Monday 30 December 2013

Saint Connla of Rúsgach, December 30

December 30 is the feast of Saint Connla, described in the Martyrologies as a Bishop of Rúsgach. Unfortunately, apart from discovering that this locality was identified by 19th-century scholar John O'Donovan as Rooskagh, a townland in the barony of Moycashel, County Westmeath, I have been unable to find out any further details. The Martyrology of Donegal records:

CONNLA, Bishop of Rúsgach.
Our saint is not the only one associated with this locality to be recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal, for on August 20 one of the saints commemorated is:
MOTRENÓG, son of Aenghus, Abbot, of Rúsgach.
These commemorations indicate that there must have been a religious foundation at this locality, about which I hope I may be able to find out some further details.

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Saturday 28 December 2013

Saint Maughold of Mannin, December 28

December 28 is the feastday of an Irish saint, Maughold (Machaldus, Maccuil), whom tradition says was converted from a life of crime by Saint Patrick and went on to become apostle to the Isle of Man. The following account has been excerpted from a 19th-century article on Ireland and the Isle of Man, which quotes many of the hagiographical sources:

Another interesting fact in the life of our apostle is the conversion of St. Machaldus, who, from a Cruithnean chief, became a follower of Christ, and a herald of the Gospel tidings in Man. We will give in full, from the "Book of Armagh," which is one of the most venerable records of our ancient Church, the narration of this event, so important in the ecclesiastical history of the Isle of Man: "There was a certain man in the country of the Ultonians, in the time of St. Patrick, Maccuil of Macugrecca, and this man was very impious, most cruel, tyrannical, so that he was called Cyclops by the more thoughtful; depraved in deeds, in words intemperate, malignant in action, bitter in spirit, quarrelsome in disposition, abandoned in body, cruel in mind, a heathen in life, and void of conscience; sunk into such a depth of impiety that, on a certain day, sitting in a rough and high mountainous place, viz., Hindruim Maccuechach, where he daily exercised his tyranny, committing the greatest enormities, slaying his guests on their journey, with abandoned cruelty and cruel wickedness; seeing also St. Patrick shining in the clear light of faith, sparkling with a certain wonderful glory of the diadem of the heavenly country, firm in the unshaken confidence of his doctrine, walking in a way suitable to his life, him he meditated to slay, saying to his attendants, 'Behold, this seducer and perverter of men comes, whose custom is to practise deceits to entrap many men, and to seduce them ; let us go therefore and tempt him, and let us know if that God in whom he glories has any power.'

"And they tempted the holy man; they tempted him in this way: they placed one of themselves under a cloak, feigning him to be lying in the agony of death, that they might try the saint by this kind of deception; so, on the arrival of St. Patrick with his disciples, they were having recourse to tricks, muttering prayers, and practising witchcraft and incantations. The heathen said to him, ' Behold, one of us is now sick, approach, therefore, and chaunt some of the incantations of your sect over him, if perchance he may be healed.'

"St. Patrick, knowing all their stratagems and deceits, with firmness and intrepidity said, ' It would be no wonder if he had been sick;' and his companions uncovering the face of him that was feigning sickness saw that he was now dead; and the heathens, amazed and astonished at such a miracle, said among themselves, 'Truly this man is from God; we have done evil in tempting him.' But St. Patrick having turned to Maccuil says, ' Why did you seek to tempt me?' The cruel tyrant answered, ' I am sorry for what I have done, whatever you command me I will perform; and now I deliver myself into the power of your supreme God whom you preach.' And the saint said, 'Believe, therefore, in my God, the Lord Jesus, and confess your sins, and be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' And he was converted in that hour, and believed in the Eternal God, and, moreover, was baptized; and then Maccuil added this, saying, ' I confess to thee, my holy lord, Patrick, that I proposed to kill you ; judge, therefore, how much I owe for so great a crime.' Patrick said, ' I am not able to judge, but God will judge. Do you, therefore, depart now, unarmed, to the sea, and pass over quickly from this country, Ireland, taking nothing with you of your substance, except a small common garment, with which you may be able to cover your body, eating nothing and drinking nothing of the fruit of this island, having a mark of your sins on your head, and when you reach the sea bind your feet together with an iron fetter, and cast the key of it into the sea, and set out in a boat of one hide, without rudder or oar, and wherever the wind and sea shall lead you, be prepared to remain, and to whatever land Divine Providence shall carry you, be prepared to live there and obey the divine commands.'

"And Maccuil said, 'I will do as you have said; but respecting the dead man, what shall we do?' And Patrick said, 'He shall live, and rise again without pain.' And Patrick restored him to life in that hour, and he revived quite sound.

"And Maccuil departed thence very speedily to the sea. The right side of the plain of Inis is reached; having his confidence unshaken in the faith, and binding himself on the shore, casting the key into the sea, according to what was commanded to him, he then embarked in a little boat, and north wind arose and bore him to the south, and cast him on the island called Evonia, and he found there two men very wonderful in faith and doctrine, who first taught the word of God and baptism in Evonia ; and the men of the island were converted, by their doctrine, to the Catholic faith, whose names are Conindrus and Rumilus. But these, seeing a man of the same habit wondered, and pitied him, and lifting him out of the sea, the spiritual fathers received him with joy ; he, therefore, after finding himself in a region believing in God, conformed himself body and soul to their guidance, and spent the remainder of his days with those two holy bishops, till he was appointed their successor in the bishopric.

"This is Maccuil Dimane, abbot and bishop of Arddae Huimhbonii."

We glean some additional circumstances connected with the episcopate of St. Machaldus, from the other ancient records of St. Patrick's life. Thus in the "Vita Tripartita" we read: "St. Machaldus being freed from his chains gave thanks to God, and increasing in holiness he merited the episcopal grade on the death of the aforesaid holy bishops, and he closed his life there, illustrious for his virtues and miracles. There was a city in that island called after him, of no small extent, the remains of whose walls may yet be seen; and in the cemetery of its church there is a sarcophagus of hollow stone, out of which a spring continually exudes, nay, freely floweth, which is sweet to the palate, wholesome to the taste, and affording a sure remedy to divers infirmities, and to the deadliness of poison, for whosoever drinks thereof receives either instant health or instant death. In that sarcophagus the remains of St. Machaldus are said to have been deposited, but nothing is now found therein save the clear water only; and though many have oftentimes endeavoured to remove the stone, and especially the King of the Norwegians, who subdued the island, and was anxious to have at all times such clear water at sea, yet they all have failed in their attempts; for, the deeper they dug to raise the stone, so much the more deeply and firmly did they find it fixed in the heart of the earth."

The "Vita Quarta," which is referred by Colgan to St. Aileran the Wise, also states that Machaldus, being wafted by the winds to the Isle of Man, "Found there two wonderful men named Conindrius and Romulus, under whose guidance the inhabitants of the island had grown up in the love of God, and in the Catholic faith, and who instructed him in the doctrine of life, and in the grace of baptism. He remained with them in the pursuit of divine wisdom, and passed the remainder of his life there, till he was chosen their successor in the episcopate. This was, indeed, a change effected by the right hand of God, and in this the compassionate clemency of our Saviour and his benign mercy are made known, that he who had been a lawless robber should become a holy bishop."

The Irish annalists place the death of St. Machaldus in the year 554, and by his sanctity of life and evangelical labours, during his long episcopate of sixty years, he not only atoned for his former reckless career, but, moreover, won for himself the title, which all subsequent ages have awarded him, of Apostle and Patron of the Isle of Man.

The memory of St. Machaldus was honoured by "many churches" erected in Man under his invocation, as the "British Martyrology" assures us. Jocelyn adds, that "There was in former times a large city in the island, the ruins of whose walls may still be seen, and which bore the name of St. Machaldus." In the "Chronicon Manniae" a fact is mentioned which proves that in the twelfth century the memory of the saint was still cherished in the island. A band of pirates, it is said, had plundered the church of St. Machaldus, in Man, and carried away its treasures; that night the saint appeared to their chief, and, reproaching him for his crime, said, "I am Machaldus, the servant of Christ, whose church you have sought to profane," after which words the saint transpierced the pirate with his crozier.

'On the Early Relations of Ireland with the Isle of Man' in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. 5 (1869) 241-261.

