I have always been intrigued by the adjective clárainech appended to the names of some of our Irish saints, most famously perhaps to Saint Mobhi of Glasnevin. The usual translation given is 'flat-faced' or 'table faced' and in the case of Saint Mobhi this is described as a result of his rather traumatic birth. He is not the only saint described in this way, however, and at January 29 we have no less than three clarinechs commemorated collectively, Saints Báithéne, Ségéne & Crónán. As Canon O'Hanlon observes 'why these three saints are venerated on the same day is a problem of difficult solution'. Yes, indeed. Below are his entries for all three from Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints, where he suggests that our three saints may have been brothers in the flesh as well as in Christ, and thus there might have been a genetic explanation for their unusual appearance:
Article VI. — St. Baeithin.
After the introduction of seven foreign saints at this day, in the Franciscan copy of the Martyrology of Tallagh, the Irish saints first noticed are the three Clarenigh,' i.e., Baithen, Segin, and Cronan. Baeithin, is separately registered in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. He is also entered in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, but united with two other saints. Why these three saints are venerated on the same day is a problem of difficult solution.
Article VII. — St. Cronan.
We find a St. Cronan separately recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival at this date. He is also entered, but not separately, in the Martyrology of Tallagh. Towards the close of life he might repeat, as St. Paul did to the Ephesians, "I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith." Therefore was he a ready sacrifice when the time of dissolution was at hand.
Article VIII. — St. Seighin or Segin.
The Martyrology of Tallagh mentions that on the 29th of January a festival was held in honour of St.Segin. He is united with the two former saints. "Na tri Clarenigh. i Baethini ocus Segini ocus Cronani," is the entry found in this record. In the Martyrology of Donegal we find entered on this day, Seighin. Immediately afterwards follows this notice: — "The three Clairenechs [flat-faced], were Cronan, Baeithin, and Seighin." Perhaps from the physical peculiarity attributed to these saints, and their feasts occurring the same day, we may suppose them to have been brothers, or perhaps to have been descended from some common progenitor.
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