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.

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