Saturday 31 May 2014

Saint Maelodhrain of Slane, May 31

We close the month of May with the commemoration of a saint associated with the important County Meath foundation of Slane. Saint Maelodhrain was presumably a successor to the monastery's founder, Saint Erc, but Canon O'Hanlon is unable to establish when his tenure as abbot was. Indeed, there is so little information, apart from the recording of Saint Maelodhrain's commemoration at this date in the Martyrology of Tallaght, that the account from Volume VI of the Lives of the Irish Saints is mostly taken up with a history of the site. Of particular interest is the tradition that the seventh-century Merovingian prince Dagobert was educated at Slane. Professor Jean-Michel Picard has written about the Irish exile of this royal figure so perhaps I shall explore this episode at a later date:

St. Maelodhrain, of Slane, County of Meath.
At the 31st of May, the Martyrology of Tallagh  records an entry, regarding Moelodran of Slaan. The Bollandists  have as a festival, at this date, Moeldranus Slanensis, and following the same authority. This place —deriving its name from Slanius a former monarch of Ireland —was situated near the River Boyne, and in the County of Meath. It is now known as Slane, where it is said St. Herc, or St. Erc, became its first bishop, in the time of St. Patrick, by whom he had been consecrated. To St. Erc is attributed the foundation of a hermitage near the beautiful Hill of Slane, over the winding and picturesque course of the Boyne River. It is situated to the south of the town, and it is said, but incorrectly, that Regular Canons of St. Austin were here established. It was celebrated during the early ages of Christianity, and according to tradition, Dagobert, King of Austrasia, was here educated. Slane was frequently pillaged, by the Northmen. The Franciscans seem to have occupied the hermitage of St. Erc during the middle ages. The hermitage  lies within the Marquis of Conyngham's Demesne, on the northern bank of the river, and immediately below the castle, embosomed within the dark shadows, in a grove of ancient yews. Considerable portions of this picturesque building still exist. Near the site of his original church are the ruins of a fine old Franciscan monastery, founded A.D. 1512, erected by Christopher Fleming, Lord of Slane, and by his wife, on behalf of two Franciscan Friars, who then dwelt in St. Erc's hermitage, and for the order to which they belonged. This Priory was suppressed, in the 38th year of King Henry VIII., and it was re-granted to the Flemings, whose possessions were forfeited to the crown, after the Insurrection of 1641. On this day, a festival to honour Maelodhrain, of Slane, was celebrated, as we read in the Martyrology of Donegal. With his parentage and period, we are not acquainted.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 30 May 2014

Saint Saorghas of Druim, May 30

The study of the lives of the early Irish saints is often complicated by the fact that there are so many who share the same name. One saint, however, who will not be filed under the 'homonymous saints' tag is Saorghas of Druim, commemorated on May 30, as he is the only saint of this name to be found in the Irish calendars. The name, however, is known from other sources, with the Annals of the Four Masters, for example, recording the death of a ninth-century abbot of Durrow of this name. Professor Pádraig Ó Riain, whose spelling of the name Saorghas I am using here, suggests in his new Dictionary of Irish Saints that he may also be the Saorghas Doithneannach recorded in hagiography as giving a blessing to Bearach son of Meisceall. The locality with which our saint is associated is hard to pin down, although Canon O'Hanlon does his best below, he also brings us a variety of other renderings of the name:
St. Fergussius, of Druim-Bile, otherwise, St. Saergusa Bile, or Saerghos, of Druim.

Saergusa bile is the description we find entered for this saint, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 30th of May. However, the Bollandists, who cite the same authority place Faergussius de Druim-bile, at this date, and probably, it is the more correct rendering. There is a townland, called Drumbilla, in the parish of Roche, and barony of Upper Dundalk, in the county of Louth; while it seems to be the only nearly corresponding denomination, among the other townland names in Ireland. Yet, it is hardly probable, notwithstanding, that it was the place of Fergussius, Saergusa, or Saerghos. This holy man appears to have been identified, with Soergussius, or Saerghus, an abbot of Dearmhach or Durrow, and who died A.D. 835. The identification, however, cannot be relied upon, as being quite conclusive. The same day, veneration was given to Saerghos, of Druim, as we read in the Martyrology of Donegal. In the table appended, this name is written Saorghuss, and Latinized, Sergius.....

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Saint Cummain of Dal Buinne, May 29

May 29 is the feast of a female saint Commain, daughter of Aillen, who seems to have flourished in the County Down parish of Ballyphilip, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Commain, Virgin, of Dal-Buinne, and of Derry, Parish of Ballyphillip, County of Down.

In the "Felire" of St. Aengus, at the 29th of May, a festival is entered for Cummain, who is characterized as "the pure and good." In the "Leabhar Breac" copy, the following stanza appears, with its translation, by Dr Whitley Stokes:

—" May Pollio's great host convey us to the star-heaven,
with Cummain the pure and good,
daughter of lovable Aillen."—

From the way, in which this holy virgin's name has been noticed in a stanza of that metrical Calendar, we infer, she was a daughter of Aillen, or Allen. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date, the entry is, Cumne, Virgin, i. Ingen Alleain, in Aird Ulladh. The Bollandists notice her, at the 29th of May, as Cumania, filia Alleani in Ardvladh, while quoting the same authority. She descended from the race of Fiatach Finn —head of the Dal-Fiatach and monarch of Erin—in this wise. Her father Aillen was son of Baedan, son to Echaid, son of Brian, son to Enna, son of Cathbu, son of Echaid Gunnat, son of Fiacc of Dal Fiatach. In another place, she seems to have been connected with a church, in the territory of Dal-m-Buinne—in Latin Dalmunia—but the exact site is now unknown. To it, allusion appears to be made, in the "Felire" of Aengus, at the 29th of May. An alternative conjecture of a commentator seems to be, that a Cill Ingen Aillen, in Idrone territory, county of Carlow, may have been her place. The church of Cumain, as we are told, lay in the Ards of Ulster. Her place has been identified with Derry, "an oak wood," and a townland in the parish of Ballyphillip, County of Down. The surface of that parish forms a chief part of what is called Little Ardes, and it lies between the neck or sound of Lough Strangford and the Irish Sea...Here, the virgin's feast was formerly kept, as a gloss on the Martyrology of Aengus states...Also, on this day, veneration was given, as we read in the Martyrology of Donegal, to Commain, Virgin, of Daire-inghen-Allen, in Uladh.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Seven Bishops of Tigh na Comairce, May 28

May 28 brings the commemoration on the calendars of a group of saints, The Seven Bishops of Tigh na Comairce. This group is one of a number of such commemorations recorded on the Irish calendars.  It is possible in some of these cases to find names for the individuals who comprise the grouping recorded in the sources, but more usually, as in this case, further specific details are lacking. The 17th-century Donegal scholars who compiled the Martyrology of Donegal identified the locality of our episcopal saints as lying in their own county, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:
The Seven Bishops, of Tigh-na-Comairce.
At the 28th of May, the Martyrology of Tallagh registers Secht n. Esp. o Thigh na Comairce. The Bollandists have a notice - on the same authority - for the Seven Bishops of Teg-na-Comairre, at this date. As will be seen, there is probably a typographical error, in spelling the name of this locality. The place is said to have been within the present parish of Clonleigh, in the barony of Raphoe, and county of Donegal.  There is a Tigh-na-Comairce, in Tir Conaill, near to Loch Feabhail - now Lough Foyle - as we are told by the O'Clerys. The Martyrology of Donegal, on this day, records a festival, in honour of the Seven Bishops, of Tigh-na-Comairce. Under the head of Teach-na-Comairce, Duald Mac Firbis enters, the Seven Bishops from Teach-na-Comairce, at May 28th. We are informed, likewise, that Teach-na-Comairce is in the parish of Clonleigh, and in the county of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Saint Ethern of Donoughmore, May 27

On May 27 the Irish calendars remember a a County Meath bishop, Saint Ethern of Donoughmore. Following the work of the nineteenth-century scholar John O'Donovan, Canon O'Hanlon places the saint's locality of Domhnach-mór-mic-Laithbhe 'the great church of the son of Laithbe' near Slane, a position which is still accepted by the recent authoritative work, A Dictionary of Irish Saints. Professor Ó Riain, however, adds that Saint Ethern was himself the son of Laithbe, alluded to in the place name and that May 27 probably represents an octave day of the May 20 festival of Saint Mac Laithbhe. He also quotes from the Patrician texts in the Book of Armagh that among the churches founded by Saint Patrick in Meath was a great Domhnach 'for the son of Laithbe' which may have been Donoughmore. Thus this would place our Bishop Ethern among the earliest of the Irish saints. Canon O'Hanlon brings us the details from the calendars:

St. Ethian or Ethern, Bishop of Donoughmore Mic-Laithbhe, in Mughdorna.

