St. Mary's Augustinian Abbey
|Elevation||60 m (200 ft)|
|Irish Grid Reference|
Ferns (Irish: Fearna, meaning "alder trees" short for Fearna Mór Maedhóg) is a historic town in north County Wexford, Ireland. It is 11.7 km (7.3 mi) from Enniscorthy, where the Gorey to Enniscorthy R772 road joins the R745, both regional roads. The remains of Ferns Castle are in the centre of the town.
Ferns is believed to have been established in the 6th century, when a monastery was founded in 598 dedicated to St Mogue of Clonmore (St. Aidan) who was a Bishop of Ferns. The town became the capital of the Kingdom of Leinster, and also the Capital of Ireland when the kings of that southern part of the province established their seat of power there. It was a very large city then but shrunk in the fire that destroyed most of it. The city stretched all the way down and further than the River Bann (tributary of the River Slaney), if it was not burnt it would've been one of Ireland's biggest cities today. King Dermot MacMurrough founded St. Mary's Abbey as a house of Augustinian canons c. 1158 and was buried there in 1171.
Ferns Castle, an Anglo-Norman fortress, was built in the middle of the 13th century by William, Earl Marshall. Today about half of the castle still stands. The town also contains the 13th-century St Edan's Cathedral (Church of Ireland) This was a big aisled cathedral with a long chancel. The present east wall of the cathedral is the original east wall; the cathedral ran further to the west, towards the entrance to the cemetery. It has been suggested that the ruined building to the east, which has a row of fine Gothic windows, might have been built to house the effigy of Bishop John St John, now in the porch of the church. The Tower and the Chapter House were added on in the 19th century. The cemetery has several high crosses and parts of crosses.
The 19th-century population peaked in 1851, but never reached the levels of medieval times. Lewis's Topography of 1834 claimed the town "consists chiefly of one irregular street, and contains 106 houses indifferently built, retaining no trace of its ancient importance". The Abbey, St.Peter's Church (Catholic and Anglican), and the remainder of the great cathedral are regarded as historic, holy places, and regarded as churches still, this includes the abbey which has the title of an abbey church.
See Annals of Inisfallen (AI)
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The old Catholic church stood at the north of the town until the 1970s, when it was decided to demolish the building, due to an "alleged" issue with the roof and tower. There is no evidence to suggest there was ever any issues with the tower or the rest of the building, except for a rotting wooden main beam across the altar-area of the church - it is evident that this could've been replaced. The minor problems with the roof were used as an excuse to demolish and replace the magnificent building. A convent, St. Aidan's Monastery of Adoration now stands in its place, since the early 1990s, and is used to worship God daily.
The foundation stone of the new Church of St. Aidan was laid on the Feast of St. Aidan, 31 January 1974, the foundation stone lies at the northwest corner wall of the church at the entrance to the Sacristy. The new Catholic Church was completed in 1975. In 2007 the new church went under a major refurbishment since it too had roof problems with leakage of the roof, etc., there was a previous roof problem 15 years after the church was built. In 2007/2008, the parish replaced the old slates with new composite metal-material, the inside was also refurbished and few minor changes were made to the look of the building.
A plaque listing the names of parish priests, from 1644, is on the wall to the right of the altar, beside the organ. The pipe organ in St.Aidan's Church dates from 1901 when a Canon J Doyle had it installed. Its bellows were once inflated by hand, until modifications were made to it in the 1970s, one of which saw a new electric blower to inflate the bellows installed. Other modifications included; re-voicing of pipes, and other cleaning and tonal work completed. The pipe organ was transferred from the old church to the new church and is still in much use. Before being transferred, it was completely dismantled, re-shaped and re-designed to fit into a much smaller space, in the new church. Whereas previously, it was designed to fit a large space.
The Bell, dating from 1911, was installed in the tower of St.Mogue's Church, by Canon John Doyle. There is an interesting story behind this bell. In the period between 1900 and 1911, there is believed to have been a severe lightning storm. This lightning storm claimed a number of lives of farm livestock in the Parish area. There was an idea to have a new large bell installed in the clock tower. Its purpose is that all who hear the strike of the bell would be safe from being harmed by extreme weather. Another bell was installed there in the 19th century, this was replaced in 1901. The whereabouts of these bells remains unknown, and they were probably destroyed. The bell from 1911 now stands outside the new Catholic Church today, and is often rang at special occasions, such as the New Year's midnight celebrations, Christmas, Easter, and other great occasions.
The Anglican Cathedral and the Catholic Church are open daily. The Anglican Cathedral - all day, and The Catholic Church - 7 am until 4 pm, on weekdays. 8 am until 8:15 pm on Saturdays and 8 am until 9 pm on Sundays. These times may change in accordance to events taking place.
The whole history of modern Ireland stems from Ferns - Diarmuid MacMurrough, King of Leinster invited the Normans in 1169 to help him fight his battles (they never left) - he sealed the deal with his daughter Aoife's marriage to Strongbow.
Ferns has evidence of four distinct periods in Irish history. Archaeological digs have revealed habitations from the Bronze, Iron, early Christian and Norman eras.
Ferns boasts many ecclesiastical sites dating from early Christian era through Norman and the Middle Ages. Heritage sites include
The Grave of King Dermot MacMurrough
For further information on Ferns Heritage http://www.fernsvillage.ie/ferns-heritage-page.html
Regular (almost hourly) bus services link Ferns to Dublin and Rosslare are provided by a number of companies.