Tradition has it that St Gobnait founded a nunnery at the early church site at Ballyvourney, in West Muskerry, Co. Cork, in the 6th century. Although also linked with other churches and holy wells in Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Waterford and on Inisheer of the Aran Islands, this article will focus on the female saint’s cult at Ballyvourney. Her legend has survived mainly in oral tradition and while receiving little attention in medieval texts, it is interesting that an account of the life of St Abbán states that he blessed Boirneach (i.e. Ballyvourney) and gave it to Gobnait. Abbán is regarded as a secondary saint in the region, being overshadowed by the intense reverence to his female counterpart. By the post-medieval period, Ballyvourney had become an important centre for pilgrimage, and the annual 'rounds' called ‘Turas Ghobnatan’ were dedicated to the saint. The two annual pilgrimage ('pattern') days at Ballyvourney are the 11th February, which is St Gobnait’s feastday, and Whitsunday. The following will examine some of the surviving archaeological features traditionally linked with the saint and discuss the rituals associated with these monuments.
Twelve Irish saints of the name Sineach (also written as Sinche) were recorded in medieval times. The name probably derives from the Irish ‘sean’ meaning ‘old’. One of these saints was the daughter of Feargna and a late pedigree assigns her to the Eoghanacht of Cashel, in Tipperary. It seems highly likely that it was this Sineach that was invoked in a litany preserved in the Stowe Missal, an illuminated manuscript some of which was written in the 11th century in Lorrha, in North Tipperary. This Sineach founded a church site at Crohane (Cruachán Maighe Abhna), in the barony of Slievardagh, in Co. Tipperary, in the early medieval period.