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Wednesday 25 December 2013

Saint Oengus the Martyrologist on the Nativity of Christ

25. At great marvellous Christmas
Christ from white-pure Mary was born
with the ruin of darkness,
(Christ) the luminous King of Adam's race.

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Tuesday 24 December 2013

Saint Cumméin the Death-Pale, December 24

There is an interesting saint recorded in the Irish calendars at December 24. The Martyrology of Gorman records:

24. A.

The vigil of the Nativity...Cumméin the death-pale..

to which the gloss is added:

he was pale in the hut of devotion.

This epithet of 'death-pale' suggests that Saint Cumméin was perhaps one of the many Irish saints distinguished for his ascetic piety, but I have been unable to find out any further information about when or where he flourished. He is not listed in the Martyrology of Oengus and is simply listed as Cumméin in the Martyrology of Donegal.

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Monday 23 December 2013

The Twelve Pilgrims of Inis Uachtair, December 23

Among the saints commemorated on December 23 is a group of twelve pilgrims from an island in Lough Sheelin, County Westmeath. The Martyrology of Gorman describes them as:

Pilgrims whom thou shouldst know, two hexads, with a vigorous career.

whilst the Martyrology of Donegal records them quite simply as:

THE TWELVE PILGRIMS, of Inis Uachtair.

The Irish name Inis Uachtair translates as 'Upper Island' and as Father Anthony Cogan's diocesan history of Meath explains, a monastery had existed on the Lough Sheelin site since the sixth century:


This is an island in Lough Sheelin (upper island), bordering on the half barony of Fore. St. Carthagh the elder, grandson of Aengus, King of Cashel, erected an abbey here in the sixth century. In the Martyrology of Donegal the festival of St. Carthach, bishop, is marked at the 5th of March, and it is stated there that "Inis-Uachtair, in Loch-Sileann, belongs to him." The festival of the "Seven Sons of Dreitell, of Inis-Uachtair", is set down in the Martyrology of Tallaght at December the 21st, and in the Martyrology of Donegal at December the 22nd. The festival of "The Twelve Pilgrims of Inis-Uachtair" is commemorated in the Martyrology of Donegal at December the 23rd.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out any more about our saintly pilgrims. It would have been interesting to know of the purpose of their pilgrimage and especially of their destination. Although we hear of Irish saints going on pilgrimage to places like Rome or Tours, many Irish pilgrimages were undertaken to less exotic destinations here at home. Peter Harbinson's book 'Pilgrimage in Ireland - The Monuments and the People' is packed with fascinating details about this subject, one which I hope to post about in the future.

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Saturday 21 December 2013

Saint Siollan of Lismore, December 21

Among the saints commemorated at December 21 on the Irish calendars is Siollan, Bishop of Lismore. The Martyrology of Donegal records:


SIOLLAN, Bishop of Lis-mór.

A diocesan historian gives this summary of the famous monastery of Lismore:
The church and monastery of Lismore, which grew to be one of the renowned centres of ancient Irish learning and piety, owed its foundation to St. Mochuda of the 7th century. Mochuda, otherwise Carthage, was a native of Kerry, and he had been abbot of Rahan in Offaly. It is probable that there had been a Christian church at Lismore previous to the time of Mochuda, for in the Saint's Life there is an implied reference to such a foundation. Be this as it may, Mochuda, driven out of Rahan, with his muintir, or religious household, migrated southward, and, having crossed the Blackwater at Affane, established himself at Lismore in 630. In deference to Mochuda's place of birth the saint's successor in Lismore was, for centuries, a Kerryman. Lismore grew in time to be a great religious city, and a school of sacred sciences, to which pilgrims from all over Ireland and scholars from beyond the seas resorted. The rulers of the great establishment were all, or most of them, bishops, though they are more generally styled abbots by the Annalists. Among the number are several who are listed as Saints by the Irish Martyrologies, scil:

Sillan, bishop of Lismore . .. . .. Nov. 21.

Rev. Patrick Power, Waterford & Lismore - A Compendious History of the United Dioceses (Cork, 1937), 5-6.

I note that Canon Power has listed our bishop's feast at November 21, but as we have seen he is listed at December 21 in the Martyrology of Donegal and also at this date in the Martyrology of Gorman. I assume, therefore, that this is a typo, as I can find no saint of this name listed at November 21, only at December 21.

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Friday 20 December 2013

Saint Fraech of Cluain Collaing, December 20

December 20 is the feast of Saint Fraech (Froech, Froegius, Fraegius), known as Cruimhther or Presbyter Fraech of Cluain Collaing, now Cloone, County Leitrim. The entry in the Martyrology of Donegal records:


CRUIMHTHER FRAECH, of Cluain Collaing, in Muintir Eoluis. He was of the race of Conmac, son of Fergus, son of Ross, son of Rudhraighe.

The Martyrology of Gorman notes:

Presbyter Fraech the facile [easy], a constant champion.

Saint Fraech was obviously the founder of a monastery in this locality and although no Life of Cruimhther Fraech survives, he features in the various Lives of Saint Berach of Kilbarry, whose feast is commemorated on February 15. Charles Plummer's translation of one of these Lives of Saint Berach gives us the basic details:

16) Now St. Berach was born in the house of his mother's brother, Fraech the Presbyter, son of Carthach, in Gort na Luachra (the Close of the Rushes), near Cluain Conmaicne. And in that place there is (now) a mother-church and a cross, and the stone on which St. Berach was born. And Presbyter Fraech subsequently offered this estate to Berach. Presbyter Fraech too it was who baptized St, Berach, and fostered him till he was old enough to study.

Canon O'Hanlon in his Lives of the Irish Saints expands upon the connection between Saint Fraech and his nephew in his account of Saint Berach on February 15 (Volume II, pp. 536-537):

According to the Irish Life of our saint, his father's name was Nemnald... Fionmaith, sister to Cruimhther Fraech, of Cluain Conmaicne, in Muinter-Eolais, was his mother...

Their holy relative, named Froegius, or Froech, lived in a certain district, and there he occupied a cell. After reciting matins and lauds, he went out, about the middle of the night, and looking in the direction of Connaught, he beheld a globular and bright luminous halo surrounding the house of Nemnald, and of his wife, Fionmaith. Wondering what such a spectacle portended, Froech said to one of his disciples, "Go to the house of my brother-in-law, Nemnald, and inform me, if my sister hath given birth to a boy: if so, bring him to me." Obeying this order, the messenger at once set out for the house, where, on his arrival, he found a very beautiful infant with Fionmaith. Having learned from the messenger those instructions, given by Froech, the child was accordingly sent to him. When the latter saw how highly gifted, by nature, his infant nephew was, he directed that baptism should be administered, in the church, so that the neophyte should be washed with the water of regeneration, and that thus he might be presented to Christ.

The first name given to the child was Fintan, until he had been brought to the font, by his uncle, St. Froech who baptized him. The parents had been required to know, what name ought to be imposed on their child, when they replied, it must be Berach. This being agreed to, Froech said afterwards, "Rightly has this name been given to him, for he shall be a saint, and his place shall be in Heaven." We are furnished with an interpretation, for the name of Berach; namely, that it has the signification of one, who takes a direct and an exact aim, at an object, or as reaching one, so to speak, with the point of a sword... When baptized, the mother naturally desired her infant to be sent home; yet, Froech said to her, "Know you, my dear sister, that no further care of this boy shall belong to you, for with me shall he remain, since God, who created him, is able to cause his growth, without being suckled by a mother." To this strange request Fionmaith assented, and in a truly miraculous manner, Froech became a foster-father to the child. The latter grew up by degrees, and the Almighty seemed to supply every want, incident to his condition. By Froech, also, was Berach taught the rudiments of learning, when a mere infant. As the child grew up, he evinced the most affectionate regard towards his uncle. His piety and his love for learning were very admirable, so that his time was wholly engaged with prayer and study. His intellectual and pious disposition, even at this early age, boded his future eminence and great sanctity. He laboured to imitate his holy relative, and in the course of time, no other child of earth seemed to equal him, in the practise of good works.