In the Martyrology of Tallagh, this saint's name appears, at the 27th of May, as Ethirn, Bishop of Domhnach mor. On the same authority, the Bollandists enter Ethernus, Episcopus de Domnach-Mor. There was a Mughdhorna-Breagh in Ireland, but its position is not well known. From the church of this saint having been here placed within the territory of Mughdorna, Dr. O'Donovan thinks it highly probable, he must have been connected with Donoughmore, near Slane, and in the county of Meath. The Martyrology of Donegal enters a festival on this day, in honour of Ethern, Bishop, of Domhnach-mór-mic-Laithbhe, in Mughdorna. Under the head of Domhnach-mic-Laithbhe, likewise, Duald Mac Firbis enters Bishop Ethern, for May 27th.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Saint Criumther Cael of Kilmore, May 25

Among the saints commemorated on the Irish calendars at May 25 is a Saint Criumther Cael, whose memory is preserved in the earliest of the surviving calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght. There he is associated with a locality called Kilmore, literally 'large or great church' which Canon O'Hanlon seeks to place in County Cavan, although as he admits below, he has no firm evidence for doing so, given that Kilmore is too generic a place name:

St. Criumther Cael, of Kilmore, Probably in the County of Cavan.

An entry appears, at the 25th of May, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, regarding this saint. There too, he is said to have been connected with Cill moir, which corresponds with the modern Kilmore. The Bollandists, on the same authority, record his name as Crumtherus Coel, sive Presbyter, at this same date. It is probable, that what follows is only a double entry of this feast, viz., Coelius de Killmor. This place was probably Kilmore, the seat of the bishop's See, in the present county of Cavan; although, this is by no means certain, for many other places in Ireland have received a like name, owing we suppose to the fact of a great church having been erected, in each place so denominated. On this day, likewise, the Martyrology of Donegal mentions the veneration of Cruimther Cael, of Cill-mor.

Saturday 24 May 2014

The Seven Daughters of Fergus, May 24

Canon O'Hanlon has as his fifth article for May 24 an account of a group of Irish holy women denominated by their patronymic, The Seven Daughters of Fergus. In the Martyrology of Tallaght the daughters are associated with the locality of Inis Cealtra, an island monastery in the west of Ireland which produced a couple of better-known saints, its founder Saint Caimin and the scholarly Saint Coelan, a reputed biographer of Saint Brigid. It is interesting to note that the Daughters of Fergus may have enjoyed a cultus in Scotland as the Seven Maidens of Inverey. Canon O'Hanlon's source, the work on the Scottish calendars by Bishop Forbes, doesn't seem conclusive and left me wondering if the Chapel of Inverey itself had an independent commemoration of the Seven Maidens at May 24, or if Forbes had simply tried to read across the feast from the Martyrology of Tallaght in an attempt to find an identification for these Scottish saints. His account says:

SEVEN MAIDENS.  May 24. - In Braemar is the chapel of the Seven Maidens, at Inverey, where the family of Farquharson bury their dead. - (V.D.A. p. 641.)
In the Martyrology of Tallaght, at this day, we have "Secht ningena Fergusa in Inis Cealtra." In that of Donegal, "The seven daughters of Fergus of Tigh-ingen-Ferghusa".

Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L. Bishop of Brechin, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, (1872), 447. 

His source, V.D.A., View of the Diocese of Aberdeen , confirms only the dedication of the Braemar chapel to the Seven Maidens and its use as a family burying site by the Farquharson family.  The writer of a paper on the Traces of the Cultus of the Nine Maidens in Scotland, is not entirely convinced of the identification of the Inverey chapel with the Irish maidens commemorated on May 24, and states on page 260 that there is 'some doubt' surrounding this claim by Bishop Forbes.

Bishop Forbes was not the only commentator who attempted to identify these holy women, the 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, sought to equate them with a group of seven nuns who assisted at the sixth-century Synod of Drum Ceatt. I'm not sure though that his evidence is any more substantial, but at least it is interesting to note that a group of female monastics were recorded as participants at this Synod.

So, we seem to be faced with a number of conflicting theories about the identity of the Seven Daughters of Fergus:

1. They are, as the Martyrology of Tallaght claims, associated with the locality of Inis Cealtra, the holy island of County Clare.  I was under the impression though that this was a male foundation.

2. They are, as Colgan claims, associated with a location called Teach na ninghean, literally 'the house of the daughters' and are perhaps to be identified with the seven nuns of Tir-na-Fiachra Aine who took part in the Synod of Drum Ceatt.

3. They are, as Bishop Forbes claims, the Seven Maidens to whom a chapel in Inverey, Scotland, is dedicated.  This theory would stand up better if the Scottish calendars recorded a feast day for these Seven Maidens on May 24th independently from the Irish. This does not, however, seem to be the case.

Canon O'Hanlon records:

The Seven Daughters of Ferghus, of Tigninghin Ferghusa, or of Inis-Cealtra, County of Galway.

The Martyrology of Tallagh records Secht ningena Fergusa in Inis Cealtra, at the 24th of May. This is now known as Inis-crealtra, an island and parish in the counties of Clare and Galway. The Bollandists also record their festival, for this day. But Colgan seems to connect them with Teach na ninghean, in Connaught. He says, they were perhaps those seven nuns of Tir-na-Fiachra Aine, who assisted at the great Synod in Dromcheat, in the year 580. The extent of Ui Fiachrach Aidhne is shown on the Irish Maps, prefixed to the "Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many, commonly called O'Kelly's Country ". A festival in honour of the Seven Daughters of Fergus, of Tigh-inghen-Ferghusa, was celebrated on this day, as we read in the Martyrology of Donegal. Under the title of the Seven Maidens, they seem to have been venerated, likewise, in Scotland.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 23 May 2014

Saint Comman, May 23

At May 23 we can add another name to the long list of obscure Irish saints, whose only memorial is their entry in the Irish calendars. A Saint Comman appears in the earliest of these, the Martyrology of Tallaght, and Canon O'Hanlon directs us to a County Wicklow location called Kilcommon, before conceding that it may not be connected to this saint or indeed to any of the other eleven saints Comman commemorated in the Irish calendars:


An entry of St. Comman is registered, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 23rd of May. The Bollandists quote the same authority, for this insertion of his name,at this date. No place, genealogy or title is afforded to distinguish him, from others bearing a similar name. Quite convenient to the Dublin and Wicklow Railway, and about one mile from the town of Rathdrum, the old graveyard of Kilcommon rises on the side of a commanding hill. This place has been much used for interments. Several old trees and bushed grow around it. On the north side, there are only a few interments. On the south side, the graveyard is separated by a deep trench from the fields adjoining. An old ruined church remains within the enclosure. The east end is partly standing and veiled over with thick ivy plants. There is a small ruinous window in it, with a chiselled jam remaining, in which square punched holes are to be seen, as if intended for crossing iron bars. A small square recess is in this same wall, and near the window. The window was about 3 feet, 4 inches in length and 1 foot, 6 inches in breadth. A mere fragment of the south walls continues to show the outline, and in it are the apparent traces of a window, not far from the earth. The remains of the walls, levelled with the ground, only reveal the former extent of this old church. Interiorly, it measures 40 feet in length by 21 feet in breadth, and its walls were over two feet in thickness. The walls were built of granite.  Of course, it cannot be asserted with any degree of certainty, this place had been connected with the present, or even with any of the other eleven Comans or Commans, noted in our calendars, at different days of the year. We find the name Comman, also, simply entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated on this day.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Saint Baoithin of Ennisboyne, May 22

May 22 is the feastday of a County Wicklow saint, Baoithin of Ennisboyne. The account below has been edited from that of Canon O'Hanlon in Volume V of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Baoithin, of Ennisboyne, County of Wicklow.
[Seventh Century.]

