Inchagoill Island is a small island on Lough Corrib in Co. Galway. Inchagoill comes from the Irish ‘Inis an Ghaill‘ meaning ‘Island of the Stranger’. This special island is home to a number of ancient monastic ruins, some of which date back to the 5th century. Teampall na Naoimh (Church of the Saints) and St. Patrick’s Church are two ruined churches on the island. Teampall na Naoimh dates back to 1180 and is believed to have been built by the Augustinian monks of Cong Abbey to pray and meditate in peace and quiet. The church is built of sandstone and its decorative doorways reflect at least three different European cultures. The archway of the doorway is Romanesque in style and it depicts the ten heads of the ten saints of Lough Corrib. On the outer and inner tiers of the doorway, at shoulder height are heads with platted beards, believed to be of Greek influence while the centre tier display carvings of French design. Just inside the doorway on the right hand side is a Byzantine cross carved out on the wall.
The stone of Lugnad and St.Patrick’s church are situated quite close to each other. The 5th century inscription on the stone, which is still legible today reads “Lia Lugnaedon Macc Limenueh”. This is written in old Gaelic and translates as “The standing stone of Lugnad Son of Limanin”. It is believed that Limanin was St. Patrick’s sister, making Lugnad St. Patrick’s nephew. St Patrick and his nephew (who was also his navigator) came to Cong in the middle of the 5th Century to spread the Christian faith. The Pagan druids who were very powerful people at the time had St. Patrick and his nephew banished to Inchagoill Island. While building their church Lugnad died and was buried on the island. It is interesting to note that the stone has the shape of a boat’s rudder tying in with the theory that Lugnad was St. Patrick’s navigator. Many archaeologists claim that this inscription is the oldest Christian inscription in Europe apart from ones found in the Catacombs of Rome.
To visit Inchagoill Island check out the Corrib Cruises website. If you take the boat to the island let me know! I’d love to know what you think of it.