There are at least twenty two Saints associated with County Carlow. In the townland of Garryhundon is Rathmelsh Cemetery – during the 7th & 8th centuries this was the most important Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical settlement in Ireland. From 678AD to 690AD Willibrord from Northumbria was trained and ordained here. From here he led other Carlow trained monks on a major mission to the Frisian Land. He initially built a cathedral in Utrecht, Holland but moved to the town of Echternach in Luxembourg where he founded an abbey. He is buried in Echternach, and he is the only Saint to be buried in Luxembourg. At his abbey, he also established an important scriptorium where many great bibles, psalms and prayer books were produced. It is likely that the first generation scribes were from Carlow or had trained here.
Great devotion and religious festivals are still held to this day in his honour and in particular a hopping procession, a dance that dates back to, if not predates St. Willibrord’s life time. The hopping procession takes place annually on the Tuesday after Pentecost Sunday. Over thirty thousand people from over 160 parishes across Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Germany descend on Echternach to partake. In 2010 the procession was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.
After World War Two the Basilica was reconstructed including the installation of a stain glass window depicting St Willibrord’s ordination and first mass at Rathmelsh in County Carlow. His Feast Day is November 7th.