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Downings Church and Graveyard

Approximately 1.5 kilometres west of the village of Prosperous on the R403 stands the medieval ruins of Downings little church. It is distinguished as being the oldest church in the area, dating back to the Normans times. The site of the chapel was once the cell of St. Farnan, who is said to have introduced Christianity to Prosperous possibly as early as the sixth century. Adjacent to the graveyard is St. Farnan’s holy well. It is said that, in his day, he battled with doubt and uncertainty against drunkenness. Local tradition has it that St. Farnan blessed the well at Downings, and called it, “the Well of Sobriety, and saying that "whosoever drank of its water should never again relish the waters of intemperance."

Historians tell us that Oliver Cromwell’s forces, during the mid-17th century, on their march of destruction, battered the church with cannon fire from a rising spot on the hill of Gragues, called the “Wise man’s Garden”. (As the R403 rises after the graveyard)

According to Rev. John O’Hanlon (1874), St. Farnan’s feast day is the 15th February. However, locals have traditionally celebrated the feast of St. Farnan on the 12th June, a custom that survived for hundreds of years and which has recently been revived after a long absence.

The interior of this old building measures 42 feet 6 inches in length, while it is 16 feet in width. The walls are about 2 feet 7 inches in thickness. The church stood, within an ancient  cemetery, some distance from the public road and the burial-ground is enclosed with a stone wall and hedge.

Details and illustration by the writer, Canon John O’Hanlon 1874. (Lives of Irish Saints)

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A Cross Slab from Downings Church and Graveyard

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