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The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Irish Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,238 Religious Figures, 22 of which were born in Ireland. This makes Ireland the birth place of the 23rd most number of Religious Figures behind Austria and Belgium.

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 – 23 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, and 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 are 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 by scholars 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 Saint Brigid of Ireland (Irish: Naomh Bríd; Classical Gaelic: Brighid; 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 the important abbey of Kildare (Cill Dara), as well as several other convents of nuns. There are few historical facts about her, and her hagiographies are mainly anecdotes and miracle tales, some of which are rooted in pagan folklore. They say Brigid was the daughter of a chieftain and a slave woman, and was raised in a druid's household before becoming a consecrated virgin. She is patroness of many things, including poetry, learning, healing, protection, blacksmithing, livestock and dairy production. In her honour, a perpetual fire was kept burning at Kildare for centuries. Some historians suggest that Brigid is a Christianisation of the Celtic goddess, Brigid. The saint's feast day is 1 February, and traditionally it involves weaving Brigid's crosses and many other folk customs. It was originally a pre-Christian festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring. From 2023 it is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. 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-born prelate of the Catholic Church who has been a cardinal and has served as prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life since 2016. In 2019, he was appointed Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church as well. After his ordination in 1978, Farrell served as a chaplain and university teacher for several years in Mexico and worked in the United States from 1984 to 2016. He was an auxiliary bishop of Archdiocese of Washington in Washington D.C. from 2002 to 2007 and bishop of the Diocese of Dallas in Texas from 2007 to 2017.

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 (now 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.

Fiacre (Irish: Fiachra, Latin: Fiacrius) is the name of three different Irish saints, the most famous of which is Fiacre of Breuil (c. AD 600 – 18 August 670), the 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 and was martyred 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.

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 22 people classified as religious figures born between 451 and 1947. Of these 22, 2 (9.09%) 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, 6 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 4 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.