Readers of last week’s blog on St John’s Church, Tralee, have requested a background or history of a number of other Kerry churches. So today it is St. Michael’s Church, Lixnaw. 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:
‘The Catholic parish of Lixnaw, in the deanery of Listowel, is bounded by the rivers Feale, Brick and Smearla. It is typographically divided between the limestone fertile land of the western end and the upland blanket bog at the eastern end. Traditionally the people of the western side have gravitated towards the town of Tralee for commercial purposes and the eastern side have been served by the market town of Listowel..
The richness of its ecclesiastical history is illustrated by the presence of ruins that point to a varied and interesting past, the oldest, Kilshenane, reputedly founded by St. Senan of Scattery after spending a Lenten observance there. Other ancient sites include Kilfeighney (an eighth-century monastery that cared for leprosy victims). Dysert d’tralaight (linked by the ancient road to the monastery at Rattoo) and Kiltomy (containing the remains of a ruined church that was liable to flooding).
There is a strong devotion in the parish to the two holy wells. St. Michael’s well near Lixnaw village points to the devotion to St. Michael that the Norman settlers brought to the area. The Pattern Day held there on St. Michael’s Day is very well attended and was one of the largest gatherings of pilgrims in north Kerry in the late nineteenth century. St Senan’s holy well is accepted as having curative properties in its water for eyes and skin and is visited throughout the year. In Pena times local people attended Mass at Mass rocks – one of which is still to be seen at the townland of Gortacloghane.
To-day the worshipping communities of the parish are served by three well-maintained churches. Over a hundred years ago a handsome church was built in Rathea, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. The present Church of Our Lady and St.Senan at Irremore was renovated in the 1960s to accommodate six hundred people, and it replaced the first thatched church built in the 1830s. In the 1860s the Church of St. Michael was opened in Lixnaw village. It was designed by J.J. McCarthy and is one of the finest examples of his work. Local limestone was used and its fine style is labelled ’round arched style’. The church was opened by Bishop David Moriarty, who was from the parish and who also invited the Presentation Sisters to the parish. Happily, they still contribute to the life and well-being of the parish from their convent next to the church.
There are three Primary Schools in the parish with almost three hundred pupils in attendance in 2005.
Today it is one of the few parishes in Ireland that can boast of two hurling clubs, two football clubs and two drama clubs.’
Kieran O’Shea, The Diocese of Kerry Formerly Ardfert: Working in the Fields of God, (Strasbourg, 2005), pps. 112-113.
Mka Blog – St Michael Church, Lixnaw – Interior
MKA Blog – Lixnaw St Michaels Church