The Plague of 664 AD

Did you know that the first place the plague of AD 664 was recorded in Ireland was in Co. Carlow! The exact location was the famed religious settlement of Rath Melsigi, founded by the great St Ecgberct of Rath Melsigi & Iona.

The Venerable Bede, the Father of English History, recorded the plague in his AD 731 seminal book, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Rath Melsigi was the most important Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical settlement in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was from here in AD 690 that St Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg, First Apostle to the Netherlands, set out on his famous mission after spending twelves years in Carlow being formed as a missionary monk.

three men in suits outside standing around a medieval stone cross

Unveiling the restored 7th century Cross of Rath Melsigi, County Carlow, on Wednesday 7th August 2019 were (L to R) Ivan Healy, Honorary Consul General to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Yves Wengler, Mayor of Echternach, Luxembourg and Cllr. John Pender, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council.

According to Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Emeritus Professor, Department of History, NUI Galway, “Rath Melsigi is at the heart of the Irish and English engagement with the continent in the Early Middle Ages. From here a group of Irishmen and Englishmen set out in AD 690 on a voyage that would transform the religious and political landscape of Europe forever and lay the foundations for the great cultural revival of the decades leading up to AD 800 that scholars call The Carolingian Renaissance.”

Prof. Ó Cróinín, whose research is the basis of rekindling Rath Melsigi’s European connections, has written about the Plague of AD 664 in an RTÉ Brainstorm article which you can read in full here