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Thursday 19 December 2013

Saint Samthann of Clonbroney, December 19

December 19 is the feastday of one of my favourite Irish saints - Samthann of Clonbroney, County Longford. The Martyrology of Oengus devotes its entire entry for this day to her:
C. xiv. cal. Ianuarii. 
19. Blithe unto my soul,
with the vastness of her host,
be the fair pure manna of elemental God,
Samthann of Clúain Brónaig !
The later Martyrology of Donegal reads:
SAMHTHANN, Virgin, of Cluain-Bronaigh, in Cairbre in Tethbha, near Granard. She was of the race of Fiatach Finn, monarch of Erin. The age of Christ when she went to heaven was 734.
We are blessed in having a surviving Life of Saint Samthann which records how, having forsaken her aristocratic husband on their wedding night to follow the religious life, she came to the monastery of Clonbroney and was put in charge by its founder, Saint Fuinech. The following excerpts from the Vita Sanctae Samthannae Virginis have been taken from Dorothy Africa's translation:
5. At that time the foundress of Clonbroney, the blessed virgin Fuinech, dreamt that sparks of fire in the likeness of Saint Samthann came and consumed the whole monastery, and then rose up in a great flame. She told her dream to the sisters and gave this interpretation: "Burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit, Samthann will make this place shimmer by virtue of her merits and in the splendour of miracles". For that reason, Fuinech sent for Samthann and gave her the community.
Like Saint Brigid of Kildare, with whom she has much in common, many of Saint Samthann's miracles concern food and in the one recorded below, she also emerges as a saint with a sense of humour:
6. After she had taken charge, first she wanted to construct an oratory of trimmed timber, and so she sent for carpenters and other workmen to bring in timber from forests nearby. One of the carpenters, observing the paucity of the provisions and the number of workers, thought to himself "Oh, if only we could have forty wheaten loaves with butter and cheese and milk, for such a quantity of bread suffice us." Man is not frustrated in his desire for something his soul has desired. For through the merits of holy Samthann, all he had thought he saw placed before him. The intimate of Christ, giggling, said "The thought of your heart is fulfilled is it not?" And he said to her "Indeed so Mistress, there is neither something in addition, or anything missing." Then all gave thanks to God and ate their fill.
But, as an Irish saint, it doesn't do to cross her, even at a distance:
16. Once the holy servant of Christ desired to build a large hall for the work of the sisters, and sent Nathea the prioress with the craftsmen into the forest of Connacht for pine timber. When they had searched for three whole days without finding the wood, the weary group decided on the fourth day to return home. While they slept that night, the blessed Samthann suddenly appeared in a dream to her disciple Nathea, saying "Tomorrow morning cut down bog willows at the root, and you will find enough pine lying there." At daybreak, they did just so as she instructed, and found the pine they desired. But the owner of the woods, seeing such a heap of pine, said, "unless you buy them, you will not get these trees." Nathea said to him "we will buy them willingly". The following night Samthann appeared in a vision to that man. She spoke in a threatening voice, saying "What tempts you fellow, to withold these things offered to God?" Then she struck his side with a staff, saying "wretch, unless you do penance, know that you will die very soon." Next morning, that man, stung by penance, gave them the lumber outright. When word got out, the inhabitants of the region praised God as manifest in the holy Samthann. They provided sixty yokes of oxen and conveyed all that wood back to the monastery.
But, of course, the Life balances such accounts of the saint's displeasure with accounts of her mercy. Below is my very favourite instance of her clemency, where Saint Samthann deals leniently with a young whippersnapper who fails to show her the proper respect:
23. Once the community of brothers on the isle of Iona sent some of their members to the holy Samthann with a boatload of wool. While they were clearing the level surface (of the sea), the calm of the air changed suddenly. The waves, raised by the heightening of the winds, menaced them angrily with death. A lad among them spoke up foolishly, saying, "Let's throw the granny's wool overboard lest we sink". The navigator of the ship refused to allow this, and said, "Certainly not, with the old lady's wool we shall either live or die". With this remark, such serenity of the sea ensued that the wind disappeared altogether and they resorted to rowing. Then the same boy piped up again, "Why can't the granny provide us any wind now?" The navigator responded, "we believe that God will assist us for the sake of her merits". At once the wind filled their sails and they capitalized on this gift for three whole days and nights until they reached the harbour at Colptha. When they had arrived at the monastery of the blessed virgin, they saluted her as they entered and kissed her hand. When the aforesaid lad approached her, the virgin said "Now what was that you were saying about me at sea when the storm threatened you with death?" The boy was confounded into silence with shame. She said to him "Never doubt this, if ever dangers corner you, call upon me boldly".
The Life ends with a beautiful image of Saint Samthann's journey to heaven at the end of her earthly life:
26. On the very night in which her spirit returned to heaven, the holy abbot Lasran, of whom we spoke earlier, awoke and saw two moons, one of which dipped towards him. He was mindful of his own request, for he had asked her that when she passed to the celestial realm she would bend toward him. Recognizing her in the guise of a star, he said, "Well done, Samthann, faithful servant of God, for now you are ushered into the rejoicing of the Lord, your spouse." In this fashion she faded away, climbing into the sky, where eternal life is enjoyed for ever and ever, Amen.

Dorothy Africa, trans., Life of the Holy Virgin Samthann, in T. Head, ed., Medieval Hagiography - An Anthology (Routledge, 2001), 97-110.

Amen indeed!

A further selection from the Life of Saint Samthann can be read here.

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Monday 16 December 2013

Saint Rodaighe of Ghreallaigh Bhunna, December 16

December 16 is the feast of a County Meath saint, Rodaighe of Ghreallaigh Bhunna. Diocesan historian Father Anthony Cogan remarks of this saint and his locality:

The ancient name of this place was Ghreallaigh Bhunna, Grellech, and Anglicised Girley. The patron saint is St. Rodaighe, abbreviated Raed, whose festival was celebrated on the 16th of December. In the list of guarantees and sureties given in the Irish Charters in the Book of Kells, on the occasion of the purchase of land near Donaghmore, at Navan from O'Riaman by the priest of Kells and his kinsmen, occur, "and the Erenagh of Grellech (Girley), and the Sech-nabb (i.e. the viceabbot), and the crozier of Reodaidhe". There was therefore in the early period a monastery at Girley of which St. Raed was abbot. Up to a few years ago his holy well was frequented, in the language of the peasantry, "nine clear days before Christmas". See the Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society, vol. i., p. 135. Martyrology of Donegal at 16th of December.

The Miscellany records in its notes:

" Grellech Now called in Irish Greille, and anglicised Girley by metathesis. It is the name of a parish lying a short distance to the south of Kells.

Reodaidhe. — This saint is still vividly remembered in the parish of Girley, near Kells, of which he is still regarded as the patron, but his name is now shortened to Raed. In the Irish Calendar of the O'Clerys he is set down as St. Rodaighe of Greallach-buna, at 16th of December, thus:

"Dec. 16. St. Rodaighe of Greallach-buna, the son of Failbhe, son of Ronan, of the race of Niall of the Nine Hostages."

The Editor could learn nothing of the crozier of this saint in the parish of Girley.

The Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society. Vol. 1 (Dublin, 1846), 135.

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Sunday 15 December 2013

Saint Flann of Bangor, December 15

December 15 is the feast of Saint Flann, a seventh/eighth century successor to Saint Comgall as abbot of Bangor. The Martyology of Oengus says that at this date we commemorate 'the feast of Flann the modest ruler, the abiding successor at Bangor.' His death in the eighth century is recorded in the Annals  which also link him to Antrim:

A.D. 722. " St. Flann, of Aentrebh (Antrim), Abbot of Beannchair, died."

One of the most glowing tributes to the monastic foundation over which Saint Flann ruled was written by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in his Life of Saint Malachy. The quotation below has been taken from the diocesan history of Down and Connor by Father O'Laverty:

"There had existed in this place, under the founder Comgellus, a most noble institution, inhabited by many thousands of monks, the head of many monasteries, a place truly sanctified and so fruitful in saints, which brought forth fruit so abundantly to God, that one of the sons of that holy congregation, Luanus by name, had himself alone founded one hundred monasteries, which I mention for this reason, that the reader may from this single instance form a conception of the number to which the remainder of the community amounted. In short, so widely had its branches extended through Ireland and Scotland, that these times appear to have been expressly foreshadowed in the verses of David—' Thou visited the earth, and hast plentifully watered it,' &c. Nor was it only into the countries I have mentioned, but even into distant lands, that crowds of saints, like an inundation, poured, one of whom, St. Columbanus, penetrating into these our regions of Gaul, built the monastery of Luxieu, and there became a great multitude. So great do they say it was, that the solemnisation of the Divine offices was kept up by companies, who relieved each other in succession, so that not one moment, day or night, was there an intermission of their devotions."