In the "Feilire" of St. Aengus, on the 22nd of May, the festival and name of Baethine Mac Findach are specially commemorated. The following is Dr. Whitley Stokes' English translation:—"Ronan (the) Fair's soul went to starry heaven, with the man bright, prolific, Baethine mac Findach."— This holy man lived, it is said, in the seventh century. The name Baithin mic Finnach occurs, also, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 22nd of May. On the same authority, and on that of Colgan, the Bollandists notice Baithinus, son of Finnachus. According to the Martyrology of Donegal, Baoithin, son to Finnach, of Inis Baithin, in the east of Leinster, had veneration given him, on this day. By race, he was a Leinsterman; but, his father Findach is stated to have been a robber, in a commentary on that copy of St. Aengus' "Feilire," which is to be found in the "Leabhar Breac". However, as the account given is quite improbable and legendary, we may dismiss it, and the other circumstances referring to our saint's birth, which are beneath notice. We are told, elsewhere, that he descended from the race of Laoighsech Ceannmor, son to Conall Cearnach. Trea, daughter of Ronan, son to Colman, son of Cairpre, and a daughter to the King of Leinster, was his mother; while, the Scholiast on the "Feilire," in the "Leabhar Breac," calls her Cred, daughter of Ronan, King of Leinster, and in Dal Messincorb, moreover, he afterwards lived. This latter narrative seems to intimate, that Boethine had been born in or near Inis Boethine, and there, too, he probably spent his religious days, in retirement from all worldly concerns. This place, now known as Ennisboyne, sometimes called Ennisboheen, or Dunganstown, seems to have derived its denomination from him. This is now a parish, situated in the barony of Arklow, and county of Wicklow...

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Saint Brigid, Daughter of Diomman, May 21

May 21 sees the commemoration of a Saint Brigid, described as the daughter of Diomman. Alas, it is not possible to discover any further details of her life or of when and where she flourished, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Brigid, daughter of Dima, or Diomman.

At the 21st of May, the Martyrology of Tallagh has a Brighit inghen Dimmain. The Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Charles Maguire place her festival at this date. The Bollandists also notice Brigid, daughter of Dimanus, at the 21st of May. We have not been able to discover any documentary evidence, which might tend to throw light on that locality, with which she had been formerly connected, or where, after death, she had been specially commemorated. On this day, Brighit, daughter of Diomman, had veneration given her, as we read, likewise, in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Saint Mac Laithbhe of Donoughmore, May 20

May 20 sees the commemoration of yet another obscure Irish saint whose only memorial is the recording of his feast day on the Irish calendars. In the case of Saint Mac Laithbhe 'son of Laithbe' even the recording of an associated locality is of no help as 'Donoughmore' is too generic a place name in Ireland to assist in identifying him, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:
St. Mac Laithbhe, of Donoughmore.
At the 20th of May, we find a record of this saint, in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, as Mac Laithbhe Domnaighmoir. This latter word was the name of a place. Many localities, called Donoughmore, are known in various parts of our Island; so that it is difficult to discover that one, with which he had been connected. Marluithaes de Momech-mou is noted by the Bollandists, at the 20th of May, and for this feast, the Tallagh Martyrology is quoted;  but, we suspect, the reference has been taken incorrectly from that source. The Martyrology of Donegal,  on this day, registers Mac Laithbhe, of Domhnach-mor. as having been venerated.
However, on May 27 we find the feast of Saint Eithearn of Donaghmore. He is associated with Domhnach-mór-mic-Laithbhe 'the great church of the son of Laithbe' near Slane, County Meath. It has been established that churches which include the word Domhnach (Lord), in their names are among the earliest in Ireland and are linked to the mission of Saint Patrick. It seems that Eithearn is the son of Laithbe described in the church's title.  Slane is, of course, a locality with well-established Patrician credentials.  Pádraig Ó Riain, in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints, suggests that as May 27 falls within the octave of the May 20 feast of Saint Mac Laithbe, that both days thus probably commemorate the same man, Eithearn, son of Laithbe. 

Note: This post, first published in 2014, has been revised in 2022.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Monday 19 May 2014

Saint Richella, May 19

On May 19, one of the earliest surviving Irish calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, records the name of an Irish female saint, Ríceall, latinized as Richella. Canon O'Hanlon discusses three saints of this name, one of whom tradition says was a sister to Saint Patrick. It proves impossible, however, for him to definitively identify the saint Richella commemorated on this day. More recently, Pádraig Ó Riain in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints, confirms that there are three holy ladies of similar name, whose root is the word , king, all of whom are difficult to disentangle. Canon O'Hanlon in his entry for the saint below lays out the evidence from the seventeeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan:

In the Martyrology of Tallagh published and unpublished —we find this saint's festival set down, on the 19th of May. Marianus O'Gorman and Charles Maguire mention this holy virgin, likewise, in their Calendars, and at the same date. According to the accounts of ancient writers, St. Patrick had a sister bearing the name. But, as there were two other Richellas, in our list of Irish Saints, it may be difficult to determine the virgin, whose festival is this day commemorated. One of these was St. Richelia, the daughter of Attractus, and of King Leagaire's race. Her descent will be found, in the "Menelogium Genealogicum," cap. 3. The other was Richella, or, according to others, Richenna, called also Reynach, or Regnacia. She was daughter to Fintan, and sister to St. Finnian of Clonard, as may be seen in a Life of the latter, published by Colgan. Her Life will be found, at the 18th of December.
There was a certain church or monastic establishment, in the territory of Lugne, within the Connaught province, and there a St. Richella is said to have lived. Kill-Richille, in the diocese of Clonfert, was probably connected with the residence of a saint bearing this name; yet, it is not easy to determine that particular Richella—if indeed she was one among the three mentioned—who had been venerated in either of those places. In a list of St. Patrick's five sisters, the name Cinnenus is substituted for Richella, by Ussher; and Colgan found, likewise, in an old fragmentary vellum Life of St. Patrick, the name of a fifth sister to the Irish Apostle, as Cinnenus, and not Richella. But, as the form of the name Cinnenus is not applicable to a female, Colgan thinks we ought rather read, Cinne noem, signifying St. Cinna. Now, it would seem, that Richinne has the signification regia Cinne; wherefore, Colgan argues, it is possible, the doubtful word may be properly resolved into Richinne or Richella. The same researchful hagiologist tells us, he could not discover, whether or not Richella became a mother. It might come within the range of possibility, also, that Barbanus, or Banbanus, of Mag-slecht, and a kinsman of St. Patrick, had been her son; although, Colgan did not know, whether this relationship had been through a brother or sister, or in what collateral line. This, however, is only a very groundless conjecture; and, also, any attempt to represent our saint as a sister to the illustrious St. Patrick must prove equally futile. In the Irish Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, it may be observed, the saint left by him, over the church at Domhnach-Maighe-Slecht, is called Mabran Barbarus. The Bollandists notice the feast of Richella, an Irish virgin, at the 19th of May. Little is known, however, regarding her place in our ecclesiastical history.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Saint Conval of Strathclyde, May 18

May 18 is one of the commemorations of Saint Conval, a disciple of the Scottish Saint Kentigern. His feast day is recorded as September 28 in the Aberdeen Breviary, whose modern editor, Alan Macquarrie, remarks that the Lessons appointed for the day 'give the appearance of having been drawn from a vita et miracula of St  Conval, but this has not survived'. The Lessons begin by associating Saint Conval with Saint Kentigern but go on to describe his reputation as a healer.  Since September 28 seems to be his main feast day, at least at Inchinnan, the site with which he is mainly associated, I will prepare another and more detailed post on Saint Conval for this date. The account below has been taken from Bishop (later Cardinal) P.F. Moran's 1879 work Irish Saints in Great Britain. It was a matter of some pride to the Bishop that Irish immigration into Glasgow had revived the memory of this saint in the suburban parish of Pollockshaws:

One of the most illustrious of St. Kentigern's disciples was St. Conval, who inherited in an eminent degree the zeal and sanctity of his great master. He was the son of an Irish chieftain, and forsaking his country and friends, through the desire of winning souls to God, sailed to the banks of the Clyde, and enrolling himself among the clergy of St. Kentigern, soon proved himself a devoted missioner, and became a bright ornament of the Scottish Church. In many of the mediaeval records he is styled Archdeacon of Glasgow, and by his untiring labours he merited to be honoured as a second apostle of that great city. Each memorial of the saint was long cherished by the faithful to whom he ministered. The rock on which he landed on the sea-shore, and on which in after years he was wont to pray, was held in the greatest veneration, and several churches erected under his invocation attested the reverence and fond affection in which his hallowed memory was held. It is recorded that he visited his countryman, King Aidan, of Dalriada, and was welcomed by that prince with the highest honours. The purport of St. Conval's visit was probably to secure the aid of King Aidan for the religious works in which he was engaged south of the Clyde; and we are further told that, at that pious monarch's request, St. Conval passed into the Pictish territory, and there gained many souls to God. He also visited St. Columba, and seems for a time to have been associated with that great saint in his missionary labours.

