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Born at Bile Fechin (Connaught), Ireland; died c. 665. Fechin, the abbot-founder of several Irish monasteries, was trained by Saint Nathy (f.d. August 9) at Achonry, County Sligo. After a life of sanctity, he died during the great pestilence which came upon Britain and Ireland in the year after the Council at Whitby and felled four Irish kings and nearly two-thirds of the populace.

Fechin's name is particularly connected with that of Fobhar (Fore or Foure) in Westmeath, which was his first monastic foundation, and an important one for its manuscripts. Fechin was the son of Coelcharna, descendant of Eochad Fionn, brother to the famous king Conn of the Hundred Battles, and his mother Lassair was of the royal blood of Munster. When fit to be sent to school he was placed under St Nathy of Achonry.

Having finished his studies he was ordained priest, and retired to a solitary place at Fore in Westmeath, there to live as a hermit. But he was followed by many disciples, and Fore became a monastery. Here he eventually governed over 300 monks. He is said to have pitied the monks engaged in grinding their corn in querns, he therefore brought water from a marsh to the monastery, by cutting a tunnel through the rock, and then established a water mill. Of this Giraldus Cambrensis relates the following :-

There is a mill at Foure, which St Fechin made most miraculously with his own hands, in the side of a certain rock. No women are allowed to enter either this mill or the church of the Saint; and the mill is held in as much reverence by the people as any of the churches dedicated to him.

His influence was very great with the kings and princes of his age. The Saint finding a poor leper, full of sores one day, took him to the Queen, and bade her minister to him as to Christ. She bravely overcame her repugnance, and tended him with gentle care. of three hundred monks. He also established a religious house in the island of Immagh, near the coast of Galway. The inhabitants were then pagans, but Fechin and his monks converted them.

The monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary which he founded in Cong is renowned because of the Cross of Cong, one of the great treasures of Ireland, which had been hidden in an old oaken chest in the village, and now resides in the National Museum in Dublin. Both the church and monastery at Cong were rebuilt in 1120 for the Augustinians by Turlough O'Connor, who gave them the bejewelled processional cross he had made to enshrine a particle of the True Cross. Cong Abbey also served as the refuge for the last high king of Ireland, Roderick O'Connor. The monastery was suppressed by King Henry VIII.

St. Fechin's other foundations include those at Ballysadare (his birthplace?),Imaid Island, Omey and Ard Oilean, from which came the oldest manuscript about his life. All of these are now in ruins. His memory, however, is also perpetuated at Ecclefechan and Saint Vigean's (the name under which he is invoked in the Dunkeld Litany), near Arbroath in Scotland, where a fair was held on his feast day. (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, D'Arcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Moran, Muirhead, Neeson, Stokes).

Troparion of St Fechin
Tone 3
Thy God-pleasing life, O Father Fechin,
is an inspiration in our spiritual struggles. As thou didst guide souls to Christ in the abbey of Fore,
cease not to intercede for all who call upon thy name,
that our souls may be saved.

Cong, its history and geography:

Another Life of St. Fechin

St. Fechin was probably the most active and influential of the Irish saints of the seventh century. He is the first priest that is named in the Third Order of the Irish saints in the famous Catalogue published by Ussher in the Brittanicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates.

Unlike his master, Nathy, who has never found a biographer, Fechin has had his life written by several persons. Colgan gives three lives of the saint; one composed by Augustine Magraidin, who was a Canon Regular of the island of All Saints, in the Shannon, and died there ... in 1405; another in twenty seven Latin hexameters, ... and a third, compiled by Colgan, who tells us he made the compilation from four different lives of the saint. (O'Rorke)

Those who have written about Fechin are almost unanimous that he was born in Bella, a townland in Collooney (Kilvarnet) parish. Traditionally his mother's name was Lassara and she also is venerated as a saint. Fechin's name still lives on in parts of the locality: an area called Parc-Ehin (Fechin's field); Fechin's Well in the neighbouring townland of Kilnamonagh; Fechin's Bed, once a place of pilgrimage; Fechin's Strand near Ballysadare.

It is probable that Fechin belonged to the O'Hara family, and that his early education was directed by St. Nathy. Later he joined Nathy at Achonry and acquired his learning there. After becoming a priest he founded Ballysadare and several other churches in his native territory of Leyney.

Fechin then left the West of Ireland and some time later set up his most famous foundation, that at Fore in Co. Westmeath. Fechin is so closely associated with this - later famous - abbey that he is generally called 'St. Fechin of Fore' (Naomh F??ch??n Fabhar). There are considerable ruins still at Fore, though they are almost entirely of buildings much later than Fechin's foundation.

In later life Fechin returned to the West where he was associated with foundations in Cong - later a famous abbey - and in west Galway and at High Island and Omey Island off the Galway coast.

St. Fechin died of the Yellow Plague on 20th January 665. O'Rorke says, "From the frequent mention of the holy man, ... it is clear that this fame continued unimpaired down to the period of the Reformation, when we find Dr. Hammer in the Chronicle of Ireland observe: Ireland remembreth the feast of St. Fekin, that he was the king's bloud, and an Abbot, cured many of the flixe or fluxe, and dyed thereof himselfe.
(with a stained glass window of St. Fechin, and the monastery ruins at Fore)

Cross of Cong

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