Thursday 14 February 2013

Saint Manchan of Mohill, February 14

Today some of the Irish calendars commemorate a Saint Manchan of Mohill, County Leitrim, but not much more is known of the saint. The Martyrology of Oengus does not mention him and the Martyrology of Donegal entry simply records his name and location:


MAINCHEIN, of Moethail.

The translator adds a footnote that companions of the saint are also mentioned in some of the manuscripts of other Martyrologies:

Moethail. The more recent hand adds, “Cum sociis” Mart. Tumi. But the Brussels MS. of the Mart Taml. reads “Cum sociis suis.” (T.)

Due to the lack of further information and the existence of a number of saints with the name of Manchan, some confusion has arisen as to the exact identity of the saint associated with Mohill. The 16th-century Archbishop Ussher claimed to have a Life of this Saint Manchan written by Richard Fitz-Ralph, Archbishop of Armagh (1347-60). In it Saint Manchan was presented as having charge of seven churches and as having been the founder of the monastery of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine at Mohill. He was said to have converted many people in different localities to Christ. However, as the order of Canons Regular were a product of the 12th-century reform of the Irish Church, Fitz-Ralph is reflecting the realities of the later medieval period, rather than that of a supposedly 7th-century Saint Manchan. O'Hanlon records in a footnote that when John O'Donovan attempted to trace Ussher's copy of the Fitz-Ralph Life, it could not be found. Ussher himself seems to have concluded that Saint Manchan of Mohill was identical with Manchan of Menodroichit, whose feastday is commemorated on 2nd January and whose death is recorded in the Annals of Ulster at 652. Colgan, however, did not share this opinion, as he was unable to prove that Manchan of Mohill, County Leitrim had also been abbot of Menodroichit, County Laois. He remained convinced that Saint Manchan of Mohill was a separate individual and that the references to 'his companions' in the calendars were to the seven churches that he had responsibility for.

A reference in the Annals of the Four Masters led O'Hanlon to speculate that perhaps Saint Manchan of Mohill may be Saint Manchan of Lemanaghan whose feastday is celebrated on 24th January. The Annals record:

AD 1166: The shrine of Manchan, of Maethail, was covered by Ruaidhri Ua Conchobhair, and an embroidering of gold was carried over it by him, in as good a style as a relic was ever covered in Ireland.

O'Hanlon wondered if this was a reference to the famous shrine of Lemanaghan, although again he could not explain the link to two different localities and to two separate feastdays, if Manchan of Mohill is the same person as Manchan of Lemanaghan.

There is also a reference to Saint Manchan of Mohill in the Annals of Tigernach recording an even earlier date for the repose of our saint:

538AD: Manchan Maethla cecídit Manchan of Mohill dies.

and finally, O'Hanlon records that 'At Inisnag, diocese of Ossory, St. Manchan, whose feast occurs on the 14th of February, was venerated as a patron'.

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