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The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Ireland

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This page contains a list of the greatest Irish Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,238 Religious Figures, 23 of which were born in Ireland. This makes Ireland the birth place of the 20th most number of Religious Figures behind Switzerland and Syria.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Irish Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Irish Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Irish Religious Figures.

Photo of Columbanus

1. Columbanus (540 - 615)

With an HPI of 64.52, Columbanus is the most famous Irish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages on wikipedia.

Columbanus (Irish: Columbán; 543 – 21 November 615) was an Irish missionary notable for founding a number of monasteries after 590 in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms, most notably Luxeuil Abbey in present-day France and Bobbio Abbey in present-day Italy. Columbanus taught an Irish monastic rule and penitential practices for those repenting of sins, which emphasised private confession to a priest, followed by penances levied by the priest in reparation for the sins. Columbanus is one of the earliest identifiable Hiberno-Latin writers.

Photo of Brendan

2. Brendan (484 - 578)

With an HPI of 61.74, Brendan is the 2nd most famous Irish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.

Brendan of Clonfert (c. AD 484 - c.577), is one of the early Irish monastic saints and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is also referred to as Brendan the Navigator, Brendan the Voyager, Brendan the Anchorite, Brendan the Bold. The Irish translation of his name is Naomh Bréanainn or Naomh Breandán. He is mainly known for his legendary voyage to find the “Isle of the Blessed” which is sometimes referred to as “Saint Brendan’s Island”. The written narrative of his journey comes from the immram The Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, (Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot). Saint Brendan's feast day is celebrated on 16 May by Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox Christians.

Photo of Columba

3. Columba (521 - 597)

With an HPI of 60.68, Columba is the 3rd most famous Irish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Columba or Colmcille (7 December 521 – 9 June 597 AD) was an Irish abbot and missionary evangelist credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland at the start of the Hiberno-Scottish mission. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the patron saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Catholic saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.Columba studied under some of Ireland's most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 AD he and his twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll, in Kintyre before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Ulster kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Celtic Christianity among the pagan Northern Pictish kingdoms. He remained active in Irish politics, though he spent most of the remainder of his life in Scotland. Three surviving early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to him.

Photo of Mary Jane Kelly

4. Mary Jane Kelly (1863 - 1888)

With an HPI of 58.45, Mary Jane Kelly is the 4th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Mary Jane Kelly (c. 1863 – 9 November 1888), also known as Marie Jeanette Kelly, Fair Emma, Ginger, Dark Mary and Black Mary, is widely believed to have been the final victim of the notorious unidentified serial killer Jack the Ripper, who murdered at least five women in the Whitechapel and Spitalfields districts of London from late August to early November 1888. At the time of Kelly's death, she was approximately 25 years old, working as a prostitute and living in relative poverty.Unlike the other four canonical Ripper victims—each of whom had been murdered outdoors and whose mutilations could have been committed within minutes—Kelly was murdered within the sparsely furnished single room she rented at 13 Miller's Court, affording her murderer an extensive period of time to eviscerate and mutilate her body. Kelly's body was by far the most extensively mutilated of the canonical victims, with her mutilations taking her murderer approximately two hours to perform.

Photo of Brigid of Kildare

5. Brigid of Kildare (451 - 525)

With an HPI of 57.05, Brigid of Kildare is the 5th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (Irish: Naomh Bríd; Latin: Brigida; c. 451 – 525) is the patroness saint (or 'mother saint') of Ireland, and one of its three national saints along with Patrick and Columba. According to medieval Irish hagiographies, she was an abbess who founded several convents of nuns, most notably that of Kildare, which was one of the most important in Ireland. There are few historical facts about her, and early hagiographies are mainly anecdotes and miracle tales, some of which are rooted in pagan folklore. She is patroness of many things, including poetry, learning, healing, protection, blacksmithing, livestock and dairy production. The saint shares her name with a Celtic goddess. Brigid's feast day is 1 February, which was originally a pre-Christian festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. From 2023 it will be a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, the first named after a woman. This feast day is shared by Dar Lugdach, who tradition says was her student, close companion, and successor.

Photo of Kevin Farrell

6. Kevin Farrell (1947 - )

With an HPI of 56.08, Kevin Farrell is the 6th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Kevin Joseph Farrell, KGCHS (born September 2, 1947) is an Irish-American prelate and Cardinal. A former member of the Legion of Christ, he served as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, as well as the chancellor of the University of Dallas. On September 1, 2016, Farrell was appointed the prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. He was created a cardinal on November 19, 2016 by Pope Francis.

Photo of Saint Kilian

7. Saint Kilian (640 - 689)

With an HPI of 55.02, Saint Kilian is the 7th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Kilian, also spelled Cillian or Killian (or alternatively Irish: Cillín; Latin: Kilianus), was an Irish missionary bishop and the Apostle of Franconia (Franconia is nowadays the northern part of Bavaria), where he began his labours in the latter half of the 7th century. His feast day is 8 July.

Photo of Saint Fiacre

8. Saint Fiacre (607 - 668)

With an HPI of 53.28, Saint Fiacre is the 8th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Saint Fiacre (Irish: Fiachra, Latin: Fiacrius) is the name of three different Irish saints, the most famous of which is Saint Fiacre of Breuil (c. AD 600 – 18 August 670), the Catholic priest, abbot, hermit, and gardener of the seventh century who was famous for his sanctity and skill in curing infirmities. He emigrated from his native Ireland to France, where he constructed for himself a hermitage together with a vegetable and herb garden, oratory, and hospice for travellers. He is the patron saint of gardeners.

Photo of Dymphna

9. Dymphna (700 - 700)

With an HPI of 52.83, Dymphna is the 9th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Dymphna is a Christian saint honoured in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. According to tradition, she lived in the 7th century. She was murdered by her father. The story of Dymphna was first recorded in the 13th century by a canon of the Church of Aubert of Avranches at Cambrai, France. It was commissioned by Guiard of Laon, the Bishop of Cambrai (1238-1248). The author expressly stated that his work was based upon a long-standing oral tradition as well as a persuasive history of miraculous healings of the mentally ill.

Photo of Kevin of Glendalough

10. Kevin of Glendalough (498 - 618)

With an HPI of 52.62, Kevin of Glendalough is the 10th most famous Irish Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Saint Kevin (modern Irish Caoimhín; Old Irish Cóemgen, Caemgen; latinized Coemgenus; 498 (reputedly)–3 June 618) is an Irish saint, known as the founder and first abbot of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland. His feast day is 3 June.

Pantheon has 23 people classified as religious figures born between 451 and 1947. Of these 23, 2 (8.70%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Kevin Farrell and Seán Brady. The most famous deceased religious figures include Columbanus, Brendan, and Columba. As of April 2022, 7 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Saint Fiacre, Catald, and Finnian of Clonard.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2022)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 5 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.