On April 4 we commemorate the memory of Saint Tighernach of Clones, County Monaghan. There is a surviving Life
of the saint preserved in the Salamanca Manuscripts and other sources. Canon O'Hanlon brings us a useful summary of these sources in his account of Saint Tighernach in Volume IV of his Lives of the Irish Saints.
I often edit such accounts but this one is complete (apart from the footnotes) and is a testament to the sheer hard work which Canon O'Hanlon put into his researches. He ends the piece on a wistful note, such sighing over vanished former glories remains a feature of 'Celtic Christianity' even in our own day. Finally, it's worth noting that the name of our saint Tighernach (Tiernach, Tighearnach) is derived from the old Irish tighearn
, 'lord', as this may help to explain some of the details in the hagiography:
ST. TIGHERNACH. ABBOT OF CLONES, AND BISHOP OF CLOGHER.
[FIFTH AND SIXTH CENTURIES.]
INTRODUCTION—AUTHORITIES— PARENTAGE AND BIRTH OF ST. TIGERNACH—HIS
EDUCATION UNDER ST. MONENNIUS— HIS JOURNEY TO ROME, AND HIS RETURN TO
BRITAIN—HE EMBARKS FOR IRELAND—MIRACLES.
FORMERLY, in Ireland, the spirit of the ecclesiastic and of the recluse diffused sanctity to the very sheeling of the clansman, to the home of the brugach, and to the castle of the chieftain. Foremost among clerics were the venerable bishops, respected and venerated in this land of St. Patrick. And, at the present day, we are to record the memory of an early and a holy prelate, yet remembered in his own special locality, and there greatly reverenced.
The Bollandists have published the Life of St. Tighernach, but not at this date, from a parchment Manuscript, which formerly belonged to Salamanca College, in Spain. They compared it with another Codex, belonging to Father Hugh Ward. A third copy had been procured, from Father Henry Fitzsimon, and, as remarked, in the Bollandists' notes, some proper names in it are differently rendered, from those found in the preceding Manuscripts. This Life was written at a period, long subsequent to St. Tigernach's death, and perhaps, after the English invasion, as the editors remark. His biography is based on traditionary accounts of the Saint; but, as traditions have undergone strange alterations and amplifications, in from six to seven centuries, the Acts are of little value, in a historical sense. Among the Burgundian Library Manuscripts, Bruxelles, there is yet preserved, the Latin Vita S. Tygernachi, which has been printed by the Bollandists. Again, there is a Codex, probably containing similar matter, in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. In the Franciscan Convent, Dublin, there is a Manuscript, intituled, " Vitae Sanctorum," ex Cod. Inisensi. It contains a Vita S. Tigernachi. Reference is probably made to the latter, where on Colgan's list, some Acts of St. Tighernach seem to have been designed for publication, at this day. Some brief memoranda, regarding this distinguished and saintly prelate, have been placed on record, by Bishop Challoner, by the Rev. Alban Butler, and by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould.
As his old Acts inform us, St. Tigernach was of royal birth, being grandson to King Eochod, whose daughter Dearfraych, or Dervail, was married to a warrior of her father, named Corbre, a Leinster man by birth. Dearfraych, who was exceedingly beautiful, concealed herself from man's sight, during the time she bore our Saint. When he was born, Corbre brought the infant into his native province. While approaching the city of Kildare, St. Bridget had a revelation, which she communicated to her nuns. It regarded the approach of her respected visitors. That holy virgin went out to meet the infant, whom she pressed to her bosom. The child was baptized by Bishop Conlath, while Bridget is said to have been his sponsor. She requested, that his name should be Tigernach, which is expressive of royalty. The father of our Saint brought the child to his own part of the country, where he was carefully educated. One day, while sleeping in the presence of his mother, the latter observed a breath, that issued from his mouth, which presented a white appearance; a second breath, which appeared of a reddish hue; and a third, which had a yellowish colour. On Tigernach's awaking, he was asked, what he had seen during sleep. Then he answered, " I dreamed, that three streams of Divine origin were flowing into my mouth; the first, a rivulet of milk, the second one of wine, the third one of oil; and, afterwards, I saw a man of venerable aspect, clothed in a white habit. He prophesied after this manner, "In the land of thy mother shalt thou found an illustrious church.'" This was understood, as having reference to the future church of Clones.
