Up the hill and around the corner from the Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Cahirkeem, the landscape unfolds into a beautiful sight. The rugged terrain meets an extraordinarily blue sea, anchored by a hill dotted with lush, green farmland. Just up ahead is an unassuming lay by with a very interesting past. Slow down or you just might miss it!
Across the road from the lay by is a hill known as Cnocan an Aifrinn. (The hillock of the Mass) Upon careful inspection stone steps can be seen rising up to an age old, well worn path.
At the end of the seventeenth century the Irish were deprived of their political and civil rights, including the right to educate their children, the right to own property, the right to vote, and the right to practice religion. This desperate period was referred to as the Penal Times. It was dangerous to worship in public places, so isolated areas were sought out for clandestine masses.
The altar used for the ceremonies was known as a Mass Rock.
Climbing the hill one can almost feel the trepidation that must have accompanied the worshipers in days gone by. The scenic view is gorgeous and reveals the dichotomy of the place. Such immense beauty is laid out before one’s eyes to be appreciated, but also to be scanned with a wary eye for those who would punish the prayerful. The winding path continues to weave upwards until a large, flat rock appears. A handsome stone cross marks the place where the mass would have been said in whispers.