Feast Day : September 25
Name meaning: Fair crest
Also known as: Findbarr, Bairre, Barr
Finbar was born in Connaught, Ireland, around 560, the illegitimate son of a master smith or craftsman and a slave girl in the royal court (by some accounts a lady). His parents moved to the region of Macroom, where he was baptized Lochan (or Loan) by Bishop MacCuirb. At age seven he was given to three clerics of Munster to be educated. When they had his fair hair cut, they named him Finbar, meaning “fair crest.” Finbar went on pilgrimage to Rome with some of the monks, visiting St. David in Wales on the way back. David became a mentor. Legend tells that on another visit to Rome Pope Gregory I (r. 590–604) wanted to consecrate him a bishop but a vision told him that God had reserved that honor to Himself. Finbar returned home and was consecrated from heaven. Oil flowed up from the earth to cover the feet of him and the elders present; it had healing properties. Finbar preached throughout southern Ireland. He also may have preached in Scotland. Finbar retired to live on the small island at Lough Eiroe, and started a school there. According to lore, an angel guided him to the place where he built a church. Nearby is a cave called Cuas Barrai (Finbar’s Cave), and near that is a pool where Finbar caught a salmon in his net every night. The angel told Finbar that the spot would not be the place of his resurrection, however, and he went across the river to Cell na Cluaine (Gougane Barra) where he built a church and stayed for a long time. He built 12 churches and then founded a monastery that developed into the city of Cork, of which he was the first bishop. His monastery became famous in southern Ireland and attracted numerous disciples. Finbar died at Cloyne about the year 633, although various accounts give his date of death as 610, 623 and 630. According to legend, the sun did not set for 12 days after he died. His body was taken to his church in Cork for burial. The church became a cathedral. His island retreat at Gougane Barra became a pilgrimage site, his hermitage and chapel marked with a wooden cross. Many miracles are attributed to Finbar. He healed many people, had visions, prophesied and foresaw the time of his own death.