Whilst a boy, Tigernach was taken captive by pirates, who brought him to the King of Britain. This monarch was so much captivated with his beautiful appearance and with his virtues, that he allowed our Saint to sleep on the royal bed, which appeared oftentimes surrounded with a miraculous light. Hereupon the queen said, "This Irish child causes light to descend on us from Heaven ; and, for this reason, let us remove him to that bed, in which our sons repose." When he had slept with the monarch's two sons, on the following morning, both were found dead. The king and queen sent immediately to St. Movennus, or Monennius, requesting his attendance at court, to consult with him, in such an emergency. On his arrival, this saint indicated to Tighernach, that he should lie between the children who were dead, and order them to arise with him. To the great joy of the parents, both their sons were restored to life. Our saint was then set at liberty ; and afterwards, he became the disciple of a bishop, known as St. Monennius, or Ninio—supposed to have been Ninian—in his monastery of Alba. It is thought, that Rosnat, or Whitethorn, was the place. Others will say, that the locality was within the principality of Wales, and not in Scotland. By such an experienced master, Tighernach was instructed in science and virtue. It may be questioned, if this holy teacher were not identical with St. Manchan, the master of St. David of Wales. Having received the benediction of his superior, Tigernach set out on a pilgrimage to Rome. Thence he bore relics of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, to his own country. He journeyed towards the city of Tours, in company with St. Keeran, son to Euchad. It being the time of winter, they were received in a hospice, where nine persons died on that same night. St. Keeran requested his companion to compassionate the wailings of their friends, and to unite with him in earnest entreaty, for their restoration to life. Fervently praying together, the Almighty was pleased to grant their request. From that time forward, both saints were joined in the strictest bonds of friendship. When our saint approached the shore of the Irish sea, it happened, that Ethnea, daughter to the King of Munster, had been brought to the place, whence he intended to embark for Ireland. She was attended by soldiers, belonging to the King of Britain, a prince who wished to marry her. Seeing the saint, with his companions, at that port, Ethnea said, "O holy Father, do not permit me to remain with the infidels, for I have devoted myself to Christ, whose faith and love animate my whole heart." The saint besought the soldiers to release her, but disregarding this request, they brought their captive to the ruler. Being forced against her inclination into the King's presence, she became insensible, and immediately yielded up her spirit. Astonished at this circumstance, the king required his soldiers to give a full account of what had taken place, during their journey. Afterwards, he ordered the royal maiden's dead body to be given without delay to the strange pilgrim, who had required her release, at their hands. This being done, the corpse was placed in a coffin, by Tigernach. He then ordered the sailors to put out for sea. When they were a distance from land, our saint prepared to celebrate the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is said, that at a time, when it was necessary to pour water into the wine, a drop of rain-water fell from Heaven. When the navigators had reached the wished-for port, turning towards the virgin's body, Tigernach said, "O Ethnea, thou art buried in a long sleep. In the name of Jesus Christ arise, and disembark from this vessel, first of all." Immediately, she arose, and to the great astonishment and admiration of its crew, Ethnea went on shore. Having forgotten a thurible, at that port from which he embarked, Tighernach found it at the spot, near which he landed. He remained some time with St. Bridgid. This illustrious virgin received him with great honour. The fame of his sanctity in Ireland soon brought many to a profession of the true faith.
ST. TIGHERNACH VISITS MUNSTER AND CHAINS A DEMON—A RULER, NAMED FIACHRIUS, GRANTS HIM THE SITE FOR A MONASTERY—HE THEN VISITS KILDARE, AND ON THE NOMINATION OF ST. BRIDGET, HE IS CONSECRATED A BISHOP—TIGHERNACH RETURNS TO CLOGHER, WHERE HE IS SET OVER A MONASTERY—HE RAISES DUACH, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH, TO LIFE—KING TACHODRUS GRANTS HIM THE SITE FOR A MONASTERY, AT CLONES—REMARKABLE MOAT THERE—ST. TIGERNACH'S RESIDENCE AT CLONES.