Sunday 8 December 2013

Saint Fionan Caue, December 8

December 8  is the commemoration of a Saint Fionan. He is remembered in the Martyrology of Donegal as:


FIONAN CUAE. He may be Fionan, of Druim-habhradh, son of Garbhan, who is of the race of Aenghus, son of Nadfraech, king of Munster.

and in the Martyrology of Gorman as:

Finan of Caue, a dear man.

There are a number of saints who bear this name in the Irish calendars and I hope that with a bit more research it may be possible to find out something more about this particular one.

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Saturday 7 December 2013

Saint Buite of Monasterboice, December 7

The monastic site at Monasterboice, County Louth is most famous today as the home of the Cross of Muiredach, one of the finest examples of a 'Celtic cross' to be found in Ireland. Less well-known perhaps is the founder of the monastery, Saint Buite, who flourished in the sixth century. His feast on December 7 is well attested in the Irish calendars. The Martyrology of Oengus records for this day:

7. With the passion of Polycarp
with his noble, streamy train,
the bright feast of victorious Buite,
from treasurous Monaster(boice).
 to which the later scholiast has added some notes attempting an etymology for the saint's name:
of Buite, from Manistir in Mag Breg. Buite, i.e. living. Or bute, i.e. fire as is said in the proverb bot fo Bregaib 'fire throughout Bregia,' whence is now said butelach, i.e. where there has been a great fire.- Or bute quasi bete, from beatus. Beatus autem dicitur quasi bene auctus, for fair was his aggrandizement, a star manifesting his conception, as happened at the manifestation of Christ. Or bute quasi beo De, for unto God (Dia) he was alive (beo), as hath been written' 'they which live shall not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again,' doing in this world, not their own will, but His who suffered for them. 
Bute son of Bronach, son of Balar, son of Cass, son of Nia, son of Airmedach, son of Fergus, son of Isinchan, son of Fiacc.

The Martyrology of Donegal follows the attempts to explain the derivation of the saint's name, but adds that in the list of parallel saints Buite is likened to the Venerable Bede:

BUITE, i.e., Boetius, Bishop of the Monastery. It was in the year of our Lord 520 that he died, i.e., the day on which Colum Cille was born, as stated in the Life of Buite himself. Buite, son of Bronach of Mainister-Buithe, was of the race of Connla, son of Tadhg, son of Cian, son of Oilioll Oluim. A very ancient old-vellum-book, mentioned at Brighit, 1st of February, states that Buite, son of Bronach, and Beda the Wise, had a resemblance to each other in habits and life. 
“The bright festival of Buite the Victorious” 
Buite that is, he is called Beo or Buite, which signifies 'fire' ut in proverbio dicitur, & etc. Bot fo breghaibh, (Fire under liars), unde dicitur hodie 'Butelach', i.e., ubi fit magnus ignis. Buite, however, is quasi Beti ab eo, quod est beatus. Beatus autem dicitur, quasi bene auctus vel aptus for it was a great increase of honour to him that a star manifested his birth, as it manifested the birth of Christ. Or Buite, quasi Beode, because God was life to him : sicut scriptum est, “Qui vivunt jam non sibi vivant sed ei qui pro ipsis mortuus est, et resurrexit; non suam seculi in hoc mundo voluntatem [facientes], sed ejus qui pro ipsis passus est.”

So there is much to discover about 'Buite the fair and vigorous' as the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman calls him. He has thus joined the long list of saints about whom I need to undertake more research. In the meantime though, here is a short introduction to his life from an early guide book to the area:


 Home of Ireland's Crosses

The story of Monasterboice dates back to the sixth century, but like so many other settlements of that period, the facts available regarding its construction and inhabitants are few. It is known, however, that the monastery was founded by an ecclesiastic named Buite, a descendant of one of the chieftains of Munster.

He lived until the year 520 A.D. so it is considered more than likely that he, at some stage of his youth, came into direct contact with St. Patrick. He travelled extensively through Italy, Germany and England before beginning work on the Monasterboice monastery on his return to Ireland.

In the course of his travels throughout Ireland Buite is said to have cured many people, sometimes in the strangest ways. Once, a blind man, carrying a cripple, pleaded with Buite to cure them of their infirmities and were told to anoint themselves in the water through which his carriage had passed. They did so and were cured.

On another occasion while hastening to save the life of a captive of the High King he found the river Boyne, which he had to cross, swollen in flood. But when he struck the water with his staff a passage was cleared for him and, like another Moses, he crossed safely.

To his dismay he found the prisoner had already been beheaded. But, Buite proceeded to replace the head and restore the man to life. Legend has it that thereafter the restored man spent the remainder of his days tending the monastic garden at Monasterboice.

Many other stories are told of his works which resulted in cures for people and animals. But, perhaps the strangest of all was the manner in which Buite is reputed to have died. Walking one day in the monastery cemetery he was filled with a desire for death and he is said to have ascended a ladder provided by angels.

The other monks watched in amazement, but Buite returned with a disc of glass in front of his face which enabled him to see without being seen. He remained with his monks for several more months and before he died foretold of the coming of St. Colmcille, who it is thought, was born on the same day.

K. MacGowan, The Boyne Valley (Dublin, n.d.), 23-4.

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Friday 6 December 2013

Saint Gobban of Old Leighlin, December 6

The exact feast day and identity of the Saint Gobban commemorated on December 6 is the subject of some confusion and debate. The Martyrology of Oengus records:

6. The feast of Gobban, shout of thousands!
with a train of great martyrdom,
the angelic rampart,
the virginal
abbot, lucid descendant of Lan.
6. of Gobban i.e. of Cell Lamraide in Hui Cathrenn in the west of Ossory, i.e. a thousand monks it had, as experts say.

angelic wall, i.e. angels founded the wall of his church for him.

Lane, i.e. an old tribe, which was once in the south of Ireland, and of them was Gobban.

Is this holy abbot the founder of the monastery at Old Leighlin? The problem is that there are a number of saintly Gobbans listed in the Irish calendars, including one 'Goibhenn, of Tigh Scuithin', who is commemorated on 23 May. He too has been identified with the founder of Old Leighlin. In the notes he contributed to the revision of the classic work on Irish monastic foundations, the Monasticon Hibernicum, Bishop Moran (following the authority of Colgan) accepts, however, that the Saint Gobban commemorated on December 6 is the founder of the monastery at Old Leighlin:

St. Gobban was the founder of the monastery of Leighlin. There are several saints of that name in the Irish Calendars, but Colgan judged that most probably our saint was the "St. Gobban of Kill-Lamraidhe, in the west of Ossory," who is honoured on the 6th of December: "Hunc Gobanum existimo fuisse ilium celebrem mille monachorum patrem qui postea Ecclesiam de Kill-Lamhraighe rexit" (Acta SS. p. 750). The "Martyrology of Donegal" styles him " Gobban Fionne, of Kill-Lamhraidhe, in Ui-Cathrenn, in the west of Ossory. . . A thousand monks was the number of his convent, and it is at Clonenagh his relics are preserved. He was of the race of Eoghan Mor, son of Oilioll Olum" (p. 327). St. Laserian having visited the monastery about the year 600, St. Gobban, struck with his many virtues, placed it entirely under his charge, and went himself to found another religious house at Kill-Lamhraige, in a western district of Ossory.

Monasticon Hibernicum or A Short Account of the Ancient Monasteries of Ireland in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol 6 (1869), 198-99.

This identification was also accepted by Father Comerford in his 1886 history of the dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin:
Annals of Clonenagh

A.D. 639. St. Gobban, who founded the monastery of Old Leighlin, and afterwards resigned it to St. Laserian, retiring in 632 to Killamery in Ossory, died this year and was interred at Clonenagh. His feast was observed on the 6th of December.

"Gobban's feast, a shout of thousands, with a train of great martyrdom, angelic wall, abbot of virginity, lucid descendant of Lane." (Feil. Aeng.)

The Gloss in Leab. Br. and entry in Mart. Donegal state that “in Clonenagh are Gobban's relics."

