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Saint Malachy

Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair
Archbishop of Armagh
St Malachy
St. Malachy
See Archdiocese of Armagh
In office 1132–1136/37
Predecessor Celsus
Successor Gelasius
Consecration 1124
Personal details
Born 1095
Armagh, Ireland
Died 2 November 1148
Clairvaux, France
Previous post Bishop of Down (1124–1148) and Bishop of Connor (1124–1136/37)
Abbot of Bangor

Saint Malachy (Archbishop of Armagh, to whom were attributed several miracles and an alleged vision of 112 Popes later attributed to the apocalyptic list of the Prophecy of the Popes. He was the first native born Irish saint to be canonised.


  • Background 1
  • Life 2
  • Abbot of Bangor 3
  • Veneration 4
  • Relics 5
  • Patronage 6
  • Prophecy of the Popes 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • References 9
  • See also 10


Viking raids on Ireland began around the start of the 9th century. The country was subsequently invaded and occupied; many monasteries were plundered; monks were put to the sword; churches were demolished; and libraries were burned. These disruptions, along with secular impositions by the invaders, produced a decline in Christian religious observance and moral standards established by Saint Patrick and other early missionaries. Apathy towards the Christian virtues increased, and by the 11th century some parts of Ireland had even returned to paganism.[1]


Malachy, whose family name was Ua Morgair, was born in Armagh in 1095. St. Bernard describes him as having noble birth.[2] He was baptised Máel Máedóc (Malachy) and was trained under Imhar O'Hagan, subsequently Abbot of Armagh. Imhar was in sympathy with the aims of those who sought to reform the Irish church, and it was probably through his influence that Malachy became imbued with their principles. After a long course of studies Malachy was ordained priest by St Cellach (Celsus) in 1119.

Shortly afterwards Cellach made the young priest his vicar. For the next year or two it was Malachy's duty to administer the diocese of Armagh. He established in all the churches the apostolic sanctions and the decrees of the holy fathers, and the customs and practices the Roman Church. He introduced the Roman method of chanting the services of the canonical hours and instituted anew Confession, Confirmation, the Marriage contract, which those over whom he was placed were either ignorant or negligent.[3] With the consent of Cellach and Imar he went to study under St. Malchus, who had by this time retired from the archbishopric of Cashel and was settled at Lismore. He spent three years there.

Abbot of Bangor

In 1123 the coarb of Bangor Abbey died. Bangor was the principal religious site in the north-east of Ireland. Since he ended his days at Lismore, it may be assumed that he was a friend of Malchus, and of the movement with which he was identified. His successor, who was Malachy's uncle, expressed his willingness to surrender his office and the site of the monastery to his nephew. Malachy became Abbot of Bangor Abbey.[3]

This became an opportunity to implement one of the canons of of the

See also

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c , The Macmillan Company, London, 1920St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of ArmaghLawlor, H.J.,
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ PL 185 bis.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^


St Malachy, his "Doomsday Prophecy", and the conflicts between the Christians and pagans are important plot points in James Rollins' sixth Sigma Force novel, The Doomsday Key (2009), particularly in Chapter 21.[11]

In popular culture

A "Prophecy of the Popes" is attributed to St. Malachy, which is claimed to predict that there would be only 112 more [10]

Prophecy of the Popes

A number of parishes are dedicated to St. Malachy, including those in Brownsburg, Indiana;[7] Burlington, Massachusetts; Kennedy Township, New York City (The Actors' Chapel);[8] Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Geneseo, Illinois and Rantoul, Illinois.

Malachy is patron saint of the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Diocese of Down and Connor. Saint Malachy's Church, Belfast was intended to be the Cathedral Church of Down and Connor dedicated in honour of the Diocesan Patron. However, the Irish Famine broke out and the grand plans for the Saint Malachy's Cathedral were shelved to divert funds to the needy.


St. Malachy's body remained at Clairvaux Abbey and eventually was placed in a tomb near Bernard of Clairvaux's, after the abbot's own death. The tomb was moved several times with the rebuilding of the church. Portions of his remains were sent to Ireland in 1194 and deposited at Mellifont Abbey and other abbeys of the Cistercians. At some point at Clairvaux, part of Malachy's arm and part of his skull were removed and placed in special reliquaries in the abbey's treasury. His arm was kept in a silver case decorated with precious stones. A portion of his skull was kept in a bust reliquary of gilt silver, also decorated with precious stones and topped by a mitre. These reliquaries may have been enameled or painted. During the French Revolution, the reliquaries themselves were destroyed, although the relics were preserved. Malachy's head is now preserved in a reliquary in the treasury of Troyes Cathedral, not far from the site of Clairvaux. The tombs of the two friends and saints were destroyed in the aftermath of the revolution, and the bones were commingled and distributed to various parishes in the district of Clairvaux.[5] Ph. Guignard published an account of the relics in the Patrologia Latina.[6]


St Malachy's feast is celebrated on 3 November, so as not to clash with All Souls Day.

In the book Life of Saint Malachy, his biographer Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says Malachy was distinguished by his meekness, humility, obedience, modesty, and true diligence in his studies. Saint Charles Borromeo praised St Malachy for attending to the needy, bringing the holy sacraments to all alike and renewing the fervor of the people in receiving them.[1]


Saint Malachy
Canonized 1199 by Pope Clement III
Feast 3 November
Patronage Archdiocese of Armagh, Diocese of Down and Connor

St Bernard continues: Having extirpated barbarism and re-established Christian morals, and seeing all things tranquil, St Malachy began to think of his own peace. He therefore resigned the Sees of Armagh and Connor, in 1136 or 1137, but retained as Bishop of Down. He founded a priory of Austin Canons at Downpatrick, and was unceasing in his episcopal labours. Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, via Scotland, England, and France, visiting St Bernard at Clairvaux. He petitioned Pope Innocent II for pallia for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux, he fell sick and died in the arms of St Bernard, on 2 November 1148.

St Malachy's influence in Irish ecclesiastical affairs has been compared with that of Boniface in Germany. During three years at Armagh, as Bernard of Clairvaux writes, St Malachy restored the discipline of the Church, grown lax during the intruded rule of a series of lay-abbots, and had the Roman Liturgy adopted.[2] St Malachy worked zealously to restore ecclesiastical discipline, restored marriage, renewed the practices of confession and confirmation, and introduced Roman chants in the liturgy. He was also known for his care to the needy as a miracle worker and healer. In his lifetime, he planted apple trees throughout Ireland during time of famine.[4]

St Bernard provides many interesting anecdotes regarding St Malachy and highly praises Malachy's zeal for religion both in Connor and Armagh. In 1127, Malachy paid a second visit to Lismore and acted for a time as confessor to Cormac MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond. While Bishop of Down and Connor, Malachy continued to reside at Bangor, and when some of the native princes sacked the two dioceses of Down and Connor, Malachy brought the Bangor monks to Iveragh, County Kerry, where they were welcomed by now King Cormac. On the death of St Celsus (who was buried at Lismore in 1129), St Malachy was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, 1132, which dignity he accepted with great reluctance. Owing to intrigues, he was unable to take possession of his See for two years; even then he had to purchase the Bachal Isu (Staff of Jesus) from Niall, the usurping lay-primate.[2]

In 1132, he was promoted to the primacy of Armagh.


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