Wednesday 19 August 2015

Saint Solon, August 19

Canon O'Hanlon has an entry at August 19 for a reputed feast of a saint Solon, said to have been associated with the mission of Saint Palladius to Ireland. The source for this feast is the Scottish hagiologist, Thomas Dempster (c.1579-1625), a man for whose work Canon O'Hanlon rarely has a good word to say. Irish writers were upset that Dempster deliberately ignored the fact that in the earlier medieval period the Latin word Scotia referred to Ireland and that the Scoti, missionaries and founders of monasteries in continental Europe, were Irishmen. Dempster appropriated the term exclusively for his own country, the land we now know as Scotland, and thus claimed an important part of the religious heritage of Ireland. Another writer who shared the poor opinion of Dempster and his work was the 20th-century Italian author of the classic work Irish Saints in Italy, Fra Anselmo Tommasini, who charged that Dempster 'perverted facts, invented quotations from non-existing books and documents, and attributed to existing authors passages they had never written'. In this case however, whilst Dempster may be the source for the feast day, he did not invent the character of Solon. The Irish sources themselves testify to two companions of Palladius named Solon and Sylvester who were left in charge of a County Wicklow church. What Dempster records in his calendar is: XIX. In Marria Solonii presbyteri, qui S. Palladium Apostolum sepelivit, 'In Mar, [the feast] of Solonius the priest, who buried Saint Palladius the Apostle.' So, let us begin first with Canon O'Hanlon's account of this reputed feast day and then move on to what the hagiography of Saint Patrick records of Saint Solon:

Reputed Feast of St. Solonius or Solon, an Early Companion of St. Palladius, in Wicklow. [Fifth Century.]

In Dempster's Menologium Scotorum, there is a festival at the 19th of August, at Mar, in Scotland. Ferrarius follows this account. The Bollandists have allusion to this Solonius, at the same date, with a remark, that they desired to have more certain and definite information regarding his cultus and acts. He must have flourished in the fifth century, if we are to accept the statement, that he buried St. Palladius, whose death has been assigned to a date somewhat later than A.D. 432. We are informed, however, that in one of the churches, founded by Palladius, and named Domnach-arda, in Hy Garrchon, on the eastern coast of Ireland, he left his disciples Sylvester and Salonius, who were there buried. Their remains were preserved in that church, until they were removed, at the close of the sixth century, to the Inch or Holm of Baethin,in the parish of Dunganstown, and County of Wicklow. In that locality, those saints were venerated until the year 770 or 774, when the church there experienced the fate of the Churches of Glendalough and of some other sanctuaries in that district of country.

In the 17th century, the Irish hagiologist, Father John Colgan, compiled his work on the lives of the three wonderworking patron saints of Ireland, the Trias Thaumaturga. He drew on a number of existing Lives and in the second life of Saint Patrick there is an interesting summary of the Palladian mission. It includes a mention of Solon or Salonius as his name is Latinized here:
"The most blessed Pope Celestine ordained bishop the archdeacon of the Roman Church, named Palladius, and sent him into the island of Hibernia, giving to him relics of the blessed Peter and Paul, and other saints; and, moreover, the volumes of the Old and New Testaments. Palladius entering the land of the Scots, arrived at the territory of the men of Leinster, where Nathi Mac Garrchon was chief, who was opposed to him. Others, however, whom the divine mercy had disposed towards the worship of God, having been baptized in the name of the sacred Trinity, the blessed Palladius built three churches in the same district — one which is called Kill-fine (i.e., church of Finte: perhaps the present Dunlavin), in which, even to the present day, he left his books received from St. Celestine, and the box of the relics of SS. Peter and Paul, and other saints, and the tablets on which he used to write, which, in Irish, are called from his name, Pallere — that is, the burden of Palladius, and are held in veneration; another was called Teach-na- Roman, the house of the Romans; and the third, Domnach-ardech (Donard, near Dunlavin), in which repose the holy companions of Palladius, viz., Sylvester and Salonius, who are still honoured there. After a short time Palladius died at Fordun, but others say that he was crowned with martyrdom there."
This information is supported by the fourth life which adds the detail that the relics of our saint and his companion Sylvester, were later translated to an island not far from Arklow, County Wicklow, which owed its name to Saint Boethin:
...The third is the church which is called Domnach-arda, in which are the holy companions of Palladius, viz., Silvester and Solinus, whose relics, after some time, were carried to the island of Boethin, and are there held in due honour.
So, we appear to have an Irish tradition which records that:

1. The mission of Palladius included two saints, Solonius and Sylvester

2. They were placed in charge of one of the churches founded by Palladius in the area of Dunlavin, County Wicklow

3. Their relics remained at the church until they were subsequently translated to the island of Boethin, also in County Wicklow.

That being so, I seem to be left with the question, how did Solon also come to be linked with Mar in Scotland? I would thus be interested to see if I can discover the basis on which Dempster made his calendar entry but the answer will require some further research.

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