Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Old Leighlin
Co. Carlow

Page 1

Two images of St. Lazerian's Cathedral c.1780 century

Old Leighlin
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Two images of St. Lazerian's Cathedral c.1780 century

Old Leighlin was an old monastic settlement going back to the 5th. century, with a cathedral and gave its name to the diocese of Leighlin. The cathedral is still there but was taken by the Church of Ireland during the reformation. This is now known as "Old Leighlin" and has no R.C. church. It is a tiny village. (The present R.C. diocese is "Kildare & Leighlin". )

Leighlinbridge is about 2 miles east of Old Leighlin. The Normans built a bridge over the river Barrow (12 arches) in 1339 which is still in use, hence "Leighlinbridge". When the Penal laws were not enforced with the same severity in the 18th. century, Catholic parishes were again organised.

In 1704 Morgan Kavanagh was registered as Parish Priest of Wells, Old Leighlin, Agha, Tullowcreen, Cloydagh, residing at Leighlinbridge. (He was also P.P. of Dunleckney, Sliguff, and Lorum, all in the present day parish of Bagenalstown.)

St. Lazerian's Cathedral, Old Leighlin was built in the 13th century on the site of a church founded in 632 A.D. This church was one of the foremost monastic houses in Leinster at the time with over 1,500 monks in residence. An important 7th century church synod took place here which determined the date of Easter for the entire Christian world.

Fr. Paul Cullen was parish priest of Wells, Tullowcreen, Old Leighlin and Shankill from 1741 to 1783 and built a stone church in Leighlinbridge which still stands today and is the parish church of the R.C. Parish of Leighlinbridge. The old parishes of Wells, Tullowcreen, Old Leighlin, Shankill, Cloydagh and Agha are referred to as "civil parishes" and are only used in old land records. Leighlinbridge R.C., records holds all the births & marriages of the R.C. population of the above "civil parishes". Fortunately, the stone church mentioned above never burned or was damaged so the records go back to 1783. (The locals call Leighlinbridge "Loughlin" and Old Leighlin , "Auld Loughlin").

The Parish of Bagenalstown, on which Brian Walsh is doing such a great job, takes in the civil parishes of Dunleckney, Lorum, Nurney, Sliguffe, Ballyellen, Fenagh, and part of Agha, (the other part of Agha is in Leighlinbridge parish).  So calling Brian's transcription, "Dunleckney" is not quite correct, it should be Bagenalstown, (or Muine-Bheag if you really want to confuse people.) Bagenalstown R.C. church had a fire in 1819 so their records only date back to 1820.

Part of the above information was supplied by "Brudge" who wishes to remain anonymous.

The following is an extract from the United Diocese of Cashel & Ossory website

St Laserian's Cathedral in county Carlow is one of the undiscovered gems in Ireland and is a magnificent example of a late 12th century cathedral.


Early in the seventh century St Gobban founded a monastery at Old Leighlin where in 630 AD a synod was held to consider the correct time for the celebration of Easter. St Laserian , who succeeded Gobban, was very influential in deciding the Irish Church should follow the Roman , rather than the Celtic System for deciding the date of Easter.

Laserian died in AD 639 and was buried in his own church, but the site of his tomb is unknown as the original monastic buildings, probably wooden, were destroyed by fire c1060 AD The present stone building was begun by Donatus, Bishop of Leighlin c1152-1181 and was completed by the end of the 13th Century.

There have been numerous alterations carried out since, especially in the time of Bishop Matthew Sanders (1529-1549) whose tomb is near the sanctuary. These alterations included the insertion of a tower, the addition of the chapel north of the chancel, which is now the chapter room, and the partial rebuilding of the north and south chancel walls.

The four -bay sedilia with trefoiled heads, dating from the late 13th century , is probably the only one of it's kind in Ireland. The eleventh century font, one of two in the cathedral, is probably the oldest item in the building.


No shop or toilets on site but these are available in the village. There is a brief history of the cathedral and a small selection of postcards. Copies of Ireland of the Welcomes (March -April 2000) which included a detailed feature on the cathedral with beautiful colour photographs can also be purchased.

Sunday Worship 10.a.m.


Old Leighlin Village, County Carlow. Off the main N9 road from Kilkenny to Carlow. Old Leighlin is a designated Heritage Village and is well signposted

Visiting Times

From mid June until the end of August the cathedral will be open Monday-Friday from 10.a.m. until 4 p.m. and a guide will be available. There is a donation box in the cathedral and a minimum donation of 1 per visitor is suggested.

Contact details

If visitors find the cathedral closed please contact the Dean and if at all possible, please contact him before you arrive at Old Leighlin to make sure he is available to meet you.

Contact Details: http://cashel.anglican.org/laserians.shtm

INDEX Old Leighlin OLD Leighlin 1837

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