the most famous of the sixth century, was St. Finnian, an abbot and great wonder-worker. He was born at Myshall, County Carlow, about 470. At an early age he was placed under the care of St. Fortchern, by whose direction, it is said, he proceeded to Wales to perfect himself in holiness and sacred knowledge under the great saints of that country. After a long sojourn there, of thirty years according to the Salamanca manuscript, he returned to his native land and went about from place to place, preaching, teaching, and founding churches, till he was at last led by an angel to Cluain Eraird, which he was told would be the place of his resurrection. Here he built a little cell and a church of clay and wattle, which after some time gave way to a substantial stone structure, and entered on a life of study, mortification, and prayer. The fame of his learning and sanctity was soon noised abroad, and scholars of all ages flocked from every side to his monastic retreat — young laymen and clerics, abbots and bishops even, and those illustrious saints who were afterwards known as the "Twelve Apostles of Erin". In the Office of St. Finnian it is stated that there were no fewer than 3000 pupils getting instruction at one time in the school in the green fields of Clonard under the broad canopy of heaven. The master excelled in exposition of the Sacred Scriptures, and to this fact must be mainly attributed the extraordinary popularity which his lectures enjoyed. The exact date of the saint's death is uncertain, but it was probably 552, and his burial-place is in his own church of Clonard. For centuries after his death the school continued to be renowned as a seat of Scriptural learning, but it suffered at the hands of the Danes, especially in the eleventh century, and two wretched Irishmen, O'Rorke of Breifney and Dermod McMurrough, helped to complete the unholy work which the Northmen had begun. With the transference by the Norman Bishop de Rochfort, in 1206, of the See of Meath from Clonard to Trim, the glory of the former place departed forever.
Irish Life in Book of Lismore; HEALY, Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars (Dublin, 1890).
Healy, John. "School of Clonard." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 12 Dec. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04064a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Anthony J. Stokes.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
San Finniano di Clonard Vescovo
Martirologio Romano: A Clonard in Irlanda, san Finniano, abate, che, fondatore di molti monasteri, fu padre e maestro di una grande schiera di monaci.
San Finniano fu una figura eminente tra i santi irlandesi nel periodo immediatamente successivo a San Patrizio, apostolo dell’isola celtica, e diverse leggende nacquero attorno al suo nome. Una “Vita” risalente al X secolo narra che il santo nacque e studiò a Leinster, probabilmente ad Idrone, nella contea di Carlow. Nei pressi di tale città istituì tre fondazioni: Rossacurra, Drumfea e Kilmaglush. Trasferitosi poi in Galles, approfondì il monachesimo tradizionale di San David di Menevia, San Cadoco e San Gilda, che consideravano la vita monastica superiore a quella secolare ed attribuivano particolare importanza allo studio.
Finniano fece ritorno in Irlanda per fondare chiese e monasteri. Il suo grande monastero si trovava sul Boyne, nella contea di Meath, ove divenne celebre quale “maestro dei santi d’Irlanda” e quasi tre migliaia di discepoli si raccolsero attorno a lui. Secondo il Libro di Lismore, quando i monaci lasciarono Clonard, portarono con loro un libro dei Vangeli, un pastorale ed un reliquiario, attorno ai quali costruirono le loro chiese ed i monasteri. L’educazione dei santi del periodo successivo è considerata opera di San Finniano, ottimo conoscitore della Sacra Scrittura. Clonard mantenne infatti per secoli la sua reputazione di luogo specializzato negli studi biblici. Il monastero di Clonard subì vari attacchi durante le invasioni danesi e normanne, ma comunque dall’inizio del XIII secolo cessò la sua funzione di centro religioso della diocesi di Meath e passò ai canonici agostiniani, sino al XVI secolo.
San Finniano morì probabilmente di peste nel dicembre del 549, assistendo altre vittime della terribile epidemia. L’autore di una sua “Vita” irlandese afferma infatti: “Come Paolo morì a Roma per amore del popolo cristiano, altrimenti sarebbero tutti peritiall’inferno, Finnian morì a Clonard per amore del popolo, perchè non morissero tutti di peste gialla”.
Il Penitenziale di Finnian è un’opera attribuibile a lui. Esso si basa in parte su fonti gallesi ed irlandesi, su San Girolamo e San Giovanni Cassiano, ma parecchio materiale è invece originale e costituisce il più antico esempio di tal genere. Contribuì assai ad accrescere l’influenza di Clonard nella disciplina penitenziale e negli studi biblici. Le reliquie del santo furono custodite nella sua abbazia sino alla loro distruzione nell’887.
Autore: Fabio Arduino