He is venerated as patron at Inchinnan, in Renfrewshire, on the Clyde, about seven miles below Glasgow, and Boece writes that the saint's relics were still preserved there in his time. Near the ancient fort of Inchinnan there stood, till a comparatively late period, an ancient Celtic cross, erected in honour of St. Conval. Now its base alone remains. He was also venerated at Cumnock and at Ochiltree. The parish of Pollokshaws had also our St. Conval for its patron, although his feast was there kept in the month of May. "Its ancient church," thus writes the learned Cosmo Innes, "probably stood beside the castle upon the bank of the Cart. It was dedicated to St. Convallus, the pupil of St. Kentigern, whose feast was celebrated on the 18th of May." A church bearing St. Conval's name existed at Eastwood down to a comparatively late period. The burial ground attached to it is still used, and a portion of it near the still-flowing fountain that supplied the monks with water is set apart for the exclusive interment of Catholics, but no trace of the ancient church or monastery now remains. Near the burial ground there was a ruin known as the "Auld House," which, with its enclosure, was called "St. Conval's Dowry." His memory after having been forgotten for three hundred years has been revived in our days by the erection of a beautiful church at Pollokshaws, dedicated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and St. Conval...

Rt. Rev. P. F. Moran, Irish Saints in Great Britain (Dublin, 1879), 156-159.

Note: This post, first published in 2012, was revised in 2024.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Saint Siollan of Devenish, May 17

On May 17 we commemorate Saint Siollan, a seventh-century abbot of the monastery at Devenish Island, County Fermanagh. Canon O'Hanlon's account of the saint and his lakeland home begins and ends with a romantic flourish:

St. Siollan, Bishop of Daimhinis, or Devenish Island, County of Fermanagh.
[Seventh Century.]
It is a sight never to be forgotten, when Lough Erne seems, as it were, holding her mirror to the relics around St. Molaisse's monastery. The round tower—simple, erect, and exquisitely tapering skywards—looks a fit emblem of hope, as the descending sun illumes its cap with golden light; while, down in the silent depths of the lake—less distinct, of a deeper and more dreamy shade—extends the reflection, as if veiling the mysterious past. The name Sillan, a Bishop—without any further designation—occurs in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 17th of May. We have Sillanus Episcopus, likewise, in the Franciscan copy of the Tallagh Martyrology, at the 17th of May. The Bollandists also enter his festival, on the same authority. In the Acts of St. Berach, allusion is made to a holy man, named Sillanus, who was miraculously restored to life, at a place called Rath-ond, but, of whose history little more seems to be known. A conjecture is offered, by Colgan, that he may be identical with the present holy man, yet this is hardly probable. The following identification is doubtless the true one, where at this date the Martyrology of Donegal records the veneration of Siollan, Bishop [of Daimhinis]. This has the English signification of "deer island." His place of habitation was on the historic and beautiful Island of Devenish, so picturesquely situated, on Lower Lough Erne, about two and a-half miles below the town of Enniskillen, and in the county of Fermanagh...

...The death of St. Molaisse, the founder of Devenish, is assigned to A.D. 563, and he was succeeded by St. Natalis, or Naal, the period of his demise not being stated. The next in succession, as revealed in our Annals, was St. Sillan. His term of incumbency seems assignable to the seventh century, and with the abbatial it is likely he exercised episcopal functions. We learn, that the present bishop died, on the 17th of May, A.D. 658, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. Under the head of Daimhinis, Duald Mac Firbis enters, Siollan, bishop of Daimhinis. Summer finds Devenish clothed in rank, luxuriant herbage. Except in the grey walls and the solitary hut of a herd, no trace of man is there to be seen. But, when the grass dies, and when winter has stripped this ancient home of its cattle, food, and verdure, the old gardens of the community can be traced, in many a boundary line. Even the presence of herbs and plants, which, though old in the soil, are not found in other islands of the lake, or on the surrounding hills, is indicated by the solitary habitant who acts as guide, and who lives upon this insulated spot.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 16 May 2014

Saint Maclaisre of Bangor, May 16

A couple of days ago we looked at an obscure female saint, Lassar, who shares her feast day with the well-known Saint Carthage of Lismore. Today we meet the same name in another form in the person of a seventh-century abbot of Bangor, who shares his May 16th commemoration with the famous Saint Brendan the Navigator. Our abbot's name, Mac Laisre, describes him as the son of Lasre and Canon O'Hanlon assembles the evidence from the calendars and annals for his feast day below. One source he doesn't mention though is the poem preserved in the Bangor Antiphonary on 'The Commemoration of our Abbots'. The poem, consisting of eight strophes of eight lines each, lists the abbots beginning with the founder Saint Comgall, whose feast is also celebrated in the month of May,  describing how Christ has endowed them with heavenly virtues. It begins:

Sancta sanctorum opera
Patrum, fratres, fortissima,
Benchorensi in optimo
Fundatorum aeclesia,
Abbatum eminentia,
Numerum, tempra, nomina,
Sine fine fulgentia,
Audite, magna mereta ;
Quos convocavit Dominus
Caelorum regni sedibus. 

The holy, valiant deeds
Of sacred Fathers,
Based on the matchless
Church of Benchor;
The noble deeds of abbots
Their number, times, and names,
Of never-ending lustre.
Hear, brothers; great their deserts,
Whom the Lord hath gathered
To the mansions of his heavenly kingdom.

Of our saint it says:

Inlustravit Maclaisreum,
Kapud abbatum omnium 

He rendered Maclaisre illustrious,
The chief of all abbots;

[Text and Translation from Rev William Reeves, 'The Antiphonary of Bangor,' in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol.1 (1853), 168-179.]
This suggests that although he may today be an obscure figure, he retained a prominent reputation within his own community.

St. Maclaisre, Abbot of Bangor, County of Down.

The Martyrology of Tallagh  records this saint, at the 16th of May, as Mac Lasre, Abbot of Bangor. At the same date, the Bollandists  enter Maclasrius, Abbas Benchorensis, in Ultonia. Allusion is made to him, by Father John Colgan,  as having died, during the reigns of Conall and Kellach, joint sovereigns over Ireland. The "Chronicum Scotorum " places the death of Mac Laisre, Abbot of Bennchair, at A.D. 644, the year when it is stated Bede was born. On this day, Mac Laisre departed to a brighter and a better world, in the year 645, according to the Annals of Ulster, and of the Four Masters. The Martyrology of Donegal  registers on this day, as having veneration paid him, Maclaisre, Abbot of Bennchor.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saint Fionnchadh, May 16

May 16 is the feastday of Saint Brendan of Clonfert, one of the most famous of all Irish saints. Canon O'Hanlon, however, brings us the details of a much less well-known saint who shares this date of commemoration with The Navigator, a Bishop called Fionnchadh:

St. Fionnchadh, Bishop.

