Saturday 3 August 2013

Saint Trea of Ardtrea, August 3

August 3 is the feast of a female saint, Trea, who has given her name to the district of Ardtrea in County Derry. She is one of those named as having received the veil from the hands of Saint Patrick himself, and in her case, the veil was delivered by an angel. Most of the accounts of Saint Trea which circulate online describe her as an anchoress or recluse, Canon O'Hanlon, however, speculates that she was most likely the head of a religious community. He also mentions that she had a second feast day on July 8:


This pious maiden flourished after the time, when St. Patrick commenced his great mission in the north of Ireland. We have seen already, that a St. Trega or Trea, Virgin, was venerated at Ardtrea, on a different day from the present. A question may arise, as to whether there had been a double festival instituted to honour the same saint. However, on the 8th of July, there is record of a feast for St. Trega, virgin and patroness of Ardtrea Parish, near Lough Neagh. We find, however, that St. Trea inghen Chairthind, or "the daughter of Carthenn," is recorded in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 3rd of August without stating the locality to which she belonged.

When blessed Patrick had entered the northern parts of the Ulster province, he met with opposition from a dynast in the region of Hy Tuirtre. He had journeyed by Fersait Tuama, until he rested at a very beautiful locality called Finnabhuir. The place formerly called Fersait Tuama, is now known as Toome, near where the River Bann escapes from Lough Neagh and enters Lough Beg, at the division line between the present Counties of Londonderry and of Antrim. The beautiful district alluded to as Finnabhuir had the wide-spreading Lough Neagh on the east and Slieve Gullin a high ridge of mountain, on the west side. It so happened, that two brothers, one named Carthenn the Elder or "major," and the other known as Carthenn, the younger or "minor," had lived in this district. The former a wicked man and addicted to the errors of Paganism had banished his younger brother from that place, in which he exercised complete control. From this district he wished, likewise, that St. Patrick should be ejected. The holy man, like the Apostles, when persecuted in one city left for another, and shaking the dust from of his feet against the tyrannical dynast, predicted that he should fall from power, and serve, with his posterity, under the future rule of the younger Carthenn. He, on the contrary, was virtuous, kindly, and disposed to receive the doctrine of Christ, so that St. Patrick baptized himself, his wife and family. After this time, Carthenn's wife, Mugania, appears to have given birth to a daughter, destined to a life of grace from St. Patrick's prophecy regarding her. She was named Trea or Treha at the baptismal font; but, it is not stated, that she had been baptized by St. Patrick.

Through her father, she descended from the race of Colla Uais, monarch of Erinn. From what has been already stated, it should seem, that she was born about the middle of the fifth century. That she grew up in grace and in the practice of all virtues, is generally conceded. She is classed, among the many holy virgins St. Patrick veiled, during the progress of his great missionary career. In accordance with his prediction, when St. Trea began to grow up into girlhood, she felt a strong desire to chose the Son of God for her future spouse. The Apostle had already declared, that she should be a woman of great innocence of life, and that her vesture and dowry should come to her with the veil received at his hands. Therefore, when she sought the illustrious saint for this purpose, and stood before him, an angel was seen descending from Heaven, and placing a veil on her head. It completely covered her eyes. St. Patrick then attempted to lift it, so that she might the better see, but the holy virgin exclaimed, "O pious father, why cannot the veil remain as it has been placed, in its right position?" Wherefore, the holy man replied, "It can very properly thus remain, and its mode of being worn shall be pleasing to your spouse." As if the cenobite's veil were glued to the noble lady's face, the writer of the Tripartite Life and Jocelyn remark most poetically and approvingly, that it covered her dovelike eyes and her soft cheeks, through the whole remaining term of her life. Thus were her eyes and ears remarkably guarded, lest, through such entrances, any dangerous occasion of sin might bring death to ber immortal soul.

We have no further account of the place where she dwelt in the religious state; but, it is most likely within her ancestral territory, and on the height, which now takes its name from her. This Ardtrea was situated near Lough Neagh and Lough Beg. ...In what particular condition St. Trea lived here has not been specified ; but, it is probable enough, she was head of a religious community. Nor does the date of her departure from life appear in our annals. In the Martyrology of Donegal, at this same day, we find her name entered as Trea, Virgin, daughter to Cairthenn, of Ard Trea. Whether the 3rd of August, or the 8th of July, be the commemoration for her death, has not been recorded.

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Anonymous said...

How is this name Trea pronounced please

Anonymous said...

I pronounce it Tray- A, that is how my sister pronounces it and that is her name.

Anonymous said...

My first name is Trea and I pronounce it Tre-a, as in like a tree and then a sound like uh. So Tre-uh.

Anonymous said...

Can we use County Derry perhaps.

Marcella said...

I myself do use County Derry in the introductions to the posts and have her tagged under Saints of Derry. This account was written by Canon O'Hanlon, it is a 19th century historical source so I do not take it on myself to alter his text. It was written long before partition and Canon O'Hanlon and other Catholic writers of the period use the 'L' word. I can only assume that they did not share modern sensitivities on the subject.