Steps of Saint Cowey


Mill Isle, Ireland

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Wall Art


Artist's Description

St. Cowey (or St. Cooey) is a little-known monastic saint who lived near Portaferry on the tip of the Ards Peninsula in the late 7th and early 8th centuries.

For many years he labored there as a hermit, sending up his prayers to God during his long nightly vigils in the depths of the forest. Three holy wells are still to be found where he labored, as well as an ancient church built amidst them, which looks eastward over the Irish Sea.

Beside the church, an ancient cemetery completes the view that greets the pilgrim’s eye. St. Cowey’s holiness attracted many to his quiet, little hermitage. Tradition holds that he was made abbot of the great Moville Monastery further north on the peninsula in 731, possibly shortly before he reposed around the middle of the 8th century.

His memory has been kept and treasured by the local inhabitants of the nearby town of Portaferry for over twelve hundred years.

Saint Cooeys Wells

South of Portaferry and towards Ballyquintin Point, sign posted, stands the Holy Wells founded in the 7th century by Saint Cowey.

According to tradition it was here that Saint Cowey performed his penitential exercises in the late 7th and 8th centuries.

The foundations of a church, a small church, modern altar and three Holy Wells may be found.

A drinking well, wishing well and eye well are still visited by pilgrims and reputed to have healing powers.

A short distance from the church on the shore a flat rock can be found with deep indentations, which, according to popular belief mark where Saint Cowey placed his hands and feet whilst in prayer. Access is from a gate at the car park, a path leads to steps down to the Wells where seating is available.


Artwork Comments

  • ragman
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  • roybarry
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  • AineMacAodha
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