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Irish Ecclesiastical Record


Library of Alexandria
The See Of Derry. The territory of Cineal-Eoghain, from a very early period, formed a distinct diocese, which took its name from the church of Arderath, now Ardstraw, situated on the River Derg, and founded by St. Eugene, first bishop of this see. In the synod of Rathbreasail, an. 1110, it is called “Dioecesis Ardsrathensis” though probably in that very year the city of Derry was chosen for the episcopal residence. “Sedes Episcopalis,” writes Dr. O'Cherballen, bishop of the see in 1247, “a tempore limitationis Episcopatuum Hyberniae in villa Darensi utpote uberiori et magis idoneo loco qui in sua Dioecesi habeatur, extitit constituta.” For some years this arrangement continued undisturbed, till the appointment of Dr. O'Coffy, who about the year 1150 transferred his see to Rathlure, a church dedicated to St. Luroch; and subsequently, for one hundred years, we find the see designated “Dioecesis Rathlurensis,” or “de Rathlurig,” under which name it appears in the lists of Centius Camerarius. Dr. Muredach O'Coffy was a canon regular of the order of St. Augustine, and “was held in great repute for his learning, humility, and charity to the poor”— (Ware). The old Irish annalists style him “the sun of science; the precious stone and resplendent gem of knowledge; the bright star and rich treasury of learning; and as in charity, so too was he powerful in pilgrimage and prayer.” He assisted at the Synod of Kells, which was convened by Cardinal Paparo in 1152, and in the catalogue of its bishops he is styled from the territory occupied by his see, the Bishop of Cineal-Eoghain. His death is marked in our annals on the 10th of February, 1173/4. Amlaf O'Coffy succeeded the same year, and is also eulogized by our annalists as “a shining light, illuminating both clergy and people.” He was translated to Armagh in 1184, but died the following year. Our ancient records add that “his remains were brought with great solemnity to Derry and interred at the feet of his predecessor.” Florence O'Cherballen next governed the see, from 1185 to 1230; whilst the episcopate of his successor, Friar German O'Cherballen, embraced well nigh half a century, extending from 1230 to his death in 1279. It was during the administration of this last-named bishop that the episcopal see was once more definitively fixed in Derry. The Holy See, by letter of 31st May, 1247, commissioned the Bishop of Raphoe, the Abbot of the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul in Armagh, and the Prior of Louth, to investigate the reasons set forth by Dr. Germanus for abandoning the church of Rathlure. The following extract from the Papal letter preserves to us the chief motive thus alleged by Bishop Germanus: “Cum villa Rathlurensis pene sit inaccessibilis propter montana, nemora et paludes, quibus est undique circumcincta, aliasque propter sterilitatem ipsius et necessariorum defectum nequeat ibi dictus Episcopus vel aliquis de suis canonicis residere, nec clerus ejusdem dioecesis illuc convenire ad synodum et ad alia quae saepius expedirent praefatus episcopus nobis humiliter supplicavit ut utilitatibus Rathlurensis Ecclesiae, ac cleri ejusdem misericorditer providentes sedem ipsam reduci ad locum pristinum Darensem villam videlicet de benignitate Sedis Apostolicae faceremus”— (Mon. Vatic. pag. 48