St. Declan, a prince of the Decies Kingdom in Munster, was born in the 5th century. He was baptised by a priest named Colman, later to become St. Colman. When Declan was seven years old he studied under a sage called Dioma. This training continued for many years until Declan, taking with him some of his disciples, went to Rome for further instruction in Christianity. While in Rome the Pope consecrated Declan. Declan had a strong desire to return to Ireland and, according to legend, he had in his possession a miraculous black bell with which he summoned an empty vessel to carry him on his journey. The bell was placed in a rock and when Declan prayed the rock floated out to sea. He followed it and eventually, it led him to shore at Ardmore, Co. Waterford. There Declan worked conscientiously among the people and built a Church.
While returning to Ireland it is reported that Declan met St. Patrick. Declan and three other Bishops – Ibar, Cieran and Ailbe were evangelising in Ireland when St. Patrick arrived here. Declan did not confine his work to Ardmore and the Déise region but he also travelled further afield and especially to Cashel.
One of the most remarkable groups of ancient ecclesiastical remains in Ireland can be seen today in Declan’s well-loved Ardmore – a beautiful and perfect Round Tower, a singularly interesting ruined Cathedral, the ruins of a second Church beside a holy well, a primitive oratory and some ogham-inscribed pillar stones.
Declan is an outstanding example of a Saint whose cult has not only survived, but has recently shown a marked revival. This is demonstrated by pilgrims, visitors and local people who are proud of St. Declan and the strong faith that they have inherited.
Cárthach, also known as Mochuda, a native of Kerry, founded a monastery in Lismore in 633 which soon became known for its learning and was visited by many people. Within a few decades it was renowned throughout Britain and Europe, becoming as famous as Bangor and Clonmacnoise.
The main section of Lismore monastery was situated in a dramatic position on a high crag. The students lived in little huts made of mud and wattles, stretching for nine miles along the banks of the Blackwater. As in other famous Celtic monasteries there was a scriptorium, and also a school of metalwork, where artefacts like the famous Lismore Crozier were made. The Crozier and the Book of Lismore were found hidden in the walls of Lismore Castle in the nineteenth century.
Today there is little trace of St. Carthage’s famous monastery. Lismore Castle, part of which dates from the early seventeenth century, was built on the site of the monastery and medieval towers and monastic ruins were incorporated into the general construction. The monastery of Lismore is today remembered in Lismore Heritage Centre, where visitors are treated to an award-winning multimedia presentation, which takes them on a journey through time, beginning with the arrival of St. Carthage in 636 and finishing at the present day. All major works on monasticism published today stress the important role of Lismore in the Irish Church and as a major place of learning.
St. Otteran, an abbot from Meath, is the principal patron of the Diocese of Waterford, though it is doubtful whether or not he had been Bishop to that See. Otteran, a descendant of Conall Gulban, is usually identified with St. Ordan who preceded Colum Cille in Iona. There has been much unnecessary discussion as to the identity of this Otteran. But the Irish Martyrologies tell us plainly enough that the saint of that name honoured on October 27th was a monk of Hy, a kinsman of St. Columba and that he worked in Iona evangelising the people of Scotland.
Otteran’s death is recorded as being in 548 A.D. and his grave was greatly revered in Iona. It is said that he was the first person to be buried in the monastic cemetery of the Norsemen, whither they carried their dead chieftains and great men for burial from all parts of Europe. The Vikings chose Otteran, the titular guardian of their ancestors’ ashes, as patron of the city of Waterford in 1096. Later he was chosen as patron of the Diocese.
Killotteran Parish, west of Waterford City, derives its name from the townland on which stood an ancient Church. The name itself is ecclesiastical, signifying the Church of Odran, or Otteran as it is more commonly Anglicised.