Early evidence

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Kilcorban (also rendered Kyllcarbayn, Kilcarbain or Kilcorbain) was named after an early medieval saint, Corban or Corbran of Cluana, who died in AD 732. Little is known of the saint and, while there is no physical or documentary evidence for a monastery in this period other than the toponym Kilcorban, a local tradition suggests that there was a monastery here in the early medieval period. A number of artefacts of ecclesiastical significance either have been found at this site or are tentatively associated with it.

A Chi-Rho pebble found at Kilcorban friary appears to be a prayer stone. This sandstone pebble, bearing the sacred monogram, was found beneath a bullaun stone during an archaeological survey of the site, leading to suggestions of an early medieval date for the pebble. The granite conglomerate bullaun stone has a large hollow carved in it. Such stones are a common find at early medieval ecclesiastical sites in Ireland and often have curative properties attributed to them. This example is said to cure warts. Together with a ‘carved grotesque head of sandstone’, now incorporated in the western wall of Kilcorban friary, which may be of twelfth-century date, a selection of evidence pre-dating the construction of the friary has been found at this site. Whether this is evidence of an earlier ecclesiastical site in the area or specifically of a monastery is unclear, as this material could have been moved from elsewhere. An oak sculpture depicting the Madonna and Child is associated with Kilcorban and has been dated to the twelfth or early thirteenth century. Other statues associated with the site include a late fifteenth-century depiction of St Catherine of Alexandria rendered in oak. This example is contemporary with the friary.


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