At a height of just over 250m, Maumeen is a mountain pass in Connemara, County Galway, that links the Maum and Inagh Valleys through the Maumturk mountains.
The name comes from the Irish “Maum na Éan”
which literally means “Pass of the Birds”
Two thousand years ago Maumeen was an important Celtic shrine. In oral history it is connected with a deity known as Crom Dubh. From this vantage point the coast is clearly visible in one direction and the inland valleys in the other direction. It is easy to imagine how, at harvest time, this would have been a great location for a seasonal festival at which the coast-dwelling Celts and their valley-dwelling cousins could each exchange their produce with each other and party into the night.
The site was claimed by the early Christian church and they turned it into a shrine dedicated to Saint Patrick. During the 17th and 18th Centuries the “Penal Laws” outlawed the Catholic church. During that period Maumeen was used as a type of clandestine outdoor church known as a "mass rock".
After the repeal of the Penal Laws in the mid-19th Century, Maumeen returned to being the destination of an annual pilgrimage. By the early years of the 20th Century the pilgrimage had once more achieved a reputation more for partying than for piety and the Catholic church withdrew its support for the annual event.
In the last thirty years the tradition of a pilgrimage was re-established. Where once there was an outdoor mass rock, a small chapel called "Cillín Phádraig"
, dedicated to St. Patrick, has been built.
The statue by Cliodna Cussen, dated 1986, depicts Patrick with a ram. The inscription in Irish on the base reads "Pádraig Mór na hÉireann, Aoire Máméan"
(meaning "Patrick-the-Great of Ireland: Shepherd of Maumeen"