St. Jarlath - September

Jarlath is regarded as the founder and principle patron of the Archdiocese of Tuam in Galway, Ireland. He belonged to the Conmaicne family, then the most important and powerful family in Galway. Jarlath was trained by Benignus, archbishop of Armagh, and ordained a priest along with his cousin. He founded the monastery of Cluain Fois, outside Tuam, as abbot-bishop. Later, Jarlath opened a school attached to the monastery, which was known as a great center of learning. St. Brendan of Clonfert and St. Colman of  Cloyne were among his pupils at the school. Jarlath died around 550 A.D.

The name TUAM comes from the Latin term "Tumulus" which means burial mound.

The history of Tuam dates back to the bronze age when the area was used as a burial ground. In the 19th century a bronze age burial urn was discovered in the area. A glass photograph of it is still in existence As a modern settlement, Tuam dates from the early 6th century.

St. Jarlath, a member of a religious community at Cloonfush, some four miles west of Tuam and adjacent to the religious settlement at Kilbannon, wished to seek new horizons. Jarlath's Abbot, St. Benin told him to "Go, and where ever your chariot wheel breaks, there shall be the site of your new monastery and the place of your resurrection". Jarlath's wheel broke at Tuam and a monastery and town grew here that was to have the broken chariot wheel as it's symbol.

Tuam became prominent in the mid 11th century when the O'Conor Kings of East Connacht established their headquarters in Tuam. The O'Conors defeated the O'Flaherty chieftains of West Connacht and became Kings of all Connacht. In 1111, Turlough (Mor) O'Conor became High King of Ireland by force and made Tuam the centre of power in the 12th century. Turlough O'Conor, 1111- 1156 was a great patron of the Irish Church so that Tuam became the home of some masterpieces of 12th century Celtic art.

The most magnificent surviving item from this period is the "Cross of Cong" housed in the National Museum in Dublin. Commissioned by Turlough O'Conor to carry a fragment of the true cross brought from Rome to Ireland in the year of his inauguration as High King. The material of this cross is bog oak covered with delicate gold filigree and bejeweled with precious stones. It is said to have originally been a processional cross in Tuam Cathedral, and although of small proportions its craftsmanship retains perfection even when greatly magnified.

Turlough O'Conor's son, Roderick (Ruairi) was to be the last High King 1156-1185 when he abdicated. He could no longer claim authority over the whole of the country because of the Norman invasion took control of Dublin and the east.

In the year 1613, Tuam received a royal charter from James the first of England which enabled Tuam to send two representatives to parliament. The Charter also allowed the town to set up a formal local authority, the forerunner of the present day Town Commissioners and a sovereign and 12 burgesses were elected. The sovereign was sworn into office at the site of the "Chair of Tuam" which is believed to be situated within the remaining tower of Ruairi O'Conors wonderful stone castle. On this site a new "Chair of Tuam" was unveiled in May 1980 by the late Cardinal O'Fiach.

Following the Synod of Kells in 1152, the highly decorated but incomplete High Cross of Tuam was placed by the first Cathedral near today's St. Mary's Cathedral, to commemorate the appointment of the first Archbishop of Tuam. It was built under the patronage of the High King to mark the establishment of Tuam as the seat of an Archbishop, which remains today. It is made of sandstone and bears a request for a prayer for King Turlough's repose. At its base are the figures of King Turlough and on his left hand side the Archbishop Hugh O'Hession.

The first Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1184 and the High Cross was dismantled with the pieces scattered throughout the town. In 1820, Dr. George Petrie, archeologist, discovered the base of the High Cross in what is now a town parking lot with the aid of a local named Hession. The coincidence O'Hession and Hession impressed Dr. Petrie and he hunted the area if there were any to see what other pieces. These assembled pieces are is called the High Cross of Tuam today.

In  late 1980's, it was noticeable that the design on the Cross was deteriorating due to the weather. After four years of bickering the Office of Public works, the state body charged with the care and maintenance of National monuments, removed the Cross from The Square in April 1992. Following cleaning and some minor restoration the High Cross was re-erected in the south transept of St. Mary's Cathedral were it stands today.