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Historical Chronology

Detailed Chronology of Lough Derg March 2018i


1100 – Lough Derg in possession of two islands with religious associations, a larger called Oileán na Naomh (Saints Island), and a smaller known as Station Island. Station Island had the great attraction of a cave, said to have been where Saint Patrick spent time in prayer.

1135 – Augustinian Canons in charge of Lough Derg

1153 – Knight Owein’s Pilgrimage

1186 – Henry of Saltry in Huntingdonshire writes of Knight Owein’s Pilgrimage and Purgatory – 150 copies of this text still survive in libraries across Europe

1346 – The Fresco, depicting St. Patrick’s Purgatory at Lough Derg, believed to have been painted by an artist from Siena

1497 – Saint Patrick’s Purgatory closed by order of Pope Alexander VI

1497 – Franciscans of Donegal replace the Augustinians in charge of Lough Derg

1516 – Papal Nuncio Chiericati visits St. Patrick’s Purgatory

1596 – Herenach family, the Magraths held this land in trust for the Church. They secured for themselves and for their descendants in English law a personal title to what had been essentially Church property in Gaelic law.

1600 – A report by Franciscan Friar, Michael O’Cleary, making the first mention of women doing the Pilgrimage.

1632 – Under the Franciscan friars, the pilgrimage was non-violently suppressed by order of the Privy Council for Ireland

1632 – October Anglican Bishop of Clogher, James Spottiswoode, personally supervised the destruction of everything on the island.

1649 – Favourable report to Rome by Rinuccini, the Papal Nuncio

1700 – 5,000 pilgrims recorded for the season.

1704 – Act of Parliament imposed a fine of 10 shillings or a public whipping as a penalty for going to such places of pilgrimage

1780 – Patrick Murray became the first of the modern line of Priors from the Clogher Diocese.   (See Priors of Lough Derg for complete listing.)

1790 – The cave was filled in and was replaced by a chapel

1795 – The most notable disaster- a boat carrying 93 passengers sank, close to Friar’s Island, a very short distance from the quay at Station Island. Only three passengers survived.

1826 – Over 15,000 pilgrims came to the Island

1846 – On the eve of the Great Famine, 30,000 pilgrims came.

1860 – The number of pilgrims had dropped to a tenth of the 1846 figure, where it remained for the rest of the century

1870 – Plenary Indulgence granted in perpetum to pilgrims by Pius IX.

1882 – New Hospice opened (now known as Mens Hospice)

1912 – Ladies Hospice completed (Demolised in 2000 to allow development of Davog House)

1925 – Foundations for new church constructed

1931 – May New Church opened. August New Church constituted a Minor Basilica by His Holiness Pope Pius XI.

1960 – Sir Shane Leslie, Glaslough, generously handed over all title to the lake and its islands to the Diocese of Clogher. This in effect left the Catholic Diocese of Clogher in secure possession of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg.

1980 – Appointment of Rev. Gerard McSorley as Prior, succeeding Prior Sean McNaboe. Introduction of Renewal of Baptismal Promises and Way of the Cross.

1982 – Visit of the Papal Nuncio (Gaetano Alibrandi) and the Papal Nuncios to Thailand and Guatemala. Pilgrimage of the Duke of Norfolk.

1988 – Official opening of the new Women’s Hostel. Faith and Light make their first pilgrimage. This marks the first group pilgrimage permitted outside of the tradtional Three Day season.

1990 – Appointment of Rev. Richard Mohan as Prior following the retirement of Monsignor Gerard McSorley.

1992 – Introduction of One Day Retreats.

Creation of a Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Mary’s.

1997 – Pilgrimage of group from Catalonia in memory of Ramon de Perellos (1397)

1998 – Pilgrimage of Irish president, Mary McAleese

2000 – Jubliee Year commemorated by Pilgrim walk from Pettigo to Lough Derg on first day of the season

2001 – Visit of the Relics of St Therese of Lisieux

2002 – Unveilling of new millenium statue on lakeshore, Patrick the Pilgrim, sculpted by Ken Thompson, and unveilled by Brian Keenan

2003 – Russian pilgrimage to Lough Derg, led by former sacristan, Vladimir Belov.

Visit of the Hungarian Special Olympic Team, commemorating pilgrimages of George of Grissaphan (1353) and Laurence Rathold de Paszo (1411).

Restoration of St Mary’s Chapel to its original 1860 form.

Lough Derg awarded Excellence Ireland Foundation Mark.

2004 – Development of Pilgrim Path along the lakeshore

2005 – Visit of Papal Nuncio for the opening and blessing of Davog House, a new Retreat Centre on the Island.

2006 – First International Pilgrimage for the Deaf is hosted on Lough Derg

2007 – First Ecumenical Day held in Davog House.

Assassination of Fr. Ragheed Ganni, a former staff member, on 3rd June in Iraq

Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, private visit to Island

Visit of Gyula Shümeghy, First Secretary, Deputy Head of Mission, Hungarian Embassy with his wife Klana and their baby Marta.

