Máméan, also known as Maumeen or Mamean, is a small but significant pilgrimage site in the heart of the Maumturk mountains in the Connemara region of Galway. The name Máméan means “the pass of the birds” in Irish, and it refers to the natural gap between the peaks that offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. Máméan has been a place of worship and devotion for centuries, dating back to the pre-Christian era when it was associated with the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa. Today, it is dedicated to St. Patrick, who is said to have visited and blessed the site in the fifth century.
Máméan has a rich and diverse history that reflects the cultural and religious changes that have shaped Ireland over time. According to legend, Máméan was one of the places where St. Patrick encountered resistance from the local pagans, who threw stones at him from the nearby hills. St. Patrick responded by throwing his crozier (a staff) at them, which miraculously turned into a serpent and chased them away. He then built a small church at Máméan and left behind a holy well, a stone altar and a footprint on a rock.
The site became a popular destination for pilgrims, especially on the first Sunday of August, which coincided with the ancient celebration of Lughnasa. Lughnasa was a festival that marked the beginning of the harvest season and honored the god Lugh, who was associated with light, skill and crafts. People would gather at Máméan to offer prayers, sacrifices and gifts to Lugh and other deities, as well as to enjoy music, dancing, games and feasting. Some of these customs survived into the Christian era, such as climbing the mountain barefoot, drinking water from the holy well, tying rags to a hawthorn tree as a symbol of healing and leaving coins on St. Patrick’s altar as a sign of gratitude.
Máméan became a site of great importance during the 17th and 18th centuries when the “Penal Laws” outlawed the Catholic Church in Ireland. As a result, the pilgrimage site was used as a secret outdoor church known as a “mass rock”, to allow Christians to celebrate mass, which was forbidden. After the repeal of the Penal Laws in the mid-19th Century, Máméan returned to being the destination of an annual pilgrimage. The pilgrimage site attracts thousands of pilgrims every year, especially on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Good Friday, and the First Sunday in August, where mass is celebrated by the Archbishop of Tuam or other members of the clergy.
In the remote location, only accessible by foot, you will find a small chapel called ‘Cillin Phédraig’, a mass altar, a holy well, a rock known as St. Patrick’s bed, a statue of St. Patrick and the Stations of the Cross scattered roughly around the rocky and boggy site.
Máméan is not only a place of spiritual significance, but also a place of natural beauty and challenge. Máméan is exposed to harsh weather conditions, such as wind, rain, fog and snow. The temperature can drop dramatically at any time of the year, and visibility can be low. Therefore, visitors are advised to dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes or boots, bring water and snacks, and follow the marked trail. It is also recommended to check the weather forecast before setting off, and to avoid going alone or in the dark.
Máméan is a unique and rewarding destination for anyone who wants to experience a blend of history, culture, religion and nature in Ireland. It is a place where one can connect with their ancestors, their faith and their environment in a profound way.
Return to the Mass rocks
We will soon be returning to the Mass rocks. Pray for our priests, they are the ONLY people sustaining the earth and the people in it. Once their gone, God help is!