Our History, Heritage & Holy Sites

Our diocese is rich in history, most notably in its built heritage and in the ancient holy sites which continue to capture the imagination of the visitor and the pilgrim, including those who discover us online.

The holy places of this area tell the story of early Irish monasteries, of the coming of a diocesan structure in the Twelfth Century, of the Reformation, of extensive church building in the Victorian period… and to this day the engagement of faith with architecture and the arts continues. Architecture evolved over the centuries and developed new and ever more ambitious styles, often influenced by successive waves of newcomers and political conquerers. Centuries ago, church architecture made a vast journey from the drystone beehive huts of early monasticism to the soaring arches of Gothic cathedrals that daringly raise the eye and the soul heavenwards.

The builders of the Middle Ages saw their work as being entirely about the glory of God and the creation of an atmosphere of awe and holiness. With stained glass and wall paintings they pointed mostly illiterate people to Biblical truths and lifted their hearts beyond the mundane. Indeed the ancient instruction in the liturgy ‘Lift up your hearts’ was mirrored by the scale and design of the buildings themselves.

This section of our website helps you to explore places of holiness and history across this diocese, some of them in large towns – others on remote or island sites where monks sought solitude and inspiration for prayer. We can readily understand why so many of these places became the destinations of pilgrims, and we rejoice that pilgrimage Camino – style is becoming so popular again in the world of today. Our diocese, which covers much of the Wild Atlantic Way, is well placed to welcome pilgrims who seek to discover both themselves and God through a focussed journey away from the distractions of a hectic world.

Heritage is an inspiration – it speaks of continuity of faith, of the inspiration of the saints, of the holiness that often accompanies beauty. It is so important that heritage does not become a burden, leaving us preoccupied with preservation (and its inevitable cost) rather than stirred in our souls by the spiritual richness that surrounds us. Our visitors help us to view our heritage as a joy, they remind us by their presence that in God’s scheme of things living stones are much more important than even the most beautiful static ones, and they challenge us to continue to engage with the contemporary arts as pathways to insight and theological imagination.

Please explore this site with expectation, and please feel inspired to come and visit some of these places, to tread holy ground ‘where prayer has been valid’. We would love to hear of your experiences as we work to develop our ministry to pilgrims, and we dare to hope that if you enjoy what we have to offer you may according to your means offer us practical support in the costs of maintaining our built heritage so that it enables rather than thwarts mission today. We trust that as you delve into this site both the muse of history and the blessing of the Christ who is the same yesterday, today and for ever will go with you.