Rev M Comerford" Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" Vol. 3(1886) 

The sources relating to Saint Gobban preserve the tradition that after founding an important monastery at Old Leighlin, he later committed it to the care of Saint Laisren (Molaise, feastday April 18) and retired to another foundation in Ossory. The Life of Saint Laisren, as preserved in the Salamanca MS, describes how this transfer of leadership took place:

(S.8 continued.) The holy abbot Gobanus and his followers served God there. When he heard of the arrival of the man of God [Laisren] he went to meet him and after greeting him led him reverently to the monastery. As they came to the door of the monastery, a certain woman then carrying the body of her son who had been beheaded by robbers, earnestly begged St Lasrianus in the name of God that he might restore her son to life. His feelings of pity were stirred by the lamentations of the mother and he turned to his usual help of prayer, and having placed the head beside its body he restored the dead man to life and gave him back to his mother. Then blessed Gobanus made a treaty of spiritual brotherhood with him, giving him the place and everything in it and setting up a monastery for himself in another place.

Colum Kenny, Molaise – Abbot of Leighlin and Hermit of Holy Island, (Morrigan Press, 1998), 47-48.

So, we cannot say with complete confidence that the saint commemorated on December 6 is the founder of the monastery of Old Leighlin, but the Martyrology of Oengus makes it clear that it regarded 'the virginal abbot, lucid descendant of Lan' as an important monastic figure.

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Tuesday 3 December 2013

Saint Lucius of Coire

Last year I posted a paper on a saint who has interested me ever since I first read about him on Father Ambrose's celt-saints list. December 3 is the feastday of Saint Lucius, 'the apostle of Coire', said to have been an early king of Britain who introduced Christianity to a region of Switzerland and who may have been martyred there. Last year's paper was originally published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1895 and the journal published a second paper in 1907 which I reproduce below. It is divided into four parts and thoroughly covers all the aspects of the story of Saint Lucius. The Irish interest in this saint may perhaps be explained by the tradition that he was a 'Scottish' king and by a link with Saint Fridolin, mentioned in the previous paper. A footnote in the paper recorded that 'The relics of St. Lucius are preserved and venerated in the Cathedral of Coire. Some years ago a fragment was detached from these relics and presented to the late Marquess of Bute, by whom it was conveyed to the Right Rev. John Cuthbert Hedley, D.D., O.S.B., Catholic Bishop of Newport, in whose possession it remains.' I wonder if these relics are still in the care of his successors?



THE nation of the Raeti, which had been gradually formed out of various tribal elements, lived, in the second century before Christ, in the Alps, within a district reaching from the Gotthard to the source of the Drave. Celts and Italici may be regarded as their chief constituents. Among the ancients Polybius was the first to mention their name. Raetian forms of local names are found throughout Switzerland. Everybody knows that a relationship between Raetians and Etruscans has more than once been advanced as a theory; the question is, however, still unsolved. The wild and warlike Alpine Raetians, according to Strabo, used to raid the neighbouring country, and thus excited the anger of the Romans. In any case that mountainous district formed so important a link between the Teutonic and Italian parts of the Roman Empire, that the Emperor Augustus found it necessary to conquer it, a task which was successfully accomplished by his stepsons in 15 B.C. Raetia became a Roman province, and was divided into Raetia Prima and Raetia Secunda, the latter containing Vindelicia also. The partial Italian origin of the Raetians may account for the faithfulness with which the needy inhabitants of the mountains, after their conquest, adhered to the Romans, as well as for their quick and thorough Romanization. The Raetian cohorts formed a valuable addition to the Roman legions. Repeated attacks by the Germans upon Raetia proved, soon after, how necessary and convenient a possession that country was for Italy. It remained Roman, even after Germany and Helvetia had been abandoned by the Romans. The political boundary between Raetia and Switzerland, fixed by the Romans, seems to have run from the Gotthard over the Marsh (on the Lake of Zurich) and thence to Pfin, in the Canton of Thurgau, up to the Lake of Constance.

As a meeting-point of various passes and high roads which, long before Christ, established communication between the transalpine North and Italy, via Raetia, the town of Coire was of high commercial and strategic importance; it is therefore very likely that the Romans, immediately after their victory over the inhabitants of that country, established there a secure military post. At the same time this place was chosen as the centre and seat of administration - hence the name Curia - for the surrounding valleys, and formed later on, in the third and fourth centuries, the most important barrier against the Germans. A governor appointed by the Emperor, and residing in Augsburg, was the administrator of the Raetian province, until, under Constantine, Eastern Switzerland was made subject to the vicariate of Northern Italy as Raetia prima. This connexion with Italy lasted from Graubüden (Grisons) beyond the destruction of the western Roman Empire. Theoderic, king of the Eastern Goths, took Upper Alemannia under his protection, after the defeat of the Alemanni near Zülpich, until Raetia became subject to the Merovingians between 536 and 539.

All this was of decisive importance for the advance of Christianity in these parts. For, first of all, early and intimate connexion with the South brought it about that a knowledge of the primitive Christian doctrine soon penetrated into Raetia. All writers who have studied the question are agreed on this point. It is said that St. Barnabas had already preached the Gospel at Milan, a town which was the terminus of the passes leading, via Como, from the Julier, Septimer, or Splügen. We know that the Church at Milan was flourishing as early as the second century, and that it influenced the neighbouring district far and wide. It is likewise certain that in the first century of our era, Christianity was preached on either side of the Po. According to modern investigations, the martyrs Saints Gervasius and Protasius, whose tombs were discovered by St. Ambrose, suffered death if not under Nero, yet at least in the second century. Eichhorn's opinion seems very plausible. He believes that some confessors of Christianity may have sought a place of refuge in the Raetian Alps from the persecution of Nero and Domitian, a course of action which had been previously adopted by the fugitive Etruscans. According to the history of the martyrdom of SS. Faustinus and Jovita, Italicus, Count of Raetia, had (in 118 A.D.) to exercise all his energy in order to stop the propagation of Christianity. In Upper Italy and Vindelicia several martyrs suffered under Diocletian and Maximianr so that it is not at all likely that Raetia alone would have remained cut off, like an island, from the Christian faith which surrounded it. Indeed, in the dim twilight of tradition and history, persons appear who lived and died for Christ within the diocese of the present hereditary electoral archbishopric. These features are outlined with various degrees of distinctness. We mention Evantus, Hermes, Fidelis and Gaudentius, the latter being possibly the person who prevented the Raeti from joining the heretical rival emperor, Eugenius.

It is therefore not unlikely that, from the second century, Christians were living in the Swiss portion of Raetia. Ecclesiastical organization, however, could not develop at the same rate of speed, for the physical features of the country, as well as its exposed political position, were against it. The history of the Bishops of Coire for which there is documentary evidence, places the beginning of that organization not earlier than the time of Asimo; in his name Bishop Abundantius of Como, in 452, signed the Acts of the Provincial Synod of Milan, that city being the metropolitan see to which Raetia belonged. Everything points to the fact that the foundation of the see of Coire dates back beyond the fifth century, and the preaching of the faith must have begun still earlier. For unless there was a bishop at Coire before 407, it would have been impossible to found a bishopric in the turbulent days of the first half of the fifth century.

St. Lucius is venerated by the Church of Coire as its apostle, and it is his existence and the veneration he received which make it appear very probable that the Church of Coire had its Bishop before the migration of the nations. We are disposed, therefore, to adopt the opinion, which considers it a characteristic feature, that ' after the migration of nations bishoprics were first erected again in those towns in which a bishopric had previously existed in Roman times.’