From that part of the country, in which he dwelt for a time, Tighernach went into Munster. He arrived at a place, where its inhabitants worshipped a demon, under the shape of a idol. This evil spirit had excited his worshippers to slay the servant of God. Armed with the shield of faith, and fortified by devout prayer, Tigernach besought the Lord to mitigate their fury. Addressing the multitude, and asking permission to exhibit their idol in its true shape, he made a sign of the cross. Thereupon that image appeared to all, in the form of a foul demon. Afterwards, he was banished to a rock, situated near the sea, where his groans and lamentations were distinctly heard. All of those idolators, acknowledging their errors, became converts to the faith, and they were baptized by our saint. After this, he returned towards his own part of the country. There, he asked for a site, whereon to found a monastery. A king of the territory, who was named Fiachrius, had possession of the place. Tigernach's request was granted, and that ruler requested him to dig a deep trench around the place, giving him lands to serve as a perpetual foundation for his monastery. On a subsequent occasion, the king requiring hay from one of his servants, and it being brought, he asked where it had been procured. Being told, that it was taken from land given to our saint, Fiachrius said, in a loud voice, to those present, "I shall never use the produce of that land, I have given to God, either for my own wants, or for those of my successors." After this, the ruler asked a blessing from the saint on his arms, so that he might obtain a victory over enemies, who were about to contend with him, on the following day. That request he obtained, for on the very next day, his enemies fled before joining battle with the king. Having established his monastery, and left some religious brethren therein, St. Tigernach directed his course towards Kildare, on a visit to his spiritual mother, St. Bridget. She had a revelation, that her godson was worthy of promotion, to the episcopal rank, and having convoked some bishops, our saint was received into their order. The Patroness of Kildare had obtained so much influence, and had so great a reputation for sanctity, that she was privileged, by the clergy and people of Ireland, to nominate several Bishops. Immediately on his consecration having taken place, Tigernach repaired to his maternal grandfather, Eochod, who received him with much joy; and, the satisfaction of his mother, Dearfraych, was equally great. The potentate declared, that he would grant the holy Bishop Machadin's rank, and the rule of Clogher monastery, in favour of his grandson. It seems, he expelled Machadin, from his territories. But, despising worldly honours, and avoiding the king and his parents, the servant of Christ betook himself to a distant mountain. There he remained, buried in a cell, which he had founded.
The fame of our Saint's virtues being diffused abroad, many holy men flocked to visit him, and to engage in useful and pious conferences. Among others, Duach, Archbishop of Armagh, was received with great honour and attention, by the saint. At his departure, Tigernach offered up earnest prayers to God. While travelling through a plain, called Marchuir-eglas, or Glassen, the Archbishop departed this life, a circumstance which was revealed to our saint. He ordered a charioteer, to put horses under his chariot. Having ascended it, the driver was desired not to open his eyes, without a special permission. Tigernach declared, likewise, that he would hold the reins, on that day; for, he knew, that the Angels should accompany them, on the way. The event corresponded with his anticipations. Having journeyed a considerable distance, the charioteer ventured to uncover his head, contrary to the Bishop's advice, but not with impunity. He was instantly deprived of sight. However, this was again restored, on his master signing him with a cross. When they came to that place, where the Archbishop's corpse lay, blessing holy water, Tigernach sprinkled it on the body. Then, earnestly addressing his prayers to God, our saint requested the return of the Archbishop's soul to his body. Immediately, Duach arose, and then he said, 'Tigernach on earth, Tigernach in heaven'; as if he would say, that whilst our Saint's body remained on earth, his soul and dwelling were in Heaven. Afterwards, both these servants of God, receiving from each other a kiss of peace, conceived most tender sentiments of mutual and fraternal love." A short time after this event, the Angel of the Lord advised our saint to go into the territories of King Tachodrus, his grandsire. There, he was ordered to erect a monastery. Our saint complied, and when he had come to the place designated, he built a monastery. With a holy band of brethren, he there engaged in his devotions, and he performed many miracles.
