St Buadan Church, Culdaff

Here was located an ancient hermitage. It is a spot of peace and wild beauty. The beat of the waves and the call of the seabirds are the only sounds which disturb this haven by the side of the Atlantic.
By the side of the river which drains the valley of Gleneely, and near the point where it reaches the sea, stands the village of Culdaff. To this spot many centuries ago came Buadan to seek a place of solitude and peace. Here he founded a monastery, which became a centre of culture and missionary activity.
When Buadan came to this place in the distant past he saw a corner of land located in the loop made by the river. The recess was completely wooded and the river was at certain places much wider. On the top of the height now known as Ardmore he cleared the trees and shrubs, and a crude form of shelter was built. Later a church and other buildings arose. A distinctive feature of the place was the two fords located so closely together. The people who lived around had noted this and gave the place the name which it still bears, Cuil da Ath-the corner of the two fords.
Buadan was a native of Inis Eoghain and was probably born within the area now known as the parish of Culdaff. He was educated at Both Chonais and Bangor and became actively involved in the evangelisation of his kinsmen in Scotland. Some time in the eighth century he left Carrowmore with a group of followers. He came to Culdaff and founded a missionary springboard for his work in Scotland. From here to the nearest point in Scotland is a mere forty miles.
One can easily imagine the constant flow of traffic from Culdaff to the west coast of the neighbouring country. Fruitful association was maintained between the monasteries, the Gaelic rulers and the ordinary people.
In the decline of monasticism in the twelfth century Culdaff continued as a place of worship for the people of the district. One relic of the old monastery survived, the Bell of St. Buadan, a ninth century production. When the re-organisation resulting from the reform movement in the Irish Church took place, in the early thirteenth century, Culdaff became a perpetual vicarage subject to the rector of Moville. The district under the control of the vicar corresponded to the older monastic areas of both Both Chonais and Buadan.

Cloncha Church

It is interesting to speculate as to why Culdaff was attached to Moville. Cloncha had fallen under Columban influence early. It would seem that Buadan's and Comhghall's maintained their independence. Moville and Both Chonais had close association with St. Patrick. Did this mean that these two sites maintained close links in the succeeding centuries, so that the grouping of Culdaff with Moville was a natural development ?

Culdaff is mentioned in 136722 and in the Papal documents of the fifteenth century?3 In 1605 the parish is mentioned in Bishop Montgomery's Survey?4 There is mention of a stone house here then.

In 1622 the Protestant Bishop of Derry reported that " the parish church had very good walls standing, fit to be built on but not covered "?5 The new rector was building a house and later the church was repaired and made suitable for worship. This report indicates that after the church and lands had been confiscated from the Catholics a decade before, the building was allowed to fall into disuse for a time. Indeed, the new rector had little use for
a place of worship, as he had not a single person of his own religious persuasion in the area at this time.

Bishop Nicholson, the Protestant ordinary at Derry, found in 1739 that the church was again in a ruinous and decayed state?s He ordered that the old building be pulled down and a new one built. The episcopal instructions were carried out and a new church arose on the old site in 1747. A tower was added in 1828, and the structure has remained unaltered since that date?

The original graveyard extended from Ardmore, where there are the remains of the old burial ground, across the road running

Cloncha Cross

through the village to where the church now stands. This was confirmed in the last century, when road-workers found human bones in the soil while road-widening. Both Catholics and Protestants used the graveyard here during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many parish priests of Culdaff in the postconfiscation period were buried there.

Of the many religious foundations in the parishes of Culdaff and Cloncha this site has the unique record of being the only one which continued as a place of worship from the eighth century until the present day.

As happened in many other areas, the re-building of the church effaced not only the older structure but all evidence of the early stone-work.

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