St. Fachtnan was said to have founded a church in Kilfenora in the 6th century. However it was when the synod of Rathbreasail snubbed the claims for diocesan status by Kilfenora in 1111 that the O’Connors and the O’Loughlens came together.
It was their desire to remain aloof of the diocese of Killaloe which was very much under the patronage of the O’Briens. It was the O’Briens who had burned Kilfenora Abbey and its inhabitants in 1055.
In a show of determination to press its claims, some of the finest stonework bequeathed to us from the period, was produced. Seven carved stone crosses are associated with Kilfenora from this era, all survive with one removed to St. Flannan’s Cathedral in Killaloe.
More churches per parish
The Burren actually had more churches per parish in the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries than anywhere else in Ireland. Some of its medieval churches were decorated by a fine school of twelfth century sculptors specialising in stylised human heads.
Kilfenora Cathedral was a focal point, with its present structure dating from the late twelfth century. At the Synod of Kells in 1152 Kilfenora did indeed prevail and win diocesan status and the beautiful Doorty Cross would seem to commemorate this event.
However with the limited resources of just thirteen parishes it could not sustain its achievement and is now under the administration of the Galway Catholic diocese with the Pope as its nominal Bishop.
Part of Kilfenora Cathedral is still in use for divine worship by the Church of Ireland. Amongst its most renowned local and international ambassadors is the Kilfenora Céilí band.
If in the sporting passions of the Irish you glimpse the heart of the people, it is at these musical gatherings you see into its soul. The musicians from this region have carved a niche in the musical world and made their own soul a part of it.
Here, in the Burren, local chefs reap the bountiful harvest of the sea to provide regional culinary delights, and monkfish, bass and trout are specialities in many of these eatinghouses.
Local foods can be sampled such as the famous Burren Lamb dishes served up throughout the county, with its inviting taste, a product of the sweet pasturages of the Burren. Mionnán, or goat, is another trademark regional dish served up at local hostelries.