Wednesday 14 December 2022

'Three Colmáns to Help Us', December 14


As regular readers of the blog will know the problem of trying to disentangle Irish saints who all share the same name is never more acute than when we are dealing with saints called Colmán. There is a source called the List of Homonymous Saints, preserved in the twelfth-century manuscript known as the Book of Leinster, which lists over two hundred saints called Colm or Colmán. On December 14 we find three saints of this name listed on some of the Irish calendars. The twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman notes: 

Three Colmáns to help us

while the seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal records:

COLMAN, of Rath Maoilsidhe.
COLMAN, son of Fionntan.
 The first of the trio is associated with the monastery of Rath Melsigi, modern Clonmelsh, County Carlow, a spiritual and intellectual powerhouse which prepared a number of Anglo-Saxon saints, most notably Saint Willibrord and his companions, for their European mission. In the absence of other information we cannot clarify what Saint Colmán's role was at this foundation or when he may have exercised it.

The second of the three, described as the son of Fintan offers a patronymic to distinguish himself but alas, this too does not help us locate him in time or place. 

The final Colmán sounds like a pleasant chap, álainn in modern Irish is an adjective usually translated as 'beautiful' but in its older form álaind, Whitley Stokes, the translator of the Martyrology of Gorman, has rendered it as 'delightful'.

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