An entry is found, regarding Findchad, a Bishop, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 16th of May. The Bollandists simply note Findchadus Episcopus, from the same source, and for the same date. On this day was venerated Fionnchadh, Bishop, as we read in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Saint Colman of Oughval, May 15

May 15 is the feast of a Leinster saint, Colman of Oughval. Below is an extract from the work of diocesan historian, Bishop Michael Comerford, on Saint Colman, his foundation at Stradbally, County Laois and his association with saint Columba:

St. Colman-mac-ua-Laoigse, a disciple of St. Columba, founded a monastery here about the middle of the seventh century; this Saint's feast was observed on the 15th of May, at which date he is entered in the Martyrologies of Tallaght and Donegal; in the latter it is given thus:- "Colman Mac ua Laoighse, of Tulach MacComhghaill, at Druimnitogha, i.e., at Nuachongbhail in Laoighse, of Leinster. He was of the race of Laoighsach LeannMor, son of Conall Cearnach." In the life of St. Columba it is related that St. Columban of Oughaval, when leaving Iona, where he had lived some years in his youth under the spiritual care of St. Columba, full of anxious affection at his departure, he exclaimed:

"O Saint of God! How can I live in my own country and confess my sins to thee?"
Columba answered him:
"Go to the holy man whom I see every Sunday night, standing with the angels before the tribunal of Christ."
The holy youth asked who was that saint. St. Columba answered:
"Saint, indeed he is, and comely, and of your own kindred, with florid complexion and bright eyes, and a few grey hairs now beginning to appear."
The young man answered:
"I know no such person in my country except St. Fintan of Clonenagh."

Adamnan relates also the following regarding the Vision of Holy Angels who carried off to Heaven the soul of the Saintly Bishop Colman Mac Ua Laoigshe:- Another time while the brothers were dressing in the morning and about to go to their different duties in the monastery, the Saint (Columbkille) bade them rest that day and prepare for the holy sacrifice, ordering also better fare for dinner, such as was given on Sunday. "I must," said he, "though unworthy, celebrate today the holy mysteries of the Eucharist out of respect for the soul which last night went up to heaven beyond the sky and stars, borne thither by choirs of holy angels." The brethren, in obedience to his command, rested that day, and after preparing for the sacred rites, they accompanied the saint to the church in their white robes as on festivals. And when they were singing the usual prayer in which St. Martin's name is commemorated, the Saint, turning to the chaunters, said: "You must pray to-day for Saint Colman, Bishop." Then all the brethren present understood that Colman, a Leinster Bishop, the dear, friend of Columba had passed to the Lord. A short time after, some persons who came from the province of Leinster, told how the bishop died the very night it was revealed to the saint.

Rev M Comerford" Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" Vol. 3 (1886)

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Saint Lassar, May 14

May 14 is the feast day of Saint Carthage of Lismore, a saint with a wealth of hagiographical traditions associated with him. By contrast it is also the commemoration of an obscure female saint, Lassar, one of fourteen saints who share this name, based on the Old Irish word for flame. It occurs too as a name for men, with Saint Molaisse or Laserian being the most famous example. Only one of the female saints Lassar has a surviving Life, a late 17th-century composition which may have been modernised from a Late Middle Irish original. The subject of that Life has a feast day on November 13 at which time I hope to bring some selections from the work. Whether there is any relationship between the various female saints Lassar is hard to fathom, it may be that there are a number of distinct individuals who happen to share the name or it may be that some were commemorated on more than one day. Canon O'Hanlon can only write a few lines on the Saint Lassar commemorated on May 14:

St. Lassar, or Laisre.

A record of Laisre is found in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 14th of May, and it is also in the Franciscan copy. From the same source, the Bollandists  enter at this day the festival of St. Lasra, or Lassara, with a reference to what had been said regarding Cassara Virgo—evidently a mistake for Lassara Virgo—placed among the pretermitted feasts, at the 11th of May. On this day, veneration was given to Lassar, as we read, also, in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Saint Moeldod of Mucnaimh, May 13

May 13 is the commemoration of an abbot of Mucnaimh, which Canon O'Hanlon argues is modern Mucknoe, County Monaghan. He is able to describe something of Saint Moeldod's genealogy, but otherwise there are few details. Pádraig Ó Riain, in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints, has been able to trace how this otherwise obscure Irish saint was noted in the German martyrologies linked to the Irish foundation at Cologne. He also identifies him as one of the reputed victims of the Buidhe Chonaill ('the Yellow Pestilence') plague which claimed the lives of so many Irish saints in the 6th/7th centuries:

St. Moeldod, or Moeldodius, Abbot of Mucnaimh, or Mucknoe, County of Monaghan.
At this date, in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, we meet with the name of Moeilidoid; while, a nearly similar entry is in the Franciscan copy. The Bollandists have given some brief Acts of this saint, at the 13th of May. Father Godefrid Hennschenn was the compiler. We are informed, that St. Moeldod was a member of the great house of the Orgiel dynasts, representing the three Collas. It will be difficult, however, to determine the exact time, when he flourished; but, we may partially approximate to it, by following the genealogical tree of his family. St. Moeldod, or Maldod, was son to Eingin, son of Aldus, son to Fiach, son of Fiech, son to Eugene, son to Brian, son of Muredach Meth, son to Imchad, one of Colla Dacrioch's sons. We have few particulars to state regarding this saint. We are told, however, that he was Abbot of Mucmaimh, in Orgiellia, or Uriel; and that place has been converted by Archdall into Monaghan, said to have been anciently called Muinechan. The Rev. Dr. Lanigan asserts, that it was well known an old monastery stood at Monaghan—which he identifies with Mucnaimh—and, of this, Moeldod was Abbot, if not the founder. Such identification, however, is quite incorrect... Mucnamh sometimes written Mucshnamh— is now identified with Muckno, a parish in the barony of Cremorne, and county of Monaghan. Chiefly within its bounds is the beautiful lake of Mucno, with its soft and swelling shores richly wooded, and having pretty isles and islets to diversify its fine landscapes... It is situated, near to Castleblaney. The time, when this saint lived, has not been specified. The feast of a St. Maldod, Confessor, in Ireland, occurs, likewise, on the following day, May 14th. At this date, in his Scottish Menology, Dempster speaks of Maldod, Bishop, in Ireland, a Scot by birth, and a man distinguished for his great holiness, remarkable patience, and the influence of his virtuous example. As a proof of these assertions, he adds the letters M.C.; by which he asserts, the Carthusian Martyrology to be indicated as authority, Canisius, and Adam Walasser. The Bollandist writer, in the "Acta Sanctorum," had not seen this latter work; but, in the former authors, he found nothing regarding Moeldod's episcopacy, or about his Scottish origin. It is supposed, however, that this saint was identical, with an Abbot, who ruled over Muc-naimh monastery. His feast was assigned to this date, by Richard Whitford, in his English Martyrology. Also, on this day, the Martyrology of Donegal, registers the name Maeldoid, of Mucnamh, as having been venerated.

Note: The introduction to this post, first published in 2014, has been revised in 2022.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Monday 12 May 2014

Saint Ailitir of Mucinis, May 12

On May 12 we remember a 6th-century saint associated with the site of Lough Derg, not the pilgrimage site in County Donegal whose 'Saint Patrick's Purgatory' achieved such fame in later medieval Europe, but with Lough Derg on the Shannon. The saint himself bears the name of 'Pilgrim' and may also have been associated with another monastic site on the Shannon, the famous monastery of Clonmacnoise, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:


The Festival of Ailithir, with a eulogy, is entered, at the 12th of May, in the Feilire of St. Aengus. His name is elsewhere found Latinized as Alitherius, seu Peregrinus de Mucinis. Yet, we cannot be assured, that this was his proper name. However from the sequel, it seems likely, that he has been identified with a holy man so named, and belonging to one of the Muskerrys, in the south of Ireland. An entry, Ailitir Muccinsi, is found in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, and in the Franciscan copy, at the 12th of May. The Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman notes, at this date, likewise, Elithir of Muicinis, on Loch Deirg (Derc), now Lough Derg, in the Shannon. It would seem, that both here, and at Clonmacnoise, his memory was held in veneration. The word, Ailitir, or Elithir, signifies "a pilgrim;" and, hence, it may not necessarily be a proper name. At the year 595, however, the Annals of the Four Masters state, that Ailithir, Abbot of Cluain-mic-nois, died. He was the fourth Abbot, having succeeded Mac Nissi, who departed this life, on June the 12th, A.D. 585. The Ailithir, there mentioned, has been identified with the present saint. The Annals of Ulster record his death, at A.D. 598; while, those of Tighernach and the "Chronicum Scotorum" place it, at A.D. 599. The latter authority states, that his family was of the Muscraidhe. This day, the Martyrology of Donegal records a veneration paid to Elitir, of Muic-inis, in Loch Derg-derc. Under that name, it is difficult to find it there, as it does not appear, on the Irish Ordnance Survey Maps.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Saint Laeghair Lobhar, May 11

