Saint Finnian, according to legend, was born in Myshall, Carlow, Ireland about 470. He spent several years in Wales at monasteries under Saint Cadoc who died in 575 and under Saint Gildas (c.500-c.570) of whom he was a disciple. He became a monk in Wales then returned to Ireland and founded several monasteries. The most noted was at Clonard in the Ancient Province of Royal Meath, now County Meath, which became a great center for learning, especially for study of the Bible.
At Clonard a novice could learn to read and write Latin using stylus on a wax tablet. In this manner the Irish for the first time had an alphabet. Before this, the only written records in Ireland were written in the Ogam script which was a clumsy code of long and short lines cut across the edges of stone slabs, mainly for funeral inscriptions. Ogam was limited and almost unsless. The Irish monks eventually developed a written Irish language and wrote exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, the most famous is the Book of Kells, which is now on display at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The seafaring Vikings plundered the monasteries throughout the 9th and 10th centuries. Not until 1014, at the Battle of Clontarf, did the Irish, led by their High King Brian Boru, break the Vikings power.
Finnian was called a bishop in Ireland, although it is doubtful he was ever consecrated as one. He is referred to as the "Teacher of Irish Saints".