Saint Dabheog of Lough Derg

December 16 is the Feast of Dabheog (Beoc, Beanus, Mobeoc), founder of a monastery on an island in Lough Derg in Donegal in Ireland (5th century).
“Saint Dabheog is the patron saint of Lough Derg, a lake in County Donegal, Ireland, near the town of Pettigo and shouldering the border of counties Donegal and Fermanagh. Biographical knowledge of this local cult saint is vague, although local records indicate his presence as abbot of Lough Derg in the 5th century. Tradition maintains that Dabheog was a disciple of Saint Patrick who became responsible for caring for the site known as St. Patrick’s Purgatory, which was on one of the islands in the lake known as Lough Derg.
patrick 3
Many of the modern Catholic pilgrimage rituals at Lough Derg are focused on devotion to St. Dabheog: including the short hike to a pre-Christian Bronze Age burial site (known as Dabheog’s Chair or Seat) on a hill overlooking Lough Derg, and the meditation upon one of the beehive cells on Station Island which is dedicated to the saint. One of the boats which transports pilgrims to Station Island is named after Dabheog, as well as the valley overlooking Lough Erne. Dabheog is also known by the following aliases: Dabeoc, Davog, Davoc, Daboc, Beoc, Mobeoc, Mobheog, Daveoc, Daveog. This variation is due to the lack of standardization in the Irish language and the ambiguity of the saint’s historical origins.”

“There came a day when Dabheoc sat in his wattled cell watching the gardened slope that led down to the water edge. A well-mounded rampart ran round the close. Now and again a heavy-robed figure passed across. The hush of Vespertide had fallen, and the quiet as of many tasks done. Dabheoc turned his eyes sadly over the old book satchels that were hanging on the wall. How many hours of his were stored away in them to the use of other men? How much of his sight had been woven into those pages?
When his eyes turned back to the doorway, he saw a Pilgrim standing there. He, too, carried a brown robe, but it was thickened with the dust of white roads and His feet lay bruised between their sandals. His body seemed weak with journeying and in need of refreshment. In His eyes alone there was no weariness, they were deep and beautiful and blue as the skies of Italy.
“Enter, friend, enter; this is a house of rest,” said the Saint, ” is it very far that thou hast come?”
“A long and a weary way, Dabheoc, ruler of the Culdees,” replied a voice of great sweetness.
“Is it peace that thou bearest with thee, stranger, for mine eyes are too dim to read the faces of men?”
“My peace have I brought these many years to all that would have it,” the sweet voice began again. “I have brought my peace for thee, Dabheoc, for all the fret that is on thy heart.”
“I see that thou canst read the mind of a man’s heart. Art thou ruler of a religious order?”
“Yes, of the greatest of the orders, the Order of the Wayfarers.”
“What is thy quest, dear stranger?”
“I have come to find my friends.”
“Who are thy friends?”
“My friends are all the Saints of Ireland who are born and are yet to be born.”
“I do not understand what thou wouldst say, but I see that thou art older than any here though thou hast come as a Pilgrim, perchance thou hast memory of our holy Father Patrick?”
“Before Patrick was, I am.” The voice of the Pilgrim spoke like a bell far off.
Then the old Saint felt that it was no ordinary man his old eyes were striving to see. His whole soul struggled out to meet the Stranger standing at the doorway. A feeling of peace and yet delirious joy was upon him. He could only see the two eyes that they looked upon him with love. It seemed then as if his poor spirit were fluttering over those pools of calm unmoved Divinity. Then the wondrous vision past from his eyes and he was looking dimly to the blue waters beyond.
He rose and went down to the water side as fast as his old age would let him. As he crossed the mound he inquired of each brother he met if they had seen which way the Pilgrim had passed, but no one had seen ought on the island that day. Not once, but several times, the old man passed up the island with tears of joy brimming from his eyes. There was no footprint to be seen, but on a bare rock he saw a little wisp of thorn and the red drops falling into the dust beside.
That summer Dabheoc died at Derg, with the vision still in his dark sight, and he was buried under the thorn tree by the other brethren.
Beautiful was the stone cross they carved above him, Dabheoc, the Saint of Derg, who had seen the Holy Wayfarer in the twilight of his years.”

For a discussion of the identity of Saint Dabheog, see Peter Harbison “Pilgrimage in Ireland: The Monuments and the People” 1991: 66-67, available on-line at
patricks purgatory
For St Patrick’s Purgatory, see :
“A monastery probably existed on the islands in Lough Derg from the fifth century and it probably included anchorites who lived in beehive cells – which may be preserved in some form in the penitential beds that can still be seen on Station Island.
Around 1130 the monastery was given to Augustinian Canons Regular by the authority of the cathedral in Armagh, under Saint Malachy. The monastery on Saints Island offered hospitality to pilgrims, who would visit in a spirit of penance and prayer. It also served as a place where pilgrims could prepare themselves for visiting the Purgatory. Documents report that pilgrims who did want to visit the Purgatory would arrive with letters of permission from a bishop, either from their own region or from Armagh. They would then spend fifteen days fasting and praying to prepare themselves for the visit to Station Island, a short boat ride away. At the end of the fifteen days, pilgrims would confess their sins, receive communion and undergo a few final rituals before being locked in the cave for twenty-four hours. The next morning the prior would open the door, and if the pilgrim were found alive, he would be brought back to Saints Island for another fifteen days of prayer and fasting.
From the time of St. Dabheoc, it appears that this region attracted pilgrims from far and wide. By the twelfth century they came from all over continental Europe, most likely sailing from England and landing at Dublin or Drogheda. From those ports they would make their way by foot, stopping at monasteries along the way on what would probably be a two-week journey across the Irish countryside to their destination. In this period many sinners and criminals were sent on pilgrimage to atone for their deeds and seek forgiveness. St. Patrick’s Purgatory would be a likely destination for these penitential pilgrims, or exiles, since communities of anchorites were often considered to have special power to absolve them.
The monastery was dissolved in 1632, although the local lord apparently allowed the monks to remain. By 1710 the Franciscans were present on the island in the summer to administer to the needs of the pilgrims.”
st dabheocs bed
St. Molaise’s and St. Dabheoc’s Bed, Station Island, Lough Derg
See also
Lough Derg
Shane Leslie “The Story of Patrick’s Purgatory” (1917) – text available on-line at
St John Seymour “Saint Patrick’s Purgatory. A Medieval Pilgrimage in Ireland” (1918) – text available on-line at
patricks purgatory 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: