Sunday, 7 June 2015


St Finbarr's Church,  Gougane Barra 
(Guágán Barra)

A shameful theft has taken place of a stone altar from within the grounds of St. Finbarr's Church, Gougane Barra, which many believe may have been part of  ritual focus in pre-christian times.

St. Finbarr, an early sixth century Irish saint, is said to have had an oratory on this site and Gardaí in Co. Cork are investigating the disappearance of the pilgrim altar at the famous island church.

Divers have been searching the surrounding lake in the hope of finding the  stone, which was first noticed missing last weekend.

The slab, about four feet in length which was situated in the ground at the rear of the chapel, is known to be at least 350 years old and might have belonged to St. Finbarr.

Local historian Seán Ó Súilleabháin said the altar stone forms an integral part of the Gougane Barra pilgrimage ritual:
 "The altar stone was one of a number of stops on the 'rounds' here in Gougane Barra. Pilgrims stop at the stone and use a small stone to score the sign of the cross on the surface of the stone.

He added: "We don't know who stole it or what the motivation behind this is.
"It was a very foolish act as people around here strongly believe that bad luck will follow the person that took the stone from such a sacred site."

The altar stone was first noticed missing last weekend but it is believed it may have been taken up to three to four weeks ago.

Neil Ó Luasa, owner of the nearby Gougane Barra Hotel, said the local community is deeply upset by the removal of the sacred altar.
"The altar is a big heavy flagstone and it would take at least three men to lift it.

"We have two theories: that the stone was lifted and thrown in to the lake, or that it was carried in the opposite direction and put into the boot of a car."

Members of the Cork-based Atlantic Divers Club responded to a request from the parish priest, Fr Martin O'Driscoll, and carried out an extensive search of 
the surrounding lake yesterday evening.

"I think it's safe to say at this stage that the altar is not in the lake," 
said Mr Chambers.

Local Gardaí are investigating the theft and are asking anyone who might have witnessed suspicious or unusual behaviour at the popular tourist spot in recent weeks to contact Macroom Garda Station.

The missing stone altar

The Guágán Barra area, and indeed the whole of south Cork, south Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, is composed of old red sandstone. 
The characteristic layering or bedding of the sedimentary rocks can be clearly seen in the high cliffs around Com Rua at the head of the Guágán Barra valley. The Lake lies in a rock basin carved out in the ice age and nowhere does it reach depths greater than 12 meters it is also the source of Cork's famous River Lee.


  1. May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,
    May a ghost always haunt him in the dead of the night,
    May his hen never lay, may horse never nay,
    May his goat fly away like an old paper kite;
    May the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease,
    May the piercing March breeze make him shiver and shake,
    May the hump of a stick raise the lumps fast and thick,
    On the hooligans who desecrated St Finbarr's small nook.

    And so on, and may they bring it back. How stupid.

    1. Thank you Joanne that is an excellent comment !

  2. The world remains full of idiots my man, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their arseholes (not as poetic as Joanne's fine comment)

    1. Indeed John your words though full of malice are entirely justified :)

  3. Should be a special circle in hell for folks who do things like this. I can remember when I first noticed that churches were locked up because people were stealing things from them.

    1. Thank you Janet, if there is a hell it would be probably to good for them.


Your comments are a welcome addition to the activity of this blog however,the use of swear words is not permitted.