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Article Published February 12, 2002



County Mayo (Ireland): An Outline History
By: Bernard O'Hara and Nollaig ÓMuraíle,
Copyright: Mayo Ireland Ltd.



Early Christian Period

The early history of the county is obscure and frequently confusing with various tribes seeking control. Christianity came to Ireland at the start of the fifth century, if not earlier, and brought about many changes, including the introduction of writing and reading. St. Patrick, Ireland's national apostle, whose floruit was the fifth century, is chiefly credited with the conversion of the pagan Gaels. Recent research indicates that St. Patrick spent considerable time in County Mayo, where according to tradition and some written sources he spent forty days and nights on the summit of Croagh Patrick fasting and praying for the people of Ireland; and had associations with places like Aghagower near Westport, Ballintubber (well-known nowadays for its medieval abbey which has remained in continuous use through all vicissitudes from its foundation in 1216); and Foghill near Killala, which has been identified by some writers with the Silva Vocluti , 'the wood of Fochluth beside the western sea' mentioned by Patrick himself in his Confessio.

From the middle of the sixth century onwards, hundreds of small monastic settlements were established around the country, many of which became very important. Some examples of well-known early monastic sites in Mayo include Mayo itself near Balla, Aughagower, Inishmaine, Ballintubber, Errew, Kilmore Erris, Balla, Cong, Killala, Turlough, Moyne near Cross, and island settlements off the Mullet peninsula like Inishkea North, Inishkea South and Duvillaun More.

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