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The Annals of Inisfallen are a chronicle of the medieval history of Ireland. They are diary-like, and list important happenings, like the deaths of kings and comets passing in the night sky. Ray Cavanaugh and Old Moore’s Almanac take a look at what they mean to modern-day Ireland.

There are more than 2,500 events throughout Ireland’s history penned into The Annals of Inisfallen. It is a chronicle of the medieval history of Ireland, scribed mostly by the monks of Innisfallen Abbey, on Innisfallen Island on Lough Leane, near Killarney. The events recorded in the Annals are thought to have taken place between AD 433 and AD 1450.

Remnants of other Annals still survive today. These chronological documents are often the only way to learn about important events of long ago. But of all of the annals that are available for gawking at these days, The Annals of Inisfallen seem to be the most famous. They contain more than 2,300 entries from the 5th to the 15th centuries. Over the years the responsibility of transcribing important historical events changed hands many times, in fact, the Annals of Innisfallen were compiled by a succession of 39 monastic scribes.

The first part of The Annals of Inisfallen was transcribed at the Monastery of Emly (in modern-day Tipperary) towards the end of the 10th century. The next part was rendered in County Clare at some point in the mid-11th century. Then in the 12th century, the manuscript was moved to the Abbey of Inisfallen, where all further contributions would be made. And it was named after its final destination.


Inisfallen is an island on Lough Leane, the “Lake of Learning”, in Killarney, Co. Kerry. The island was settled in 640 AD by Leinster native Finian Lobhar. He was also known over time as Saint Finian the Leper, whose festival day is observed on the eve of the Feast of Saint Patrick.


St. Finian established a leper colony at Inisfallen, in the 600s. Over time, use of the island as a leper colony faded out, and it morphed into one of the primary repositories of learning in early Christian Ireland. The site remained occupied for nine centuries, becoming an abbey for medieval Irish scholars. It is in the Abbey that the Annals of Inisfallen were completed. Written in Gaelic intermingled with Latin, the original manuscript contains 57 leaves. The beginning eight leaves narrate some of Ireland’s pagan history, as well as a concise version of world history in general. The final 57th leaf concludes with the year 1319. One of the most significant figures in the life of the Annals of Inisfallen was named Maelsuthan Ua Cerbhail.

Maelsuthan was a chief of the Eoghanacht of Loch Lein, a branch of a powerful southern Irish tribe that settled around the Lakes of Killarney. It is thought that he received his early education at the monastery on the island of Innisfallen and later became the school’s head. There he oversaw the future king Brian Boru’s education at the monastery. As Brian Boru went from student to king, he made Maelsuthan his anmchara (a term that can refer to an advisor a confessor). Maelsuthan was an important scholar, often credited for beginning the Annals of Innisfallen. Although this has come into dispute over the years.

Despite the remoteness of its location, the Abbey was raided at least three times: twice by Vikings and once by a rogue Irishman. However, none of these acts of violence would destroy the Abbey; after each raid, the monks would recover and re-establish their scholarly stronghold. Lasting defeat would not occur until 18 August 1594, when Elizabeth I forcibly banished the monks from their centre of learning.  From there, it was abandoned as a monastery and place of learning, and the Annals eventually ended up in England.


The abandoned site would eventually take on a cult-like status among certain poets, especially those of the romantic vein, such as Dublin-born bard Thomas Moore, who waxed all sentimental about the isle in his ballad Sweet Innisfallen.

So what now remains of the Abbey? Though its 7th century beginnings are gone, parts of its 10th, 12th, and 13th century construction still stand proud. And you can visit them for yourself, as Inisfallen is open for tourism during the summer months, when boats head to the island daily.

The Annals of Inisfallen are currently held in the the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In 2001, Brian O’Leary, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Killarney, called for the annals to be returned to the town.



Below are some examples of entries in the Annals of Inisfallen. The full text can be found here.


Annal AI433


Kl. The first feria [Sunday]. Conversion of the Scotti to the Christian Faith.

Annal AI434


Kl. The first prey by the Saxon from Ireland.[AU 434].

Annal AI435


Kl. The third feria [Tuesday]. Orosius and Cyril flourished in the doctrine. [AU 435, 436].


Great snow.

Annal AI436


Kl. Death of king Bresal Brec. [AU 435, 436].

Annal AI437


Kl. The ninth of the moon. Beginning of the Great Circle.

Annal AI438


Kl. The twentieth of the moon.

Annal AI439


K. The first feria [Sunday]. Secundinus, Auxilius, and Isserninus are sent to help Patrick; nevertheless, not they, but Patrick alone held the apostleship. [AU 439].

Annal AI440


Kl. The second feria [Monday], twelfth of the moon.


Repose of Augustine, a learned man. [AU 440].


Death of Maine, son of Niall [Naígiallach]

Annal AI441


Kl. The approval of Saint Patrick in the Catholic Faith. [AU 441].

Annal AI442


Kl. The fourth of the moon. A comet appeared.

Annal AI443


Kl. Patrick flourished in the doctrine of Christ. [AU 443].

Annal AI444


Kl. An eclipse of the sun in the ninth hour.

Annal AI445


Kl. The third [feria]. Theodosius, who reigned twenty-six years.


Nath Í, son of Fiachra, [died]. [AU 444].

Annal AI446



Annal AI447


Kl. The battle of Mag Feimin between the Munstermen and the Laigin, in which fell Mac Cáirthinn son of Caelub [AU 447].

Annal AI448


Kl. Repose of Saint Secundinus. [AU 47].

Annal AI449



Annal AI450



Annal AI451


Kl. The synod of Chalcedon assembles. [AU 457].

Annal AI463


Kl. The death of Laegaire, son of Niall, at Grellach Dabaill between two hills, namely Ériu and Alba. [AU 462].

Annal AI464


Kl. Ailill Molt reigned. [AU 463].

Annal AI465


Kl. Isserninus fell asleep. [AU 468].

Annal AI466


Kl. The battle of Ard Corainn. [AU 464].

Annal AI467



Annal AI468


Kl. Repose of bishop Benignus … dies in Rome.


Death of Leo the Minor who reigned sixteen years, and Eman (Zeno) becomes emperor.

Annal AI469


Kl. The Festival of Temuir [celebrated] by Ailill Molt. [AU 467, 469, 470].

Annal AI470


Kl. The battle of Duma Aichir [gained] against Ailill Molt. Illann was victor. [AU 468, 474, 476].



Annal AI471


Kl. The second prey of the Saxon from Ireland. [AU 471].

Annal AI472



Annal AI473



Annal AI480


Kl. The son of Conall, son of Cremthann, son of Niall dies. [AU 480].

Annal AI481


Kl. Repose of Iarlaithe, the third abbot of Ard Macha [AU 481].

Annal AI482


Kl. The battle of Uchbath [gained] over the Laigin by Crimthann, or by Fiachra Glomrach, son of Caelub, son of Crund, of Dál Araide. [AU 482, 483].

Annal AI485


Kl. The battle of Granard (Mac Erce victor), in which Finnchad, king of the Laigin, fell; and Cairpre [was] victor, as others say. [AU 485, 486].


The mortal wounding of Crimthann Ceinnselach, king of Laigin, whom Echaid Glúinech slays. [AU 483, 485].

Annal AI486


Kl. Birth of Brénainn, son of Finnlug.

Annal AI487


Kl. Death of Crimthann Ceinnselach. [AU 483, 485].

Annal AI488



Annal AI489



Annal AI491


Kl. Repose of Cianán of Dam Liac. [AU 489].


Death of Zeno, who reigned seventeen years.


Anastasius becomes emperor. [AU 491].



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