This town was formerly called Ross Ailithir, it was a cathedral town, and seat of the Bishop of Ross. St. Fachtna was founder of the diocese in the sixth century, and also founder of the famous school of Ross. St. Brendan, the Navigator, taught in this school, which was crowded by students from every land. St. Facthna died at the early age of forty-six, but was succeeded in his See by twenty-seven bishops of his own tribe, all descended from Ith, the paternal uncle of Milesius.

The Four Masters make frequent mention of Ross-ailithir during the ninth century. It was ravaged by the Danes in 840. In the tenth and eleventh centuries we find no mention of a bishop or abbot but only of an “airchinnech,” that is a lay man exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction. This probably was necessary owing to the disturbed state of the times. Those persons had always ecclesiastics under them to perform spiritual functions.

This school continued to flourish till about the middle of the twelth century. In 1127 O’Conor sailed to Ross-ailithir and despoiled Desmond. In the tenth century MacCosse composed a geographical treatise which is preserved in the Book of Leinster. It is in the form of a poem, and consists of one hundred and thirty-six lines. It is a most interesting manual, as it gives us a knowledge of the learning imparted in the darkest of the dark ages. The author not only gives the physical features of the different countries, but also their natural productions. He describes the five Zones, and the three Continents, and tells his readers that Asia is the largest. It is a country where “soft and balmy breezes blow,” and where two harvests ripen in one year. India is a country remarkable “for its magnets, and its diamonds, its pearls, its gold dust, and its carbuncles.” He calls Egypt the most fertile of all lands. He gives the names of the chief towns and the principal rivers of Europe. He finally comes to Ireland and calls it a “pleasant and joyous land, wealth abounding … the most fertile land that is under the sun.”

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