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Mass rock, Beach

Category: 

This magical site includes a mass rock and a holy well. The mass rock is a large rectangular flat  rock which was used as an outdoor altar in Penal times, when Catholics were forbidden their own churches. Priests had to administer mass in the open air and in secret, the congregation being notified by word of mouth. This seems to have been tolerated in the Bantry area and the priest and his congregation were left alone. However, a story goes that a new and zealous captain in charge  of the soldiers at the headquarters in Donemark Mills decided that enough was enough:  'And seemingly (he) did send out soldiers to the Mass at the well, and the story was that when the appeared on high ground in front, the priest decided to take his chalice and host and hide it, and began to run, but the people watching saw what they  thought was a Lady with a light blue cloak on the rock behind the altar where the statue is now. The Lady slipped the cloak down over the whole thing and blocked off the scene of the altar and the Mass from the soldiers. And when the soldiers saw this they turned and away and left.'

Today the altar is covered with all sorts of artefacts, including statues of Mary, as is the small hill behind the rock. A large statue, erected in 1952, gazes down on the whole site.

Lady's Well

Townland: 
Beach
Location: 
Signed posted from the coast road from Bantry to Kilcrohane (Goat's Path)
References: 
V969 473
Fieldnotes: 

This is an extraordinary site, beautifully kept and still obviously revered. It is on a high ridge over looking Bantry Bay to the north and surrounded by pasture to the south. The mass rock is at the base of the ridge and covered in offerings. In little hillside behind it lots of little statues have been placed. The large statue of the BVM looks down on the whole site and beyond.  Next to the mass rock is the holy well, probably visited and revered for centuries before the rock was used as an altar. Which ever way you approach the site is quite tricky - you either have to walk through boggy fields or clambered down the slippery path but the sense of peace and wonder is your reward.

A Mass is still held here on the 15th August, Feast Day of the Assumption. I visited on that day in 2014 and the whole hillside had been decorated with hydrangeas, the altar laid with a crisp clean cloth and lilies in jars amongst the statues.