Tuesday 3 November 2015

Saint Coemhan of Anatrim, November 3

November 3 is the day on which the Irish calendars commemorate Saint Coemhan, who is associated with a monastic foundation at Anatrim, County Laois. Father Edward Carrigan describes the circumstances in which Saint Coemhan came to succeed as abbot of the monastery and of its subsequent history:

St. Mochaemhog (Latine, Pulcherius), abbot and patron of Leamakevoge, now Leigh, in the parish of Two Mile-Borris, Co. Tipperary, laid the first foundations of a religious establishment at Anatrim, during the second half of the 6th century. We read in his Life:

"St. Pulcherius, with his monks, came to a place by name Enachtruim, which is in the Slieve Bloom, in the territory of the Leixians, and began to build a church there. But a certain wordly-given man came to him saying: 'Do not labour here in vain, because this place will not be yours.' St. Pulcherius answered him saying: 'Now I will remain here till some one taking hold of my hand shall seize me and expel me by force.' Then the other took hold of the holy man's hand with the intention of forcing him away. As he did so, St. Pulcherius said to him: 'By what name are you called, O man?" He answered: 'My name is Bronach' (which, in Latin. is equivalent to tristis). The holy man replied: 'You have an appropriate name, for you shall be sad here and hereafter. Now you and your generation, by the will of God, will be expelled hence by the chief of this district, but I shall be in this place until a man of God, by name Coemhan, will come to me; to him I will leave this place, he shall be surnamed from it, and here shall be his resurrection.' The man hearing this prophecy, and conscious of his guiltiness towards his chief, withdrew in anger, and without contrition for the insult he had offered [the saint], and forthwith everything fell out with him as the holy man had predicted. And when St. Coemhan came thither to St. Pulcherius, the latter left the place to him, and he remained here in great sanctity till his death: but St. Pulcherius proceeded to the district of Munster."
AA. SS. Hib. p. 586, March 13.

St. Coemhan or "Kavan," to whom Anatrim was thus committed, was probably a native of the County Wicklow, and was certainly a member of what may, with reason, be called a family of Saints. He was brother or step-brother of (1) the great St. Caoimhghin or Kevin of Glendalough, who died in 618, aged, it is said, 120 years; (2) St. Nathchoemhi or Mo-Chuemhin, Abbot of Terryglass, in Lower Ormond; (3) St. Coemola or Melda, mother of St. Abban the younger, which latter was born about 520; and of (4) St. Coeltighearna, mother of (a) St. Dagan of Ennereilly, Co. Wicklow; (b) St. Molibba, Abbot and Bishop of Glendalough; (c) St. Menocus or Enanus of Glenealy, Co. Wicklow, and (d) St. Mobhai. In early life, St. Coemhan, with his brother, St. Nathchoemhi, and St. Fintan of Clonenagh, received his religious training in St. Columba's Monastery of Terryglass. The date of his death must be somewhere about the year 600. The Martyrology of Donegal thus commemorates him on his feast day, Nov 3rd:

"Caemhan of Eanach-truim, in Laoighis, in the west of Leinster. He was of the race of Labhraidh Lorc, monarch of Erin, and brother of Caoimhghin of Gleann-da-locha.

The Calendar of Aengus, on the same day, has:
"The day of Coemhan of Eanach."

On which passage the scholiast of Aengus comments

"That is, Coemhan of Eanach truim in Laighis in Leinster, the brother of Coemgin of Glendalough Coemlog was their father's name and Coemgel their mother's, and Natcaim of Tir-da-glass [was] their brother as is aforesaid."

The annals of Anatrim monastery, from the time of St. Coemhan, are a perfect blank. The monks probably held on here till the 12th century, when they either became extinct or were set aside, and their chapel was handed over to the secular clergy.

Rev. E. Carrigan, "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory" Vol. 2 (1905).

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