Mass Rocks stand scattered around the Irish countryside in out-of-the way, difficult-to-find places, their secretive locations chosen with a purpose.
When the Penal Laws were enacted in 1695 making it illegal for Irish Catholics to practice their faith, they took to the hills and the mountains, to the forests and the caves in search of secretive spaces to gather and pray.
They found hidden places with a large rock that could be used as an altar, and usually surrounded by high ground, where look-outs could be posted to watch for approaching danger.
In today’s blog post I’m going to take you on a little video tour of one of these old Mass Rock sites located near Glenville, County Cork.
For me, Mass Rocks are important historical monuments where we can experience a tangible link to our past, and further our understanding of our unique Irish heritage. Mass Rock sites are places with deep spiritual ties for Irish people.
In the Irish language they are known as Carraig an Aifrinn (pronounced phonetically as Kar-rig on Aff-rin). This literally means Rock of the Mass.
The Mass Rock In The Glen:
Tony Kennedy is a film maker who shares his work on his YouTube channel, Rural Cork. He visits villages and places of North Cork meeting locals and having little chats, and sing songs, all the while uncovering the friendly warmth and welcome of Irish country life.
Recently Tony sent me a link for a video he recorded about the Mass Rock in Glenville, County Cork. This beautiful film resonated deeply with me, and I just knew I had to share it with you.
As I watched I immediately connected with the deep spiritual essence resonating within this sacred space.
Local historian Norma Buckley recounts the cultural significance of Glenville Mass Rock, and recalls the deep faith of the local people spanning the centuries. The haunting tones of Megan O’Mahony of Ceoltóirí Sliabh Luachra echoes beautifully as the background music.
This ancient Mass Rock lies three miles from Glenville village and sixteen miles north of Cork City. Here are the map coordinates for this serene spot ….. 52° 3’ 49.49’’ N -8° 27’ 41.44’’ W
A big thank you to Tony for giving me permission to share his work with you.
The Mass Rock Of My Childhood:
Many of Ireland’s Mass Rocks are difficult to find and lie on private lands. There is an old Mass Rock near where my mother grew up in West Cork, but it is on a farm in a very inaccessible place. I remember going to see it with my granny when I was a little girl.
She told me stories of sentinels standing on a rocky outcrop as Mass was being said. Their eyes scanned the countryside for approaching English soldiers, the people ready to scatter across the fields, scurrying their priest to safety.
Granny was a masterful storyteller, her words painting a vivid picture of these clandestine meetings. I could nearly hear the echoing hooves of approaching horsemen, as I listened to her tale.
Mass Rock In Kildorrery:
When I told my father I was going to write about the Mass Rock in Glenville, he replied ….
“Sure we have a Mass Rock in Kildorrery too.”
If I had only known I would have visited long ago, but I suppose I never listened closely to family stories when I was young and foolish.
Next time I’m in North Cork, I’ll definitely visit the Farahy Mass Rock and take some photos. It’s very close to my family’s farm.
Sacred Spaces of Ireland:
And so I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to Ireland’s Mass Rocks.
By their very design Mass Rock sites are usually in secretive places, and are extremely difficult to find. They definitely are not on the well beaten tourist trail.
If any readers have stories of Mass Rocks we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment and join in a little discussion about these thin places or sacred spaces of Ireland.
I have heard that some Mass Rocks are used to this very day. Gathering together to pray in these holy places is a wonderful way to commemorate our ancestors.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Here are some other posts you might find interesting.