Maelurain of Tallaght (d. 792)

St. Maelurain (d. 792)was the founder and abbot of the monastery of Tallaght which became the focal point of an 8th century movement to reform Irish monasticism know  as Celi De (Culdee), making him one of the most influential and interesting Irish saints of the early Middle Ages,

Not much is known about Maelurain personally; some chronicles state that he founded the monastery of Tallaght in 774 on a grant of land given by Cellach mac Dunchada, King of Leister; some place its foundation closer to 769. Irish monasticism in Maelurain’s day was influenced by the peregrinatio pro Christo (“pilgrims for Christ”) ideal promoted by Sts. Columba and Columbanus, both of whom exemplified the concept of the vocation of an Irish monk as a wandering exile-pilgrim. Maelurain, influenced by the Egyptian fathers, stressed a much more ascetic form of monasticism and insisted on his monks remaining in place at their monasteries. He also, according to later chronicles, stressed liturgical precision, frequent confession, devout recitation of the Psalter and long fasts. It was disciples of Maelurain who composed the famous old Irish penitential. Maelurian is best known for his outstanding disciples, most of whom went on to become luminaries in the Celi De reform.

Some manuscripts refer to Maelurain as a bishop, but this phrase in the early Irish church can be ambiguous, since abbots in early Irish Christianity often fulfilled some of the roles of a bishop. This terminology may also reflect the Church structure of the later time of writing, perhaps in the late 9th or early 10th centuries.

Interestingly enough, despite Maelurain’s importance, Catholic Churches are not named after him in Ireland. The celebration the saint’s feast on July 7th had survived till this time, but the processions, dancing and night time drinking that once accompanied his celebration at night had got so out of hand that in 1856 the Dominicans decided to suppress it. This may account for the fact that no Catholic church is dedicated to St Maelruain in Ireland.

Phillip Campbell, “Maelurain of Tallaght,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, Aug. 10, 2012. Available online at