The full name of Emly in the Irish language is ‘Imleach Iubhair’ which literally means ‘The Border of the Lake of the Yew Trees.’ The yew tree reminds us of the pre-Christian history of Emly.
Emly is one of the oldest centres of Christianity in Ireland. We boast that it pre-dates our National Apostle, St. Patrick. Up until the early Middle Ages Emly was the seat of the premier diocese in the south of Ireland.
St. Ailbe is Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. Tradition tells us that he preached Christianity in Munster before the arrival of St. Patrick. He is also associated with the founding of a monastery at Emly. In their book ‘The Parish of Emly’ Michael and Liam O’Dwyer write, “Despite the complete obliteration of the layout of the original site we may presume that the monastic enclosure coincided with the present graveyard. The presence of a well and an inscribed cross, both tradition ally associated with St. Ailbe, and the fact that successive cathedrals occupied the area near the middle of the graveyard, are sufficient evidence for this assumption.”
Emly remained a Cathedral city until the 16th century.
Blessed Dermot O’Hurley was born at Emly about the year 1530. He spent much of his time working in Rome in the service of the Church. He was still a layman when in 1581, he was appointed Archbishop of Cashel. In 1583, O’Hurley arrived in a troubled Ireland. He never reached his diocese but was arrested, imprisoned and tried for treason. He was tortured and then executed.
Blessed Terence Albert O’Brien was the last bishop of the diocese of Emly. He was captured by the Cromwellian troops after the siege of Limerick and with other leaders was put to death.
In 1992 the Pope beatified Dermot O’Hurley and Terence Albert O’Brien in Rome.
Canon Maurice Power became Parish Priest of Emly in 1886. He found the fabric of the parish to be very ‘run down.’ He set about restoring some of the glory of Emly. In 1882 he completed the building of our Gothic church. It is a limestone structure with a be autiful façade and many fine stained glass windows.