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About the Area

About the Area

Ardfert Retreat Centre is situated in the village of Ardfert, seven miles from Tralee. Banna Beach is just two miles from the Centre, while Ballyheigue Beach is just six miles further north, and Fenit harbour is six miles to the south

Ardfert has been referred to as the cradle of Christianity in Kerry. The modern Parish owes it's origins to the ecclesiastical settlement founded by St. Brendan in the latter half of the fifth Century. For centuries Ardfert gave it's name to the Diocese until modern times, when it was known as the Diocese of Kerry.The place-name Ardfert is translated as 'the height of the graves'. Little archaeological evidence of the original Christian settlement has survived except for the remants of a ditch that probably enclosed the site. In the eleventh century there is a reference to Ardfert in the annals of Inisfallen " Mac Mara got the gift of poetry after he had fasted 'against Brenainn at Ard Fhearta'. Ardfert also became an important burial place of the nobility. In 1058 AD Mael Gaimrid, chief poet of Ireland "rested in Christ" in Ardfert.

By the year 1117 Ardfert had become the Episcopal seat of the Diocese of Iar Mhumha, but there was a temporary loss of power to Rathass, Tralee, when the seat of the Bishop was transferred there. It returned to Ardfert c.1152.
The coming of the Normans to Kerry was followed later by the Dominicans, Cistercians, and Franciscans. The latter built a monastery in Ardfert c1252. The friars were driven out in 1584 and returned c. 1615. It was abandoned in 1766. Tradition tells us that some friars did remain in the Parish for some time later.

The Norman Fitzmaurices and their descendants were patrons of the church and many held high positions at Ardfert. A number of them are reputed to be buried there. Having a cathedral and a Friary in Ardfert added greatly to the powers and prestige of Ardfert. Close to the Cathedral are the lesser churches Temple na Griffin and Temple na Hoe. A round tower also stood next to the Cathedral until 1771.
Another important site in the Parish was 'Tobar na Molt', the Holy Well at Tubrid, Arfert. It is traditionally held to be the place where St. Brendan was baptised and for many centuries has been a pentitential site, with special days held for visitation.The principal days for visitation are the Saturdays before 1 May, Saturday before St. John's Day 24 June and the Saturday before Michaelmas.
The modern parish church dedicated to St. Brendan was built in 1853.It was designed by J.J.McCarthy, it is built in the Pugin Gothic style. The previous Church was built in 1783.Parish records of births and marriages from c. 1818 onwards have survived.

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