The oldest historical monument of this name is the 'Abbey of St. Lucius' (Lucien-Abtei) at Coire. It was built near though not actually over some Roman foundations, within which, in 1851, a fine and well-preserved mosaic was discovered. On the tombstone of Bishop St. Valentinian, which was found in the monastery of St. Lucius, was written the date of the death of this holy bishop, whose life had been devoted to the welfare of his diocese. According to tradition he founded the Monastery of St. Lucius, where he was buried at his request. It was possibly the attraction exercised by the sacred body of Lucius which gave the first impulse to St. Fridolin to come to Coire and to found there the Church of St. Hilary, not far from the Monastery of St. Lucius. In the same way in which St. Valentine, a worthy companion of St. Severinus, consoled the Raeti in troubled times, so, in days not less melancholy, did Valentinian become a blessing to his people, till death overtook him in 548. Hence it is clear that the monastery was founded, at the latest, in the first half of the sixth century. Graubünden had, about that time, become Frankish. Lucius therefore was evidently, even at that time, regarded by the people of Coire as their chief apostle, and the usual opinion may be quite correct which refers the origin of the local names 'Luciensteig' (the path of St. Lucius) and 'Lucienlochlein’ (the little cave of St. Lucius) to those days. These names presuppose local traditions, which, indeed, still exist. Over the Luciensteig the Saint journeyed to the district of Coire, and lived in a cave at the Mitenberg (also called Curhalde), about twenty minutes' walk from the present seminary. A rather stony and steep path leads up to it. The grotto is formed by an overhanging rock. Where the latter forms a kind of niche above the cave St. Lucius is said to have preached towards the valley which lies open here from Coire to Reichenau, and to have been miraculously heard at that distance. By the side of the cave there is now a chapel, where ' the spring of St. Lucius ' still flows, and the waters are believed to be effectual as a cure for blindness. Five or six steps onwards to the left marks, as if made by the cut of a sword, are seen on the rock, and by them some impressions of fingers appear. Tradition says that here the Saint grasped the rock, when the pagans suddenly attacked him with murderous intent; their swords struck the rock to the right and left of him, but without injury to himself. The Saint is said also to have been cast down from the summit of a castle called Marsiöl, without being hurt.

Another legend related locally about St. Lucius is found, first in Thomas Lyrer's narrative of the fifteenth century. He says:

Long ago, about A.D. 80, there was sent one Lucius, a native king of Scotland, dwelling at the Art, and in the mountains, and he built his cell and church at a place which still bears his name. And when he was building, a bear killed his ox. Thereupon he harnessed the bear instead of the ox, and the bear had to do the carting as the ox had done before. And many other miracles, which are now forgotten, were wrought by the good St. Lucius. And at the same Art there were Christian people who were then converted by St. Lucius.

Ulrich Campell relates a similar story from popular tradition, with the addition that the people of Trimmis acquired their goitres as a punishment for an injury done to the Saint.

However, we have a more important document of the old tradition about the Apostle of Raetia. In the library of St. Gall a list of books of the ninth century exists, which contains a Vita S. Lucii confessoris. This codex is still preserved, and is marked No. 567. We have here, therefore, the source from which Notker compiled his Martyrology. Possibly a Vita S. Lucii was brought to St. Gall from Graubünden before that time by St. Ottmar. The value of this manuscript in the Collectaneus No. 567 is the greater, as it was written with reference to the celebration of the feast of St. Lucius at Coire, as one may easily see from the beginning of the document. The following are the main features of the narrative.

St. Paul the Apostle resided in Rome for two years, without being able to do much for the souls of the perverse Jews and Greeks. He therefore turned away from them, and sent his disciple Timotheus to Gaul. The latter came to Bordoel (Burdigala ?), a town by the sea, and was encouraged by some Gallic king to cross over to that part of Britain where King Lucius was reigning. The consequence was that King Lucius was converted, and resolved to leave his country. The royal apostle travelled through Gaul to Augusta Vindelica, whose inhabitants were still pagan. One of them, Campester, a patrician, accepted the teaching of the Gospel, and his example was followed by many of the other citizens. But when Lucius heard that Raetia was still, to a great extent, adhering to paganism, he could not resist the inclination to go there, and he set out for the district of Coire. By seven days' prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the preaching of the Gospel, and, on the eighth day, he began to preach Christ crucified. At that time he was told that, in a certain wood called the ‘Forest of Mars’ young bisons were being kept and worshipped as gods. Lucius went there and converted most of the pagans; but some became enraged, threw him into a pit, and were about to stone him. The converted pagans, however, who had been accompanying the Saint, perceiving this evil intention, joined together in order to kill the heathen. While the two parties were fighting, the Saint came forth unhurt out of the pit, preached still more powerfully, and made peace. And as if through divine intervention, the wild animals about which the whole affray had taken place, gently approached the Saint and licked his feet, so that he began to praise the Lord and to admonish the astonished pagans to be baptized. They, on their part, gave glory to God, because He had led them to a knowledge of the truth. In the meantime the miracle became known in the town itself, and the Christians who had remained behind came to meet the holy man, chanting and carrying torches and thuribles with incense.

Here the story of the narrative ends, and he now turns to the moral and exhortative aspect of the subject, and is altogether silent about the rest of the Saint's life.

Local names, traditional folklore, the written legend the latter going back beyond the year 1000 and the fact of the existence of the Monastery of St. Lucius in the sixth century, are not the only testimonies cited by the Church of Coire on behalf of her apostle; she is able also to prove that she possessed his mortal remains before the year 821. In 821 Bishop Victor complained, in his letter to Louis the Pious, that not even the most sacred body of the holy confessor and apostle Lucius, had remained safe from the wicked robbers Roderick and Herloin.

The evidence collected so far certainly entitles us to maintain the existence of a Raetian apostle, Lucius, whose identity with the British King, Lucius, should not be altogether rejected. Until now it was generally believed that this identification had been caused by St. Bede's remarks on this subject. The passage about King Lucius in the Sermo in Natali 55. Virginum XI milium, which was possibly written before 850, cannot with certainty be ascribed to Bede, so that we cannot admit the assertion that parts of the legend of Coire were certainly borrowed from Bede. He, however, gives a list of Emperors, and the author of the Sermo as one of the Popes, among whom Pope Marcellinus (who is not mentioned at all by Bede) is represented as intimately connected with the narrative. But even if the Sermo should have been borrowed from Bede, that fact would not be sufficient to prove that the Lucius legend of Coire is derived from the same Anglo-Saxon source.

This legend is quite independent in another respect, viz., with regard to the fact that the author ascribes the conversion of St. Lucius to a disciple of the Apostles, St. Timothy. This circumstance has contantly been maintained by legendary testimony. Bartholomaeus Tridentinus, in the thirteenth century, bases his work entirely on the narrative of the oldest Vita, and he was followed by Petrus de Natalibus, in the fourteenth century. In answer to a question put by Vadian of St. Gall, the parish priest of the Cathedral of Coire, Comander, informed him about a statement found in an old book of parchment, that Timothy converted Lucius. All these narratives represent Lucius merely as a confessor, not as a martyr, although occasionally he suffered ill-treatment. The Calendarium of Zurich of the tenth century contains on the date of the 3rd December: In Curia depositio Lucii conf. The codex of St. Gall, No. 566 (of the monastic library), has the following words on the 3rd December, in the Calendarium used at St. Gall in the ninth century: Lucii confessoris. The Calendarium of the oldest ' book of the seasons ' of Coire has on the same day: Lucii regis et conf.

The fact that the above-mentioned Timothy is called ' a disciple of St. Paul,' induced the learned Notker, almost of necessity, to doubt the British descent of Lucius of Coire; for he knew Bede's passage about King Lucius of Britain, who was an adherent of the Christian religion under Pope Eleutherius and the Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Cornmodus (161-193), and, on the other hand, he did not find either of the two Lucii in Ado's work, which he used as a basis for his Martyrology. His doubt is indicated by the way in which he writes in the Martyrology. He also omitted, in his narrative, to give St. Timothy the title of 'disciple of the Apostles,' although he must have been fully aware of the fact that this title is given in the legend, since the latter already existed at that time at St. Gall; he therefore calls St. Timothy by a general and indefinite term, virum sanctum. His doubt, however, is not sufficiently warranted.

It is not necessary to assume that the disciple of St. Paul, Timothy, was the one from Asia Minor; but, as Usher, Moncuass, and others have supposed, he may have been the Roman Timothy who was so intimately connected with the house of the Senator Pudens that Pudens who gave hospitality to the Apostles Peter and Paul, whose mother was St. Priscilla, famous on account of her cemetery, and whose daughters, Pudentiana and Praxedes, noble-minded virgins, acquired immortal merit in connexion with the young Christian community at Rome. The results of archaeological research are altogether favourable to this old Roman tradition. Already under Pope Symmachus (498-514), there existed among the titular churches of Rome that of St. Praxedes (Praxidae), an ancient basilica on the Clivus Suburbanus of the Esquiline, and the Titulus Pudentis, called also the Basilica of St. Pudentiana, or of Pastor, between the Limina and Esquiline, the oldest titular church of Rome, once held by the Swiss Cardinal Schinner. Here we find mosaics (Christ between SS. Peter and Paul, and the two sisters Praxedes and Pudentiana) whose pure style reminds us of the better periods of Roman art, which may belong to the fourth, or even to the third century.

