If you are looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path destination in Galway, you might want to visit the St. Benan Church Ruins in Kilbannon near Tuam in County Galway. The parish of Kilbannon owes its name to St. Benen, or Benignus, signifying the Church of Benen. St. Benen was the son of Sescan, a chief of Duleek in Meath.

St. Benan, also known as Benignus, was a disciple and successor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in the 5th century and became the first abbot of Armagh and later the bishop of Kilbannon, near Tuam. Just a boy, St. Benan became an instant follower of St. Patrick when he visited his district, so much so that when St. Patrick was leaving he insisted on going with him, to which St. Patrick returned his affection and later appointed him as one of the commissioners to codify the Brehon Laws, and brought him with him on his missionary journeys.

When St. Patrick was visiting the Dunmore District, St. Benan was with him and when a suitable site for a church was obtained at Kilbannon, St. Patrick appointed Benen as head of the church and head of a school for the training of priests. The church of Benen existed before the town of Tuam itself and it was here that St. Jarlath and St. Conla were trained. The ruins of a round tower on the site suggest that it was of significant important to a later chieftain.

St. Benan is said to have died in 467 AD and was buried in Kilbannon. The church that bears his name is located about 3 km north of Tuam, in a peaceful and scenic setting. It dates from the 11th century and is built of stone and mortar, with a simple rectangular shape and a pitched roof. The church is surrounded by a circular enclosure wall and a graveyard, where some ancient crosses and slabs can be seen. The site is also known for its holy well, which is believed to have healing powers.

The church is a testament to the faith and devotion of the early Irish Christians, who built such humble and enduring places of worship in remote locations. It is also a reminder of the rich and fascinating history of Galway, which has many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.


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St. Benen Church ruins



Peaceful Grounds

February 15, 2023

I had a chance to visit this summer. It is a peaceful place of repose.

Tom Hughes