The Bell of Fenagh


This ancient bell also called Clog-na-Roigh or the bell of the kings was said to have been given by St Patrick to St. Caillin . It is made of bronze. It was in the custody of the parish priests of Fenagh – now the traditional explanation of the name Clog-na-Riogh is that the bell was used at the baptism of Nineteen Kings – which seems to mean that it was inverted to hold the baptism water on these occasions. It holds one and a half pints.Among the Kings baptized out of it were Fergus and Domhnall joint Kings of Ireland. Conall Gulban, Aengus Mac Natfraich King of Cashel and Branduff King of Leinster.Reference in Irish Literature to the Bell of Fenagh or Clog-na-Righ is referred to the Annals and in the Book of Fenagh. In the Annals it is stated that in 1244 three times the full of Clog-na-Righ of Gold along with thirty horses were given as an offering for the soul of Manus, son the Murtough Muimhneach. The Book of Fenagh contains a poem of 168 lines dealing with Clog-na-Righ. It mentions the bell rightly belongs to Cinel Connaill and makes some statements regarding the bell.

When carried from one place to another it must be carried by a man in Holy orders who must be accompanied by twelve men. Cinel Conaill will be protected from any sudden danger that may threaten them if the bell be borne round them three times. If a King sees the Bell borne towards him he is bound to go to meet it, and if the bearers of the bell go to his residence he is bound to pay the custodians of the bell tribute. The fulfillment of these obligations will be rewarded with blessings and the non-fulfillment will be attended with misfortune. If the Bell is rung in anger and for good reasons against any Tribe great misfortune will befall that Tribe. It was rung at Tara by Ruadhan against Diarmuid and as a result Diarmuids reign came to an end.

The foregoing statements are probably legendary, however they do show that the bell was greatly respected and revered. It was carried by Caillin’s Coarbs and that they were given generous donations because of it.

Date of the Bell : It did not belong to St Patrick or St. Caillin. It is older than the Annals of the four masters written in 1244 which has reference to it. The circular form of its mouth makes it probable that it is later than the Bell of Armagh which is dated at the beginning of the 10th century. The nature of its decoration indicates that it is later than the Tara brooch and the Ardagh Chalice which were made around the middle of the 9th century. The Bell of Fenagh was probably made between 1050 and 1150.

The Bell passed down through the centuries by the O’Rodachain’s Coarbs of St. Caillin and then on to the parish priests of Fenagh.It is presently in St Mell’s cathedral Longford.