Saturday 16 February 2013

Saint Tanco of Verden, February 16

Coat-of-arms of the Prince-Bishopric of Verden
Photo credit: Wikipedia

 Today's saint, Tanco (Tanchon, Tatta) is unusual in that he is not commemorated on the Irish calendars but on the foreign martyrologies. He is one of the many Irish missionary saints who laboured in continental Europe and was martyred in Verden in Saxony early in the ninth century. Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints takes up his story:

IT has been truly remarked, that the names of many Irish saints and scholars are enshrined in the records of foreign nations, when they are forgotten, or but faintly remembered, in their own country. Such was the case, with regard to the present zealous missionary, and holy martyr, who is not even recorded in the pages of our native Calendarists, although noted in foreign Martyrologies. It must be observed, that Albert Crantzius was one of the first writers, who has left us any authentic particulars, regarding this saint. From his history, most subsequent writers derived their notices of St. Tanco. At the 16th of February, Colgan and the Bollandists give short Acts for this saint, such as they had been enabled to collect, especially from Krantz, and from various other authorities.

The ancient territory of Lower Saxony had been intersected by the river, formerly called Visurgis, now known as the Weser, which passes through Bremen, and falls into the North Sea. Westward of this river, the country was denominated Westphalia, and eastward, it was known as Eastphalia. In the former division, Charlemagne had founded the episcopal see of Verden. Suitbert and Patto, both of whom came from Ireland, were its two first bishops and St. Tanco is classed as the third. He is called a Scot, which designation most usually signifies, that the place of nativity must have been Ireland, when not expressly stated, that any person, thus indicated, had been a Scot from Scotia Minor, or from Albania, now known as Scotland. Colgan was of opinion, that this saint and his other colleagues, who preached the faith in Saxony, were Irish Scots, by birth. However, in what part of Ireland, St. Tanco was born, is unknown ; but, he is said to have been of noble birth.

Moved by missionary zeal, like many others of his countrymen, he left the island of his birth, to spread the Christian faith amongst strangers. He travelled to Saxony. There is said to have been another Tanco, a monk of St. Gall, who must be distinguished from the present holy martyr. St. Patto had vacated the office of abbot, over a monastery, named Amarbaric, near Verden. This establishment, founded for the use of Scottish or Irish monks, is mistaken by Colgan, for the Irish Armagh, on account of a supposed similarity between these names ; he thinking, that Amarbaricensis was intended for Armachanensis. As he found no other monastery, having the former name, in either Ireland or Scotland, where he supposed it must be situated, he thus conjectured, this latter famous primatial city might have been meant. The pious Tanchon succeeded this saint, as Abbot of Amarbaric, and on Patto's death, he likewise became Bishop of Verden. This is referred to the year 760, or thereabouts, by Arnold Wion. However, this appears too early a date, as it precedes even the erection of Verden into an episcopal see, according to the most authentic accounts. Tanco, who is also called Tatta, served God many years in Amarbarica Abbey, in great reputation for his singular learning and piety. He was raised, it is said, to the dignity of abbot. Through an ardent thirst after martyrdom, he resigned this charge. The holy missioner Tanchon was animated with a hope of shedding his blood for the sake of his Divine Master. Being desirous of reclaiming the morals of the Saxon people, he fearlessly applied himself towards this task and, he is said, by the writer already named, to have received a crown of martyrdom at their hands. He ascended gloriously to Heaven, on the xiv. day of the Kalends of March, or the 16th of February, about the year of our Lord 800.

Arnold Wion and the English Martyrology state, that our saint suffered about this time. The latter authority says, that after being appointed Abbot of Amarbaric, St. Tancho, feeling a desire to effect the salvation of souls in neighbouring provinces, went first to Flanders, and afterwards to Cleves,(now the chief city of that duchy near the Rhine in Germany), where he was created Bishop of Verden. However, Colgan shows, that he was not pastor over the church so called, in the Duchy of Cleeves, near the Rhine; but, rather, at the Aller, which flows into the Weser. The Jesuit Father, Henry Fitzsimon, on the authority of the English Martyrology, records St. Tancon, a bishop and martyr, on his list of Irish Saints. An anonymous Calendar of Irish Saints has his festival at the 16th of February. Camerarius has the 16th of this month. Ferrarius, Wion, Menard and the English Martyrology, all are agreed. Again, some writers refer the date for his martyrdom, to A.D. 815 and to 820. The exact place, in which his victorious crown was obtained, is not known; but, writers are agreed in stating, that on this day, his memory is venerated at Verden, in Saxony. There his remains are now said to repose... His dalmatic was long preserved, as a precious relic, in the church of Verden. Tanco is said to have been a holy man, a diligent observer of ecclesiastical decorum; a man who left a great reputation behind him for learning, but a still greater for sanctity.

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