The Penitential Beds on Station Island belong to the Celtic monastic period. They were reconstructed remains of monastic cells or oratories where monks might spend time alone to pray. They are rings of boulders and rough stones embedded up-end in the soil, some on a steep incline and in the centre of each stands a crucifix.
The penitential beds are dedicated to seven saints, each having some association with the area. A Franciscan Friar, Michael O’Cleary recounted that the pilgrimage was being performed in 1600- the earliest systematic account to survive.
For the first time the prayers are detailed in this account as are the saints to whom the penitential beds are dedicated.
There was a special devotion to St. Brigid in this part of Donegal. On the mainland, by the lakeshore there is Brigid’s Well and Brigid’s Chair. Adjacent to the Visitor Centre on the lakeshore, a small chapel, dedicated to St. Brigid, was built in 1995.
A native of Co. Kerry, St. Brendan was renowned for his voyages. He was the founder of the monastery at Clonfert.
It is generally held that the Catherine to whom this bed is dedicated is St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Born in Gartan, Co. Donegal, St. Columba (or St. Columcille in the Irish language) founded many monasteries including Durrow and Derry. He spent most of his life on the island of Iona.
St. Patrick is reputed to have visited Lough Derg in 445 when he spent time there alone in prayer and penance.
St. Davog is said to have been a disciple of St. Patrick and was the first Abbot of the monastery at Lough Derg.
St. Molaise was a local saint who died about 563.