On Monday 7th August, Senator David Norris, will attend the official unveiling of a Plaque to commemorate Saint Benedict of Durrow, the man that legend has it, became Pope and Bishop of Rome for two days – Ireland’s First Pope. The unveiling will take place in The Square, Durrow at 2pm. 

The Story

A tale circulates among the people of the Aran Islands, recounting the legend of a man from Durrow, Co. Laois, who briefly held the position of Pope and Bishop of Rome. The renowned Saint Benedict, hailing from Durrow, was born around 460 AD to Lugneay, the King of Ossory and rightful heir to the throne. As a young man, he departed from his home to study under St. Fintan at Clonenagh, where he developed a deep friendship with Colmcille, a Prince of the Royal House of Ireland. After their ordination, both Benedict and Colmcille journeyed to the Monastery established by St. Enda on Innishmore.

Years passed as they devoted themselves to prayer. Colmcille eventually embarked on a mission to Iona, while Benedict became the faithful assistant and companion of St. Enda. In 522, Benedict and Enda set off for Rome. During their time in the Eternal City, the reigning Holy Father, St. Hormisdus, passed away.

Impressed by Benedict’s devoutness, the elders chose him as the successor. He assumed the name Pope Pupeus. However, legend has it that the following day, as St. Enda bid him farewell, the emotional separation overwhelmed the newly elected Pontiff. Without hesitation, he called upon the Church Elders once more and commanded another election to take place. On this occasion, Pope John the 1st was chosen.

St. Enda and Benedict returned to Aran, where Benedict succeeded Enda as the Abbot following his death. They were laid to rest side by side in the now-ruined Cathedral of Aran. Both saints are celebrated on March 21st. The Book of Cashel, which traces the lineage of the fourteen Saints of the Royal House of Ossory, refers to St. Benedict as ‘Ipse est Papa Pupeous,’ signifying his brief papal reign.

Source: An Historical and Social Diary of Durrow, County Laois, 1708-1992, Edward O’Brien, Millfield Press, 1992