Friday 19 April 2013

Saint Killian, Confessor, April 19

Remains of Round Tower at Maghera

April 19 is the commemoration of a Saint Killian, whom Canon O'Hanlon seeks to place in the area of Maghera, County Down. The saint's name and feastday are recorded in various sources, but there is perhaps no definitive evidence offered to clinch the theory that he is to be identified with a Saint Cillen of Rathscillen, brother to Donard the Hermit. The 'very competent archaeologist and ecclesiologist' to whom O'Hanlon refers in his account below is Father James O'Laverty, author of a five-volume diocesan history of Down and Connor, a work available through the Internet Archive. St Cillen and his locality are discussed by Father O'Laverty in Volume 1, beginning at page 51.


WE are told, by Colgan, that the festival of a St. Killian, confessor, was kept on this day. We have no further account, regarding him, than this simple record, in our earliest authorities. His name, without further distinctive particulars, occurs, in the Tallagh Martyrology, and in that of Marianus O'Gorman, as the Bollandists notice, when recording Killenus, in their great work, at the 19th of April. There was a Cillen, the son of his mother Derinilla, who had children by four different husbands. He is said to have belonged to Achadhcail, in the territory of Lecale, at the bank of Dundrum estuary. A very competent archaeologist and ecclesiologist seems to identify his place with Rathscillan, near Maghera, County Down. He tells us, that Rathscillan signifies "the Rath of Cillan," and that St. Donard had a brother, named Cillen, whose church was somewhere in the neighbourhood.
Among the possessions of the See of Down, at the end of the twelfth century, and recited in a patent roll, belonging to the Tower of London, are Rathmurval, along with Rathsillan. The former was the old name for Maghera. There is a difficulty, however, in identifying Rathscillan, as there is no place in that neighbourhood, now known by the name. Yet, as is evident, by the grouping of names, Rathsillan must have been near Maghera. In a field, at Wateresk, are the remains of an ancient cemetery, which once was enclosed in a rath. This site exactly corresponds with that of the church of St. Cillen, as described by St. Aengus the Culdee. It was in the territory of Lecale, and it lay close to the estuary of Dundrum. It must have been in early times, like Maghera, a scene for the piety and labours of some eminent ecclesiastic. On this day, Cillen is mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated. The name of St. Killein occurs, also, in thee Martyrology, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy; but, it does not seem possible, to recognise his place or period.

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