By Joe McGowan and Gerry Regan

St. Malachy

Though he apparently struck out with the papal enclave's selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, one of Ireland's most beloved seers still carries an impressive track record of predicting Popes.

The man with the (usually) golden touch is Maelmaedoc Ó Morgair, or, as he is popularly known, St. Malachy. Malachy was born in County Down about 1094, and died Nov. 2, 1148, in Clairvaux, France, but before his passing he left a reputation for clairvoyance that has withstood the test of time.

Malachy's family, the aristocratic O'Moores, moved to Armagh while Malachy was an infant. Educated by some of Ireland's most learned teachers, among them the saintly Imhar O'Hagan, Malachy decided to devote his life to the service of God. Ordained by Cellach, Archbishop of Armagh, in 1119 he shortly afterwards served as vicar general to him.

In the esoteric world of Catholic seers and seeresses, Malachy is perhaps best remembered for his reputed prophecies concerning the Papal Succession. An impressive number of these predictions, which were typically couched in metaphor, have the ring of truth. For example, of the pope he predicted would follow Anastasius IV (reigned 1153-1154), Malachy wrote "De rure albo" (Field of Albe). Anastasius' successor, English-born Adrian IV (left), credited by many Unionists with giving Ireland to the English, was born in the Hertfordshire town of St. Alban.

A story, perhaps apocryphal, has made its way around the Internet concerning one-time New York Archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman. The tale goes that, prior to the conclave that would elect Pope John XXIII in 1958, the ambitious Spellman hired a boat, filled it with sheep and sailed it up and down Rome's Tiber River to better fit Malachy's criterion for the next pope, that is, "pastor et nautor" (pastor and sailor). Spellman, of course, lost out to Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who prior to his election, was patriarch of Venice, known for its canals and gondolas.

Malachy's prediction for Pope John Paul II also gives pause. It reads: "De Labore Solus" ("From the toil of the sun," or "from the eclipse of the sun.") Karol Wojtyla was born May 18, 1920, during a solar eclipse. His April 8th funeral transpired when there was a solar eclipse visible in the Americas. Malachy's prediction for the new pope — "Gloria Olivae," or "the glory of the olive" — was thought by some to be a reference to an olive-skinned cleric, perhaps from the Mediterranean or South America, or a known peacemaker, or even the Benedectine order, a branch of which is known as the "Olivetans."
'... the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.'

Malachy, though, seems to have been blindsided by the selection of Ratzinger, who garnered the nickname "God's Rottweiler" for his strict enforcement of Church tradition and doctrine while dean of the College of Cardinals. Still, Ratzinger though not a Benedictine, selected the name Benedict XVI. Oddsmakers at pegged the German, the first pope from that country since the 11th century, a 29-1 shot, behind four others.

Malachy concluded his predictions with the following apocalyptic note, translated from the original Latin: "In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Catholic Church there will reign Peter the Roman ("Petrus Romanus"), who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people."

According to some interpretations of Malachy's prophecies, the upcoming Pope ("Gloria Olivae") will directly precede "Petrus Romanus," the last Pope.

Those concerned about the imminence of the end might also derive additional comfort from skeptics, who point to the history of Malachy's alleged papal prophecies. In 1139, Malachy travelled to Rome and presented an account of the affairs of his diocese to Pope Innocent II (left). According to Abbe Cucherat, while there, Malachy had his vision of the unfolding line of succession to Peter's throne till the end of time. Cucherat relates that Malachy recorded his vision in manuscript form, presenting it to Innocent II. The document, though, remained buried in the papal archives until its emergence in 1590. The disappearance of the manuscript for four centuries and the silence of Bernard of Clairvaux, Malachy's biographer, on the prophecies suggest the manuscript is bogus. But that doesn't quite negate the prophecy's impressive matchups in the subsequent centuries.

St. Malachy was canonized by Pope Clement III, on July 6, 1199, and his feast is celebrated November 3, according to Catholic Encyclopedia, to avoid conflict with the Feast of All Souls.

Did Malachy Create "The Troubles"?

Whatever one's view of the veracity of Malachy's papal picks, Malachy does score impressively in a prophecy about his native isle, predicting England's centuries-long oppression of Ireland.

Norman boatmen, from a contemporary tapestry.
But did he also abet that sorry state of affairs? It would seem at least a possibility.

Although there is no evidence to support it, some claim that Malachy was the real architect of the mischief of inviting English interference in Ireland.

Malachy was well known for his impatience with the pace of Church reform in Ireland. Boasting of his work in "rooting out," to use his biographer St. Bernard's (right) words, "barbarous rites, to plant the rites of the Church," he is suspected of having convinced the Papacy that outside interference was his best hope of imposing Rome's hegemony, theology, and efficiency in Ireland.

Many of the clergy supported him in that belief. Perhaps they were just accepting the inevitable when, after the invasion, they asserted their belief that, "the defects and backward state of their Church and nation were justification for subjecting their native land to a foreign king as one destined by heaven and the Vicar of Christ to reform otherwise hopeless abuses."

According to Malachy's prophecy, after 700 years, Ireland would be delivered from her oppressors, who in turn, would face dreadful chastisements, and Catholic Ireland would be instrumental in bringing back the British nation to the Faith. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, 17th century Benedictine monk Jean Mabillon copied this prophecy from an ancient manuscript preserved at Clairvaux, where Malachy died in 1148, and conveyed it to the successor of Archbishop of Armagh Oliver Plunkett, whom the British executed in 1681.


The Pope Who Gave Ireland to the English

Catholic Encyclopedia on St. Malachy

Catholic Encylopedia on Malachy's Prophecies on the Prophecy of St. Malachy

What the Cardinals Believe, presenting an inventory of all sitting in the College of Cardinals, along with a summary of their theological positions

The Donation of Constantine and the critique of Lorenzo Valla

Adrian's Papal Bull

Adrian IV bio

Celtic Church in Ireland


Bander, Peter "The Prophecies of St. Malachy and St. Columbcille" - 1969.

Connolly, S.J. ed "The Oxford Companion to Irish History" - 1998.

Ellis, Peter Berresford "Erins Blood Royal" - 1999.

Foster, R.F. "The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland" - 1991.

Green, John Richard "World's Best Histories: England" - 1880s.

"The Irish Ecclesiastical Record" July 1960, Article by Rev. Conleth Kearns, O.P., D.S.S.

Landon, Michael "Erin and Britannia: The Historical Background to a Modern Tragedy" - 1981.

Mac-Geoghegan, Abbé "The History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern" - 1887.

de Paor, Máire and Liam "Early Christian Ireland" - 1958.

This page was produced by Joseph E. Gannon.

Copyright © 2012 GAR Media LLC. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed without prior permission from the author. Direct questions about permissions to

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Tags: Malachy, Pope, Religion, seer

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on March 13, 2013 at 4:11pm

An historical and critical account of the so-called prophecy of St. Malachy ... 

Free EBook

 By M. J. O'Brien

Founding Member
Comment by Nollaig 2016 on November 2, 2016 at 9:49pm

St Malachy, his "Doomsday Prophecy", and the conflicts between the Christians and pagans are important plot points in James Rollins' sixth Sigma Force novel, The Doomsday Key (2009), particularly in Chapter 21.


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