2008 May  – First Family Day Retreat

His Excellency Most Reverend Dr. Giuseppe Leanza, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, visited the Island and was accompanied by Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher.

2007      Death of Fr Ragheed Ganni.  Fr Ganni was assassinated outside his church in the parish of the Holy Spirit, Mosul, after celebrating Sunday Mass on 3rd June 2007.  He was a highly regarded member of season staff at Lough Derg from 1996 – 2003.

2007     Mgr Richard Mohan, Prior, represented Lough Derg at the Fifth European Conference (Congrès) of Recteurs of Shrines & Pilgrimages in Lourdes.  “Shrines & Pilgrimages: Paths of Peace and Spaces of Mercy”.  

2008      Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Leanza visits the Island accompanied by Most Rev Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher

2008      Mgr Richard Mohan, Prior represented Lough Derg at a Conference in Krakow, Poland.  ‘Reflections on Renewing a Shrine’ – The Place, the Story, the Welcome, the Prayers, the Liturgy.  He noted that ‘one of the biggest challenges at Lough Derg is the dilemma of being dynamic and meeting the needs of today’s society, while respecting the tradition of the past’

2009      Margarita Mikhaylova mother of Vladimir Belov, former member of staff from Russia along with Fr Sergey Pavlov,  Leonid Kurzenkov, Artist, Dilshat Kharman, translator visit the Island to present two Icons of St Patrick to Lough Derg in memory of Vladimir Belov, deceased.

2010      ½ hour daily session of ‘Guided Prayer – Exploring alternative forms of prayer’ was introduced for pilgrims on the 2nd day of their Three Day Pilgrimage.  Facilitated by Clerical Students and lay people this very worthwhile addition is now part of the programme.

2010      Mgr Richard Mohan represented Lough Derg at the II World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Pilgrimages and Shrines, organised by the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, Spain on the theme ‘So he went to stay with them’ .

2012      50th International Eucharistic Congress, in Dublin – 10th to 17th June

Lough Derg’s lasting link with the IEC is that on 12th June 2012 Evening Eucharist was celebrated in St Patrick’s Basilica by Papal Legate, His Eminence, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.  Before the Mass, Cardinal Ouellet, and his delegation, met with a group of survivors of child abuse in the Church which included representatives of institutional and clerical abuse, men and women, from different parts of the island of Ireland, North and South.  It was seen fitting then that the Healing Stone, which was unveiled at the opening of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, was placed permanently at Lough Derg following the Eucharistic Congress.

2013      At the September 2012 meeting of the Hierarchy in Maynooth, Bishop Mac Daid requested that each diocese appoint a priest to liaise with Lough Derg with a view to promoting pilgrimages and retreats for the Year of Faith.  

2013      St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, was celebrated on Station Island.  Over 300 people responded to the invitation to ‘Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in a Christian Way’.  Guest Speakers: Bishop Joseph Duffy & Tom Hamill.

2013      Mgr Richard Mohan, retired as Prior of Lough Derg on 31st August 2013, a position he held since September 1990, and was replaced by Very Rev Owen J Mc Eneaney as Prior.

2016      Lough Derg was represented by Fr La Flynn (Clogher Diocese) & Sharon Hearty (Lough Derg team) at Jubilee for clergy, religious & lay faithful working in Sanctuaries & Shrines in Rome.

2016      A commemorative medal is struck to mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

2016      Holy Door opened at St Patrick’s Basilica on 1st May by Papal Nuncio Charles Browne.  In addition to the opening of the Door a ‘Threshold Stone’ specially commissioned to mark the Great Jubliee was unveiled.  Inscribed: I AM THE DOOR ENTER AND BE SAFE this stone will be a permanent witness to the on-going mission and ministry of Lough Derg as tearmann:  a sanctuary, a place to find mercy for ourselves and for our times.

2016      Fr Owen Mc Eneaney, Prior attended the Papal audience in S Peter’s Square, Rome, accompanied by Fr John Flanaghan (Clogher Diocese) and Maureen Boyle (Lough Derg Team).  By special arrangement the Holy Father, Pope Francis, blessed the ‘Year of Mercy Candle’, signifying pilgrimage as a central part of the Jubilee Year.

2016      Ambassador István S Pálffy, Ambassador of Hungary to Ireland visited the Island along with his wife, Mrs Judit Toth on 21st June 2016.  His visit was to mark the links between Lough Derg and Hungary (from the pilgrimage of Laurence of Pásztho in 1411).

2017      ‘On Our Pilgrim Way to the World Meeting of Families’ invitation issued to Three Day Pilgrims to hold 2018 WMoF preparation, success & legacy in their prayers by offering 1 Station.

2017      Very Rev Owen J Mc Eneaney, retired as Prior of Lough Derg on 30th September 2017, a position he held since September 2013, and was replaced by Very Rev Laurence J Flynn as Prior.

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