At May 11 there is a commemoration of one of a number of 'leper' saints commemorated on the Irish calendars. Saint Laeghair or Lughaire is not as well known as Saint Finian Lobhair, who is commemorated on March 16, and all that Canon O'Hanlon can bring us is a summary of the evidence from the calendars:
St. Laeghair Lobhar, or Lughaire, the Leper.
A notice of Laeghair Lobhar is found, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 11th of May and, immediately preceding it, there is an entry, Luguir, Infirmitas. We cannot doubt, that there has been some error of transcription, or misplacement, here, and not met with in the original document. The Bollandists copy from the Tallagh Martyrology, Lugarius in Fir. et Leogarius Lovar seu leprosus, as if they were distinct persons.  At the 16th of March, when treating about St. Finan the Leper, Colgan indicates, in a note, that Lugarius Lobhar, i.e., leprosus, had a feast, on the 11th of May. We cannot find anything more distinctive regarding him. For this day, a festival in honour  of Lughaire, a Leper, is set down, likewise, in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Saint Cathaldus of Taranto, May 10

May 10 is one of the feastdays of an Irish saint whose memory is still very much cherished in Italy, Saint Cathal (Cathaldus) of Taranto. Patrick Montague, author of The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland, records in the preface to his book how he first encountered this Irish saint:

In early summer of 1944, I arrived in Taranto, Italy, as a Staff Officer of the Eighth Army. The next morning, I was urgently summoned to assist an American soldier who had driven his jeep into the path of a procession of Italians who were celebrating the Feast of their local saint. Since nobody was hurt, the situation was quickly adjusted. I was able to deal with it in Italian, aided by the presence of a local priest. Between us we calmed the excited people and rescued the soldier from his awkward predicament.

In conversation later, the priest informed me that the Saint was Cathaldo, and it was common knowledge that he was Irish. I wondered at the time whether this unusual fact was so well-known in Ireland. In the years which followed, I have often pondered on the strange anomaly that the memory of Irish exiles like Cathal, or Cathaldo, of Taranto, can inspire public holidays and gatherings of the faithful all over Europe, and receive no more than a brief reference in works of scholarship in Ireland.

Below is an abridged version of a paper by Father J. F. Hogan from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, which contains a useful summary of the main points from the mass of traditions surrounding Saint Cathaldus. The article begins with an account of the founding of the city of Taranto but I have omitted this and the concluding paragraphs on its later history in order to concentrate on the details of its patron's life. Saint Cathal's story is certainly not a dull one, he is associated with the monastery of Lismore but leaves the scholar's life for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and ends up in Taranto following a shipwreck:


...A tradition of immemorial standing seems to ascribe the first conversion of Tarentum to St. Peter and his disciple and companion, St. Mark. Seeing that it is held by many writers that St. Peter paid two visits to Rome, during the second of which he suffered martyrdom, it is natural enough to suppose that, on his way to or from the East, he may have passed through Tarentum, and have preached the good tidings of Christianity to its people. However this may be, it is certain that the seeds of Christian life did not take deep root there on its first sowing, and that in the political turmoil which followed the transfer of the seat of Empire to Constantinople, its young shoots were almost completely smothered. In these disturbances Tarentum passed from Romans to Greeks, and from Greeks to Romans. It was handed about to all kinds of freebooters. For a time it was held by Belisarius for Justinian; then it was occupied by Totila and his Goths. These in their turn were expelled by the Imperial arms, and the citadel was held for the empire until the arrival of the Longobardi, whose commander, Romoald (Duke of Beneventum) got possession of the town and province.

It must be acknowledged that such stormy conditions of life were not very favourable to the spread of Christianity. No wonder, therefore, that little trace should have been found of the Christian settlement that had once been established at Tarentum when St. Cathaldus first appeared within its walls.

That St. Cathaldus was a native of Ireland, is a fact which cannot be seriously questioned. Indeed it is not denied by anybody worthy of a moment's notice. It has been the constant tradition of the Church of Tarentum; and in every history of the city or of its apostle that is of Italian origin, there is but one voice as to the country from which St. Cathaldus came. The most valuable biography of the saint which we possess was written in the seventeenth century by an Italian Franciscan named Bartolomeo Moroni. As this work professes to be based on very ancient codices and manuscripts of the Church of Taranto, we must conclude that it contains a good deal that is accurate and trustworthy, whilst a very cursory examination is sufficient to convince us that fable and fiction have entered not a little into its composition. It tells us, at all events, that Cathaldus was a native of Ireland; that he was born at a place called Rachau according to some, at Cathandum according to others; that as a happy augury of his future mission to the half Greek, half Italian city of Taranto, his father's name was Euchus, and his mother's Achlena or Athena.

A good deal of discussion has been indulged in as to the identity of his birthplace. The general opinion seems to be that Rachau was the place from which he took his title as bishop, and that Cathandum was the place of his birth. This Cathandum is supposed to be identified either with ''Ballycahill," in the Ormond district of North Tipperary, and in the diocese of Killaloe, or with a place of the same name not far from Thurles, in the diocese of Cashel. As for Rachau, it is believed to be intended either for Rahan in the King's Co., where St. Carthage had his famous monastery, and where he ruled as a bishop before his expulsion by the Hy Niall of Meath, or for one of the numerous places called Rath in the immediate neighbourhood of Lismore; or, finally, as Lanigan thinks probable, the place now called Shanraghan in Southern Tipperary and on the confines of Waterford. It is distinctly stated that the place was, at all events, in the province of Munster, and not far from Lismore. Nothing more precise can be laid down with certainty.

What does not, however, admit of the slightest doubt, is the fact that St. Cathaldus was surrounded by spiritual and religious influences of a very special kind from his infancy upwards. These influences found in his soul a most sympathetic response, and when they had lifted the thoughts and aspirations of this fair youth above earthly things, he was sent by his parents to the neighbouring school of Lismore. This school, although it had been established only for a very short time, had already acquired widespread fame, and had attracted students from all parts of England and Scotland, and from several continental countries besides.

What a busy place this famous southern university must have been in the days of its prosperity! When we read the account of it that has come down to us, glorified though it may be, and exaggerated, as no doubt it is, by the imaginations of its admirers, writing, some of them, centuries after its decay, and seeing it chiefly through the scholars and apostles that it produced, we cannot help being struck by the features of resemblance, and yet the strong contrast, it presents with those Grecian cities that, in far-off times, gathered to their academies and their market-places the elite of the world orators, poets, artists, grammarians, philosophers, all who valued culture or knew the price of intellectual superiority. Lismore had no spacious halls, no classic colonnades, no statues, or fountains, or stately temples. Its houses of residence were of the simplest and most primitive description, and its halls were in keeping with these, mere wooden structures, intended only to shut off the elements, but without any claim or pretence to artistic design. And yet Lismore had something more valuable than the attractions of either architecture or luxury. It possessed that which has ever proved the magnet of the philosopher and the theologian truth, namely, and truth illumined by the halo of religion. It sheltered also in its humble halls whatever knowledge remained in a barbarous age of those rules of art that had already shed such lustre on Greece and Rome, or had been fostered in Ireland itself according to principles and a system of native conception. Hence it drew around it a crowd of foreigners Saxons and Britons, Franks and Teutons, Sicambrians and Helvetians, Arvernians and Bohemians:

"Undique conveniunt proceres quos dulce trahebat
Discendi studium, major num cognita virtus
An laudata foret. Celeres vastissima Rheni
Jam vada Teutonici, jam deseruere Sicambri.
Mittit ah extreme gelidos Aquilone Boemos
Albis, et Arverni coeunt, Batavique frequentes,
Et quicumque colunt alta sub rupe Gebennas.
Non omnes prospectat Arar, Rhodanique fluenta
Helvetios; multos desiderat ultima Thule.
Certatim hi properant, diverse tramite ad urbem
Lesmoriam, juvenis primes ubi transigit annos." 1

1 These lines are taken from a metrical Life of St. Cathaldus, entitled Cathaldiados, which was composed by Bonaventure Moroni, brother of Bartolomeo, the author of the prose Life. See Ussher's Antiquitates, page 895.

