St Moluag was one of the most outstanding missionaries to come out of Ireland in the sixth century. He was a bishop of the First Order of Celtic Saints who were “Most Holy, Shining like the Sun”. St. Moluag was known as ‘The Clear and Brilliant, The Sun of Lismore in Alba’ and was one of the six Irish priests whom St. Patrick prophesied would become bishops.
He ordained St Comgall and established him as Abbot of Bangor (co. Down), before being ordained a bishop and leaving with twelve followers to found his first great community on the Isle of Lismore in 562. According to St Bernard, by the time of his death in 592, St Moluag had founded over 120 monasteries and converted the Picts of Alba. He is the Apostle of the Picts, Patron Saint of both Dalriada and the Royal House of Lorn, and also of Rushen, in the Isle of Man. According to Lismore tradition, he was Patron Saint of the whole of the Isle of Man.
It was the practice of the Irish missionaries of the time to surround their wattle and daub buildings with a vallum (ditch) and thorns. There are many references to these, more especially in Ireland. It is from this vallum that the island has its name:Lios mor, the great enclosure. In ancient Gaelic lios was used to describe a fortified place or monastery and mor is Gaelic for great. This is the real meaning of Lismore and not the ‘‘great garden” as is so often given. Early Irish Monasteries were built largely of wattle and daub and it is believed that Moluag’sLios was no different. The monks lived in beehive cells, worshipped together in a round oratory and ate in a communal refectory.
The Cathedral Church of St Moluag
probably occupies the site of St Moluag’sLios. The field boundaries to the north,
east and south from a rough circle, of about 240 metres in diameter which may
indicate the original line of the vallum that enclosed the early monastic site.