According to the Vita S. Pudentianae, which is given by the Bollandists on the 19th of May, Pudens, the son of Punicus and Priscilla, was converted by St. Paul. His parents married him to Savinilla, by whom he had two daughters, Pudentiana and Praxedes. Close relations existed between that family and Novatus, of whose Thermae, his heiress, Praxedes, obtained consecration as a church by Pope Pius I. And, after Praxedes had died, at an early age, Pastor, the brother of Pope Pius I, sent a narrative, viz., the above-mentioned Vita, to the priest, Timothy a friend or near relative of the senator's family, whose place of residence, however, is not mentioned. Here also Pastor calls this Timothy a 'disciple of St. Paul.' This alleged discovery of Pastor cannot be genuine; it must, however, be fairly ancient. Ado seems to make use of this account in his Martyrology on the 19th of May, for he calls the wife of the Senator Pudens (the mother of Pudentiana and Praxedes) Sabinella.

The relation between Novatus and Timothy is more definitely mentioned in the so-called Martyrologium Parvum of Ado, which was compiled, according to De Rossi, by an unknown author at the end of the seventh or at the beginning of the eighth century at Rome, from various narratives and lists varying in historical value. Here we find on the 20th June: Romae Novati fratris Timothei presbyteri qui ab apostoles eruditi sunt.

Besides, the Thermae of Novatus, situated near the palace of Pudens, are sometimes called after Novatus, sometimes after Timothy. Justin Martyr, according to a not improbable account, had a house near the Thermae of Timothy. It must be mentioned, however, that Mazochius here defends a different reading of the text.

The relations of Novatus and Timothy to the Senator Pudens are definitely stated in the new Roman Martyrology, which speaks of them as if they were two sons.

Just as the family of the senator whose sella currulis, according to tradition became the Cathedra Petri, receives here two sons in addition, so also is another wife assigned, viz., Claudia. It is in this sense that the passage in the Second Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy (iv. 21) is interpreted: Eubulus and Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren salute thee. This Claudia is considered to be the wife of the senator, because, according to the poet Martial, who came to Rome under Nero and returned 95 B.C. to his Celtiberian native town Bilbilis, the rich and noble Roman Pudens married a beautiful British lady named Claudia.

If, as is supposed by Usher, Moncaeus and Lingard, the Pudens of Martial, and the one mentioned in the Epistle of St. Paul are the same person, it apppears most natural to assume that he had two wives, the first of whom was Claudia, by whom he had the sons Novatus and Timothy (the latter possibly being called so through friendship with the Lycaonian Timothy). Claudia may have died soon, whereupon he married Savinilla, who bore him the two daughters mentioned above. In the Vita S. Pudentianae also, Novatus and Timothy are presupposed to be the older children. If our theory is right, they must have attained to a great age, since they lived until the time of Pope Pius I and St. Justin Martyr, who died 166. According to a letter (considered to be spurious) from Pope Pius I to Justus or Verus, Bishop of Vienne, a certain Timothy (and Marcus), who had been instructed by the Apostles, died during his Pontificate.

The chief reason why we have dwelt in so detailed a manner upon the family of the Senator Pudens, lies in the fact that in this way we obtain some hint as to the first attempts at preaching the Gospel in Great Britain. If Claudia was the wife of Pudens,and of British descent, she must have desired that the doctrine of salvation should be preached in her native island. Besides this, it is maintained by De Rossi that Lucina, the noble benefactress of the Christians, was no less a person than Pomponia Graecina, who, according to Tacitus, was devoted to the ' new superstition' and whose husband was Platius, who conquered Britain. He also indicates that Lucina was sprung from the race of the Cornelii Aemilii or Caecilii, of whom the Cornelii were a side branch. Vicus Corneliorum was another name of the Vicus Pairictus, where Pudens lived.

On the strength of indications like these, it will not be rash to think it possible that the priest Timothy, who was so closely connected with these distinguished circles of early Christian Rome, may have been active for some time, in Britain, and these family relations, in turn, shed a most significant light upon the fact that the British prince who was baptized by him received the name Lucius. Neither was this name unknown in those circles at Rome. For instance, Lucius was the name of the Christian who, immediately before Justin Martyr, reproached Rusticus for his injustice. Tertullian made an allusion to a distinguished Christian of the same name. Pope Lucius was buried in the cemetery of Callistus, the property of the Caecilians.

Of course the conversion and baptism of the British King Lucius, through the presbyter Timothy, would have to be assigned to the time when the prince was very young, and the request addressed to Pope Eleutherius must have taken place after the death of Timothy. Furthermore, the relations that existed between Lucius and Timothy, and through Timothy between Lucius and the two brothers Pius and Pastor of Aquileian descent makes it clear why later on Lucius should have chosen Raetia for his missionary enterprise. Neither must we omit the fact that the excellent Martyrology of Hieronymus of Metz (Autun), preserved at Berne, commemorates, on the 21st May, the feast of a holy Deacon Timothy in Britain, who is to be numbered among the oldest saints of this island and of whom otherwise nothing is known except the name. But the very name is here significant, as we are trying to prove that a certain Timothy from Rome, a disciple of the Apostles, preached in Britain during the first half of the second century.

Besides this, it should be remembered that Bede is not consistent as to the date at which Lucius made his request for missionaries. Sometimes he puts it after the death of Commodus, sometimes in the year 156, during the reign of Verus and his brother Aurelius, under the pontificate of Eleutherius, and in the Epitome the date given is 167, while Nennius prefers the year 164, and calls the Pope Eucharistus (Evaristus) .

According to this view the oldest Vita S. Lucii and Bede's account would not exclude each other, nor would the one part have been borrowed from the other (this was done for the first time by Notker), but they complete each other like the two halves of a broken ring, and what appears at first sight to be a contradiction is harmoniously solved on accurate investigation.

It is believed that the source has been discovered from which Bede takes his statement about Lucius of Britain. Father Henschen, S.J., published two very ancient lists of Popes in the first volume of the Acta Sanctorum, which deals with April. The first and more ancient catalogue contains 18 Popes, from Peter to Urban (c. 353); the second comes down to 530, and is unanimously assigned to the sixth century. In the second list, although not in the first one, the following remark is added to the name of Eleutherius: Hic accepit epistolam a Lucio Britanniae rege ut Christianus efficeretur per eius mandatum. In the ninth century Anastasius embodied this remark in his Vita Pontificum. It is assumed that Bede, also, took his information from this second list; the fact that he did not attain to perfect accuracy in the matter of chronology is quite easy to understand, since even now we do not know all the fundamental data.

In any case it is certain that the above-mentioned list of Popes, belonging to the sixth century, is at present the oldest source of information about the Christian King Lucius; and as it was a Roman source, some authors have gone so far as to maintain that it was simply 'a Roman fiction’ urging that Gildas is silent about it, and that its non-British origin betrays itself through the fact that Lucius is called Britanniarum rex. These authors add that this fable must have been invented, after the arrival of the Roman missionary Augustine, in order to make the British more favourable to Rome.

We, on the other hand, believe, that a historian goes beyond the limits of what is lawful, if he has recourse, unnecessarily, to hypothetical statements, especially if they are supported only by very weak reasoning. Gregory the Great and the men who surrounded him, as well as the missionaries sent to England, are of so high and venerable a character, that they should not be rashly accused of concocting fables.

If we wish for an explanation of the manner in which the remark about King Lucius found its way into the sixth century list, we shall find far more plausible reasons in the traditions of Raetia. Can anything be more reasonable than to look for information to that country, in which there was a fully established episcopal see, where a monastery dedicated to St. Lucius was in existence, where his holy body rested, where a whole nation with its history vouched for the tradition, where constant intercourse with Italy and Rome was going on, where, even now, monuments valuable for the art-history of the sixth and seventh centuries are met with? And although the oldest legend does not actually say anything about Pope Eleutherius, nevertheless it should be borne in mind that many more things are not mentioned, which we should like to know, concerning King Lucius. Moreover, the fact that it was Eleutherius to whom the king sent his request may easily have been arrived at by the Roman chronicler.