At Lismore Cathaldus edified his brethren by his extraordinary piety as well as by his great love of study. In due time he passed from the student's bench to the master's chair, and whilst he taught in the schools, he was not unmindful of the world's needs. He raised a church at Lismore to the glory of God and the perpetual memory of His Virgin Mother. Frequent miracles bore testimony at this period to the interior sanctity of the young professor. So great was the admiration of the people for him that one of the princes in the neighbourhood grew jealous of his influence, and denounced him to the King of Munster as a magician, who aimed at subverting established authority and setting up his own in its place. The King accordingly sent his fleet to Lismore, where Cathaldus was taken prisoner and confined in a dungeon until some favourable opportunity should offer to have him conveyed into perpetual exile. The King, however, soon found what a mistake he had committed, and, instead of banishing Cathaldus, he offered him the territory of Rachau, which belonged to Meltridis, the Prince who had denounced him, and who was now overtaken by death in the midst of his intrigues. Cathaldus refused the temporal honours which the King was anxious to confer upon him, and proclaimed that he vowed his life to religion, and sought no other honours. He was, therefore, raised to the episcopate, and constituted the chief spiritual ruler of the extensive territory of the deceased Meltridis, whose tanist rights were made over on the church.

After Cathaldus had ruled the see of Rachau for some years, he resolved to set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He committed the care of his diocese to his neighbouring bishops, and set sail, without any retinue, for the Holy Land. It is probable that he was accompanied by his brother, Donatus, who afterwards became Bishop of Lupiae, now Lecce, in Calabria. In due course he reached his destination, and had the supreme happiness of kneeling at the great sepulchre, or as Tasso expresses it: "D'adorar la Gran Tomba e sciorre il voto."

With all the love and reverence of a pilgrim he sought out the holy places that had been sanctified by the presence of his Heavenly Master ; and so great was his joy to live in these solitudes, and dwell on the mysteries of man's salvation, amidst the very scenes in which it had been accomplished, that he earnestly desired and prayed to be relieved of his episcopal burden, and allowed to live and die in the desert in which our Lord had fasted, or in some one of the retreats that had been made sacred for ever by His earthly presence. Whilst engaged in earnest prayer on these thoughts, his soul was invaded by a supernatural light, which made clear to him that Providence had other designs about him. He accordingly started on the journey that Heaven had marked out for him; and, having been shipwrecked in the Gulf of Taranto, he was cast ashore not far from the city of which he was to become the apostle and the bishop. The cave in which he first took refuge is still to be seen in the neighbourhood of Otranto, not far from the point of the Japygian promontory.

The shipwrecked pilgrim, henceforward an apostle, soon made his way to the eastern gate of Tarentum. At the entrance of the city a blind man was to be seen, asking for assistance from those who passed by. His condition was symbolical of the darkness that prevailed within. Cathaldus addressed him, spoke to him of Christ and of the Blessed Trinity, and, as he found him amenable to Christian teaching, he instructed him in the mysteries of salvation; and whilst he imparted to him the light of grace through the Sacrament of Baptism he restored to him the light of natural vision through that supernatural power that had been vouchsafed to him. This whole circumstance was regarded as a happy omen, and as a symbol of the change to be wrought by the apostle within the city.

A parallel has sometimes been drawn between the condition of Taranto, when St. Cathaldus first entered its gates, with that of Athens when it was first visited by St. Paul. The parallel holds good in some respects, but not in all. Taranto was, to all intents and purposes, as deeply plunged in paganism as Athens was. There was scarcely a vestige left of the early religious settlement that had been made there by St. Peter and St. Mark, or by whoever had preached the Gospel to its people in early times. Paganism reigned supreme; but, in so far as it constituted a religion at all, it was paganism in its most corrupt and repellent form. The days of Archytas and of Pythagoras were now left far behind. The artistic splendour which had never entirely disappeared from Athens, had long since vanished from Taranto. There was no culture now, but ignorance and barbarism, the result of centuries of war and strife. With minds thus steeped in ignorance, with hearts corrupted by licence and perverted by superstition, the people of this neglected city did not offer a very encouraging prospect to the new missionary who appeared amongst them. His success, nevertheless, was greater than that of St. Paul at the capital of Greece. He won his way to the hearts of the people by his eloquence, his zeal, his power of working miracles; and when the prejudice entertained against his person and speech was once removed, the divine origin of the Gospel that he preached was acknowledged readily enough. We have, unfortunately, but very meager details as to the methods of his apostolate; but we are assured, at all events, that they were so effective as to win over the whole city in a few years. Certain it is that Cathaldus was acknowledged without dispute, during his own lifetime, as Bishop of Tarentum, and that he has ever since been revered as the founder of the Tarentine Church and the patron saint of the converted city.

It is said that when the saint felt that his death was at hand, he called around him his priests and deacons and the chief men of the city, and earnestly exhorted them to remain faithful to his teaching.

"I know [he said], that when I am gone dreadful and relentless enemies shall rise up against you, and endeavour, by heretical sophistry, to tear asunder the members of the Catholic Church, and lead astray the flock which I brought together with such pains. Against these enemies of your faith and of the Christian religion, I entreat you to strengthen the minds of the people by your own firmness, ever mindful of my labours and vigils."

The remains of the holy Bishop were committed, at his own request, to their native earth in his Cathedral Church. They were enclosed in a marble tomb, portion of which is still preserved. For some time the exact position of this tomb was unknown, but when Archbishop Drogonus of Tarentum was restoring the cathedral, in the eleventh century, the tomb was discovered. It was opened by the Archbishop, and the body of the saint was found well preserved. A golden cross had been attached to the body of the saint at the time of his burial. This also was discovered, and found to bear upon it the name of Cathaldus. The relics of the saint were then encased and preserved in the high altar of the cathedral. During the pontificate of Eugenius III they were transferred to a beautiful silver shrine adorned with gems and precious stones. A silver statue of Cathaldus was also cast, and erected in the church. These and many other memorials of the saint are still to be seen, and are held in great veneration by the people of Taranto.

The miracles attributed to the saints of the Church are often spoken of with derision by those who regard themselves as the children of light. These, whilst they minister to their own vanity, and fancy that nature has taken them specially into her confidence, revealing her inmost secrets to their ardent gaze, sometimes succeed in deceiving others: but they deceive themselves more than all. Indeed it is almost impossible to conceive how those early saints could have succeeded in winning over to Christianity, in the space of a few years, whole cities and districts that had hitherto been steeped in vice and superstition, without the power of working miracles. When that power is once granted, the explanation of wholesale conversion becomes easy and plain. Something is necessary to strike and astonish the multitude, and when wonder and alarm have become general, half the battle is already gained.

That St. Cathaldus possessed this power in a high degree, is testified not only in the records of his life, but still more authentically in the wholesale nature of the conversions that he wrought, and the unfading memory he left impressed on the city to which he ministered. The veneration for Cathaldus was not confined to Tarentum alone. It spread far and wide through Italy, Greece, and the Ionian islands. The village of Castello San Cataldo on the Ionian coast, midway between Brindisi and Otranto, perpetuates his name. Chapels dedicated to the saint, or statues erected in his honour, may be seen in many of the neighbouring towns of Calabria. The Cathedral of Taranto itself is, however, his greatest monument...


Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Volume XVII (1896), 403-416.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 9 May 2014

St. Mumbolus of Lagny, May 9

At May 9 Canon O'Hanlon brings an account of an Irish saint associated with the French foundation of Saint Fursey at Lagny. It would be interesting to know which Irish name lies behind the Latinized Mumbolus. The sources seem to suggest that he succeeded the founder but that his embrace of the Irish ascetical tradition proved too much for some in the community and that he was forced out to pursue the eremitical life instead. The sources also record two distant feast days for Saint Mumbolus, one at May 9 and a second at November 18. One of these may well be the actual date of the saint's death and the other the translation of his relics. Canon O'Hanlon tells us that the saint's relics were moved in the ninth century:

St. Mumbolus, or Mombolus, Hermit and Abbot of Lagny, France.
[Seventh Century.]

