Continuing to bring the history of different Kerry Churchs, as requested by my readers, to-day it is the historic ecclesiastical centre of Ardfert. I am quoting directly here from the 2005 publication The Diocese of Kerry formerly Ardfert: Working in the Fields of God, edited by Fr. Kieran O’Shea, which I understand is out of print.
‘Ardfert has been referred to as the cradle of Christianity in Kerry. The modern parish owes its origins to the ecclesiastical settlement founded by St. Brendan in the latter half of the fifth century. For centuries Ardfert gave its name to the diocese until modern times when it was known as the diocese of Kerry. The place-name Ardfert translated as ‘height of the graves’. Little archaeological evidence of the original Christian settlement has survived except for the remnants of a ditch that probably enclosed the site.
By the year 1117 Ardfert had become the Episcopal seat of the Diocese of Iar Mhumha, but there was temporary loss of power and prestige to Rathass, Tralee, when the seat of the Bishop was transferred there following the synod of Rathbreasail. It returned to Ardfert c 1152. The coming of the Normans to Kerry was followed later by the Dominicans, Cistercians and Franciscans. The latter built a monastery at Ardfert c. 1253. The friars were driven out in 1584 and returned in 1615. It was abandoned before 1766. Tradition tells us that some friars did remain in the parish for some time later.
The Norman Fitzmaurices and their descendants were patrons of the church and many held high positions at Ardfert. A number of them are reputed to be buried there also. Having a cathedral and a friary added greatly to the powers and prestige of Ardfert. Close to the cathedral are the lesser churches Temple na Griffin and Temple na Hoe. A round tower also stood next to the cathedral until 1771. There were in the parish a number of small outlying churches, now ruined. The position of these lesser churches may well have been a contributory factor in determining the parish boundaries. One exception was the church at Kilfenora, Fenit some three miles or so distant. It was included in the parish of Ardfert. The inclusion of Kilfenora and Tamhlacht into the parish may be explained by the fact that the valuable fisheries there were a good source of taxation revenue for the church. Kilfenora was also a seat of a branch of the Fitzmaurices.
The modern parish of Ardfert and Kilmoyley, is bounded to the north by Buncurraig, Ballyheigue and Ballinorig, Causeway with Abbeydorney to the east. Tralee Bay lies on its western shore, while Liscahane and Tubridmore border the southern end of the parish.
Today Ardfert and Kilmoyley are now one parish but the date of their union is unknown. A taxation document of the fourteenth century however included Kilmoli in the Deanery of Othorna and Offlanan, now Abbeydorney and Kilflynn
There were lesser churches at Barrow and at Togherbane, Kilmoyley. The former appear to have been independent until 1496, when it was incorporated into the parish of Ardfert. Little remains of this church today. There is no connection recorded between this church and St. Brendan. At Cill (Keel), Ballymacquinn, close to Ballyheigue a small church or oratory was sited.’
Directly quoted from Kieran O’Shea, The Diocese of Kerry Formerly Ardfert: Working in the Fields of God, (Strasbourg, 2005).
Thanks for this Kay. It has obviously been a highly prestigious site in its time. I thought the ruins were magnificent when I visited in 2018 and say much about the power of the seat in times past.
Thanks very much Kay. I appreciate learning more of this magnificent site which I was fortunate to visit in 2018. It points to a grand glorious past. Unfortunately, it was a cold, wet Atlantic day so I unable to spend much time scanning the small cemetery adjacent to St Brendan’s just in case any of the Boyles had departed there. I also enjoyed seeing the churches at Kilmoyley and at the Causeway. They speak of devout, generous communities; impressive structures built in a time when grinding out a living must have been so tough.
There is nothing like a visit to these historic and beautiful places. You can visualise what life might have been for those who lived there when they were at their best.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I was so impressed by Ardfert when my family and I visited back in 2016 for the Stack Clan Gathering. We searched the cemeteries and found a few Stacks. Could they be related? We may never know…
I love your historical narratives! We visited Ardfert in 2018 looking for our relatives that supposedly came from there. We didn’t have much luck finding the Pendy or Lynch family names. The Lynch family came from Abbeydorney. One of your earlier articles said the families would not be able to travel far, so the marriages were usually from nearby towns. I’m wondering if I’m searching the wrong area. Are these two towns close together?
Do you have any other suggestions of parishes I might research?
Keep writing, your insite is fascinating and infectious.
Mary, the village of Ardfert is about five miles (8km) from the village of Abbeydorney. But some downlands in both parishes could be adjacent to each other. By the way the name Pendy which is a localised version of Prendergast or Prendeville. If you email separately with a Query Form to get some details from you and I can make some suggestions of where to go next.
I just found your interesting blog and appreciate all the great information about Ardfert. I’m researching Samuel Collis who I believe was a vicar there in the 1700s. We visited the cathedral ruins in 2005, but haven’t really found any information about Samuel, or his family.