Ardfert Cathedral

          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. 

St. Brendan’s Church, Ardfert

               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).