The traditions of Wales follow the legend which attributes the introduction of Christianity there to Joseph of Arimathea. They also give a detailed account of the kings who were converted to the Christian faith, founded churches and endowed them with lands and privileges. Especially King Lless, or Lleirwg (Lucius), is said to have founded the first church in Llandaff, A.D. 180, and to have placed there the first bishop.

Bede and Nennius, whatever their sources of information may have been, adopted the accounts of Lucius in their works, and, later on, the unreliable Geoffrey of Monmouth enriched them with several additions. He says that the Pope sent two men of zealous faith, whose names were Faganus and Duvian (other authorities write Faganus and Digamus) or some such names. Lucius, after many meritorious deeds, died at Gloucester, where he was buried. For a long time Bede remained the chief source of information for the Anglo-Saxon historians, and he was copied by most of the later ones, e.g., by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begun in Alfred's time, by Ethelweard who died after 974, and by Henry of Huntingdon, about the middle of the twelfth century. None of them mention the names of the missionaries. The first to mention them is Geoffrey of Monmouth, who died 1154, and the Book of Llandaff, which likewise originated in the twelfth century; but they do not agree, since the Book of Llandaff calls them Elvan and Medwin. The present Proprium of Coire, following Geoffrey, calls them Damianus and Fugatius, names already given by Petrus de Natalibus in the fourteenth century. The Proprium, like Geoffrey, calls the father of Lucius, 'Coilus.' On the other hand, in a Bull of Indulgences granted by Bishop John of Coire (who died March 25, 1386), it is said that Lucius, King of Anglia, Equitania, and Britania, received the Gospel from St. Timothy, and that the latter was a disciple of St. Paul. We see, therefore, that at that period Geoffrey's writings had not yet gained influence, and it was not a very safe proceeding, about 1646, to borrow from him (by the way, he also embellished the legend of St. Ursula with traditions) the first part of the legend of St. Lucius, for the purpose of inserting it into the Proprium Sanctorum in Coire, and to call him 'Martyr' in opposition to the oldest accounts. His death is stated to have occurred about 182.

If we suppose that Timothy, the son of Pudens, was born in the year 60, he would have been able to baptize the young Lucius in Britain in the year 120. Later on, when of age, Lucius took a deep interest in the conversion of his subjects, and asked that missionaries should be sent from Rome. The date of his death falls between the years 182 and 201.

The facts that the British accounts know nothing of a missionary journey of their Lucius, and that the often ill informed Geoffrey makes him live and die in Britain, are not, at least at the present time, sufficient to disprove the identity of Lucius of Coire with Lucius of Britain. Firstly, concerning his tomb, we refer the reader to the quotations from Beatus. And secondly, is it not conceivable that the Counts Roderick and Herloin should have sold bones of saints to be sent to England, for large sums of money, so that only a portion of the relics was restored to Coire ? We may add that we have another reason for believing in a connexion existing between Lucius and Rastia, viz., the fact that Roman soldiers were stationed there.

If we could see our way to accept, as genuine, a certain document which we shall mention presently, there could no longer be any doubt about the identity of Lucius of Raeti and Lucius of Britain.

It is recorded that during Elizabeth's reign, a Latin inscription, on stone, was discovered in some old English church and copied. A copy of this inscription, so the record continues, made on parchment, was issued and attested on the 9th of December, 1845, by the University of London, and taken to Coire, August, 1852, by Count Peter Salis-Soglio. This document is preserved in the cathedral of that town. Looking more closely at it, however, we find that it is a copy not of an inscription, but of a fragment of William Darell’s History of Dover Castle. According to this there reigned in Britain about the first century of the Christian era a prince Arviragus, who was succeeded by his son Marius, and Marius again by his son Coilus. Coilus was deprived of his independence by the Romans, but his son Lucius compensated for this by gaining the liberty of the children of God. 'Lucius, the first Christian King, reigned in the year 156.' In 161 he built a church in Dover Castle, and had three priests stationed there. Having no children, he was obliged to accede to the wishes of the people and hand over his kingdom to the Emperor Severus. The text does not say clearly whether Lucius retained the government of his kingdom till his death, or whether he abdicated during his life-time and then left the country. The passage runs as follows: ' Hic [Lucius] tanta pietate princeps, cujus cogitationes ad amplificandam Christi gloriam erant positae, quod sine prole discesserat, Severum Rom. imperatorem, universe populo sic jubente, successorem designavit.' The Schematismus of Coire for 1863 translates these words as follows: ' This prince, who was endowed with great piety, left his kingdom to spread the honour of God.' However, the word discesserat may refer to death, and his 'thoughts concerning the propagation of the glory of Christ' may have been directed merely towards Britain. In any case, it is surprising that the learned commentator on Nennius and Bede, does not mention the inscription in the Monumenta Hist. Britannia at all, although it must have been known to him, if it existed. William Darell did not omit to depict the coats-of-arms of King Marius and King Lucius, and even of the Emperor Severus (193-211)!

In the meantime we cannot accept this ' document ' as trustworthy. The author of the Schematismus believes that the church where the slab with the inscription was discovered was that of Dover; the document itself says nothing on this point.


Closely connected with the veneration of St. Lucius at Coire is that of his sister Emerita, who is said to have imitated the zeal of her royal brother, and to have gone to the same country. She was finally tortured and burnt by the rude pagan inhabitants at Trimmis, near Coire.

A short time ago an attempt was made to get rid of this saint, by pointing out another Emerita, who is said to have suffered at Trimontium in Scotland, the two being confused together in consequence of the similarity of the names of the places of their martyrdom. ' A certain Emerita suffered at a place of similar name in Scotland; the name was mistaken for Trimmis near Coire. Hence the two became confused together.'

We have tried to find mention of this Scottish Emerita of Trimontium in some reliable account, but, so far, without success. She is not mentioned in any Martyrology, and we believe that Usher, an authority in these matters, is right in maintaining that Philippus Ferrari, who mentions her in his list, was misled by Dempster, a most untrustworthy person in matters concerning Scotland.

The village of Trimmis near Coire, with which the legend and the veneration of Emerita and Lucius are connected, was called Trimuna in the year 958, and once in a document belonging to the same century Trimons. The Catholic parish church there is dedicated to St. Carpophorus, whose feast is kept on the 7th of August while the Protestants use a chapel dedicated to St. Emerita. This chapel seems to have been dependent at one time on the church of St. Carpophorus, or it may have been attached to the Castle. The Capella S. Carpofori, in Trimune vico was presented, in 948, by King Otto I to the mother church of Coire. There is no such early testimony extant with regard to the chapel of St. Emerita, nor is it mentioned in the oldest legend of St. Lucius. The feast of St. Emerita is placed on the 4th December in a necrology of Coire,belonging to the twelfth or thirteenth century, and to the same period belongs the statement that the Dedicatio Ecclesiae S. Carpofori in vico Trimanis falls on the 19th October.

In the meantime it seems that we are safe in retaining St. Emerita as a local saint of Coire. It is possible that she, together with her brother Lucius, who may have been a British chieftain, laboured in the neighbourhood of Coire for the propagation of the Christian faith after the middle of the second century, faithfully and courageously submitting at last to a cruel martyrdom.

Lastly, we may add a few words on SS. Valentine and Antony. The assertion that St. Valentine devoted his life to missionary work among the inhabitants of the Alps (as bishop of the district), during the troubled first two decades of the fifth century, is supported by the fact that, in those mountainous districts, he is still gratefully remembered by the inhabitants. In the diocese of Coire, alone, eleven churches were dedicated to him. He was also mentioned as one of the patron saints in the old document dealing with the dedication of the parish church of Schwiz. In the list of relics of the Minster of Lucerne, of the year 1460, some relics of St. Valentine are mentioned.

A little later St. Antony flourished in the district called Valtellin, where he settled near the tomb of the holy martyr Felix, probably not without influencing the inhabitants of the northern parts of the country. His life was ended in the monastery of Lerins, and was chronicled by Ennodius.

Since writing the above I have had occasion to review a small pamphlet by Professor Adolph Harnack, in the English Historical Review, in which Dr. Harnack makes it appear that all the accounts of Lucius were derived from the Liber Pontificalis, but that the entry in that work was possibly due to the mistake of a transcriber, who converted the word Britis, which related to a town in Edessa, into the word Britannis, which is the curious form taken by this proper noun in the Liber Pontificalis.


Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. 22 (1907), 457-474.

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