In the time of this holy man, a pious emulation seized the Christian Irish and Scots to leave their homes, and to become evangelists, among people living on the Continent. St, Mumbolus or Mombolus was born in Ireland, probably in the seventh century. Afterwards, he went over to France. There, he entered the Monastery of Lagny, as a disciple to St. Fursey. But few particulars regarding him have been recorded, by Miraeus  and Molanus, who place his festival, at the 18th of November. After the death of his master, although third in succession, he became principal over this monastery. But, his government of the inmates seemed to them rather austere; and, a confederacy of many among the community having been formed against him, he withdrew, in company with some fervent companions, to a place called Condrynus, near the River Isara, now known as L'Isere. Here, he lived the life of an anchorite, and he happily departed to a better state, towards the close of the seventh century. At the 9th of May, Dempster  has the Deposition of Mombulus, Abbot of Lagny. It is probable, he died, on the 9th of May; and, at the same date, Wion, Dorgan, Ferrarius, as also an Irish authority [Father Stephen White], have noted his feast. The Bollandists commemorate him at this day;  but, as they state, these authorities cited, and most of the other saint-writers, have another feast for him, at the 18th of November. The relics of this saint were removed, from his place of deposition, by the Bishops of Cambray and of Noyon, about the year 831.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 8 May 2014

St. Comman, of Tigh-mic-Fionnchain, May 8

On May 8 the earliest of the Irish calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, at least in one of its surviving manuscripts, records the name of Saint Comman and associates him with a locality called 'Tigh mic Fionnchain'. No further information about either is known, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Comman, of Tigh-mic-Fionnchain.

In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, we find no entry of the present saint, or of his feast. The copy of the Tallagh Martyrology, belonging to the Dublin Franciscan Convent, has a notice, however, at the eighth of the May Ides about Comman, while his place is denominated—probably as given in the later Martyrology of Donegal. The locality, denominated Tig-mac-Fionnchain, does not appear to be known; nor do we find any corresponding nomenclature for it, among the parochial or townland etymons, on the Ordnance Survey Maps for Ireland. The Bollandists  have a feast for Communus de Teghune Fendchain, sive de domo filii Fianthaim, but, it seems pretty certain, they have mispelled some of the letters in the original entry, drawn from the Tallagh Martyrology. The Martyrology of Donegal registers a festival, on this day, in honour of Comman, of Tigh mic Fionnchain.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Saint Inneen of Dromtariff, May 6

The female saint commemorated today, May 6, is interesting on two counts. First, because her festival is not actually recorded on the calendars but is preserved in popular devotion and secondly because she has no proper name. Irish readers will recognise the word iníon, 'daughter' in the anglicized word Inneen. Folklore records that she was one of three sisters, her sibling Lateerin has an interesting tale associated with her to which we will return on her own feast day of July 24. Here is a brief introduction to Saint Inneen from a contributor to the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, who wrote under the pseudonym 'Mananaan Mac Lir':
The 5th of May is the festival of a nameless saint who is known as An Inghen Buidhe a Drom Tarbh, i.e. "the yellow (haired) daughter of Dromtariff" ("the ridge of the bull"). The local tradition is that SS. Lateerin of Cullin, Lassera of Killossory, in Kilmeen parish, and this "yellow-haired daughter," were sisters who led an eremitical life in those three respective and adjoining parishes in Duhallow. One night the angels came down from heaven and made a tochar  i.e. "causeway," from Killossory to Dromtariff, and thence to Cullin, so that those holy women might the more easily meet and converse with one another. The "patron day " at Killossory is now discontinued, but a large "patron" is still held at Dromtariff holy well on each recurring May 5. The locality of "the yellow-haired daughter's" holy well — about one hundred and fifty yards south of Dromtariff grave-yard and overlooking the majestic Blackwater — is shown on the Ordnance Townland Maps for the county Cork, sheet 31. 

Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Volume II (1896), 319.

Canon O'Hanlon has little other information to offer, although he cites May 6 rather than May 5 as the feast day:

St. Inneen, Dromtariff Old Church, County of Cork.

In the diocese of Kerry, there is an old church at Dromtariff, in the parish so called, and county of Cork, where a female saint, called Inneen, was venerated, on the 6th of May. According to popular tradition, she was the sister of St. Lateerin, who is likewise popularly known, at Cullin, in that part of the country, and to an older sister, who lived at Kilmeen. It it stated, according to a local tradition, that the angels of Heaven made a road, one night, from Kilmeen  through Dromtariff and on to Cullin, so that the three sisters might the more conveniently visit each other once every week. Much obscurity hangs over their history, as their celebrity appears to be merely local; although, the people, in their part of the country, have a great veneration for those sisters.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Monday 5 May 2014

Saint Senan, May 5

On May 5 the earliest of the Irish calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, records the name of a Saint Senan but without any further details. The seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, believed him to have been an abbot, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Senan.

The simple entry of Senan's name is in the published Martyrology of Tallagh at this date; and, a similar record is found in the Franciscan copy. The Bollandists, who enter his feast, on the same authority, and at the 5th of May, have remarked, that Colgan sets him down as an Abbot; although, when or where he exercised such an office, and his acts, are not recorded. The Festilogy of St. Aengus, Marianus and Maguire are also quoted.  On this day was celebrated a festival in honour of Senan, as we find entered in the Martyrology of Donegal.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Saint Siollan, the Deacon, May 4

On May 4 the earliest Irish calendars commemorate a Saint Siollan, at whose name the scholiast in the Martyrology of Oengus has added, 'this is Sylvanus the deacon'. In his account, Canon O'Hanlon claims that the 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, sought to identify today's saint with a monk of this name found in the Life of Saint Berach of Kilbarry. Although he does not mention it here, the same claim was made in relation to another saint of this name, commemorated on March 28. On that occasion I reproduced the relevant chapter from the Life and will do so again here, following O'Hanlon's account of Saint Siollan, the Deacon, from Volume V of his Lives of the Irish Saints.

St. Siollan, the Deacon.

A festival was celebrated on this day, as we read in the Martyrologies of Tallagh and of Donegal, in honour of Siollan the deacon. This account is taken from the Felire Aenghuis. It has been thought by Colgan, that the present St. Sillan may be identical with one, mentioned in the Life of St. Berach, of Kilbarry, who is venerated, at the 15th of February. The Bollandists have the feast of St. Sillan entered, at this date; and they give a similar reference, as if her were identical with that monk of St. Berach, who had been killed by robbers, and who had afterwards resuscitated, through the miraculous agency of his venerable superior. This miracle was wrought, at a place called Rath-ond, which has not been identified. In the sixth or seventh century, St Sillan flourished, if the identification in question be admitted. This Natalis occurs, also, in the Kalendar of Drummond, as Sillan, Deacon, a holy confessor, at the 4th of the May Nones.

From the Life of Saint Berach

xxix. (85) On one occasion when Berach was in Cluain Coirpthe, he sent a monk on an errand to Rathonn, Sillen by name. Nine robbers fell in with him, who had come from the East of Tethba to ravage in Connaught, and they killed the monk, and went between his head and his body. This was revealed to Berach, and he proceeded quickly to seek them, and found them (standing) over the corpse. When the robbers saw Berach, they resolved forthwith to kill him, and seized their spears with that intent. Their hands stuck to their spears, and their spears stuck to the rock near them, and the marks of their butt-ends will remain on it till doom. (86) They did penance, and said to Berach: 'Do not deprive us of heaven, and we will do all thy will, O Clerk,' Berach then spared them, and said to them: 'Fit the head to the trunk’; and they did so, And Berach took a rush from a rushy pool on the bank hard by, and made a prayer over it, and fitted it round the throat of the corpse, and he arose forthwith; and hence (these rushes) are (called) 'Berach's rushes' till doom, And Berach left great grace upon them, and (as a doom) to the robbers that their seed should never exceed nine, and that there should always be a servitor of them in Cluain Coirpthe, and that as long as there should be one, there should only be one man of them in succession to another. And this is what is still fulfilled, and will be fulfilled till doom. And a servitor went with Berach, and thus they parted.

'Life of Berach' in C. Plummer ed.and trans. Bethada Naem nErenn – Lives of Irish Saints, Vol II, (Oxford 1922), 41.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.