Near the town of Clones, there is a very curious elevated Moat, on the summit of a hill. Three tiers of earth mounds rise in concentric circles, gradually diminishing in area to the topmost height. Immediately north of the moat was a square fortification; and resembling one at Dromore, in every particular. It had been most scandalously defaced by an occupier, who hurled its proud ramparts into the ditches beneath, in order to extend his garden, at a time when John O'Donovan visited the place, A.D. 1835. This was regarded, by him, as the principal enclosure around the mansion of the ancient chief of Oriel, while the Moat was his watchtower, each being surrounded by a ditch, filled with water. The inhabitants of Clones state, that there is cave running from the Diamond, in their town, to the top of this Moat. It is said, that Tigemach fixed his residence at Clones, while he retained the government of Clogher church and See. On this account, he was called Ferdacrioch, or "the Man of the two districts.'' Some writers have erroneously applied this term to his predecessor, in the See of Clogher, St. Maccarthann. But, all accounts agree, that the real name of Maccarthen's successor was Tigernach, while Ferdachrioch was merely a surname, which agreed very well with the circumstances, in which our saint was placed, but it did not suit Bishop Maccarthen. This is a mistake, into which Walter Harris has fallen, and in a measure it is excusable; but, not so his saying, that Tigernach might have been the same as Tigernach, Bishop of Clonmacnois. There was no religious establishment, either See or monastery at Clonraacnois, until the year 548; while our Tigernach was Bishop at Clones, since 506, nor was there any Tigernach of Clonmacnois, in those ancient times. At Clones, a great number of holy men and women afterwards served God. For the last thirty years of our saint's life, he was deprived of the use of sight. He lived alone, in his cell. There, he led the life of an anchoret, devoting his whole time to prayer and to heavenly contemplation.
TRADITION OF ST. TIGERNACH HAVING BEEN LEGATE IN IRELAND, AND OF HIS HAVING RECEIVED THE BISHOPRIC OF CLOGHER FROM ST. MACCARTHINN—ECCLESIASTICAL REMAINS AT CLONES—ANGELIC VISITS TOWARDS THE CLOSE OF ST. TIGERNACH's LIFE—HIS DEPARTURE TO BLISS—HIS FESTIVALS, COMMEMORATIONS AND MEMORIALS— CONCLUSION.
According to the Registry of Clogher, our saint is said to have been Legate of Ireland, and to have received the benediction of St. Maccartin, who bequeathed the bishopric of Clogher to him. Moved by an inspiration from Heaven, however, Tighernach resigned his monastery, in this place, to the care of his friend, St. Comgall, while he went towards the east, and to a more fertile country. Here, he founded the monastery of Clones; but, we have little information, regarding his course of life, while he presided over the community, there established.
At the present time, a very ancient round tower may be seen at Clones. It is broken on the top, however, and round the doorway. This latter is very low in position, and near the surface of the adjoining graveyard. The old people gave the Round Tower here the name of Cloichteach, or Belfry. Very ancient crosses and fragment of tombs are to be seen there. On the other side of the principal street, in Clones, there is a ruined monastery. Fine square and chiselled stones are on its outside. Old tombs lie scattered through the cemetery, which is surrounded by a wall. In the "Diamond", or public square, an old Irish cross stands.
Towards the close of life, a multitude of celestial Spirits came from heaven, to receive the soul of St. Tighernach, when it was about to leave his body; and, they returned to the place of his rest, singing canticles of ravishing harmony." According to Fitzsimon's Manuscript, our saint died, on the XI. of the Kalends of January (22nd of December) ; but, the Bollandists remark, that they found no feast recorded, in any of the Calendars, and referring to him, on that day. Two chapters of our Saint's life, as given by them, have been added, from the MS. of Ward's Hymns for Vespers and Matins, in which Tigernach's virtues are particularly recorded. From the Annals of the Four Masters, we learn, on the year 548, that several saints fell victims to a pestilence, which proved fatal to many of the clergy and people of Ireland. Our saint, however, was not one of the many victims to this plague, although he died within that year. The Annals of the Four Masters state, that Tighernach died, on the 4th of April, A.D. 548. But, Ussher, in his Chronological Index, assigns his death to the year 550; as, in like manner, we find it in the Chronicon Scotorum. The Rev. Jeffrey Keating merely states, that the pious Tighernach, Bishop of Cluain Eos, died during the reign of King Diarmiud, which he extends, from A.D. 528, to 550. Dr. Lanigan, also, places the death of this saint, at the year 549, following the authority of the Four Masters, with his usual mode of emendation. In a Catalogue of the Bishops of Clogher, according to a Registry of that See, transcribed by Ware, the death of St. Tigernach is said to have occurred, on the 5th of April, 555, or in 549, according to other accounts. He died, on the 2nd of March, according to some accounts. The Nones (5th of April), or as Usher remarks, the day previous, was that assigned for his feast. St. Aengus the Culdee has the Feast of St. Tighernach entered, in his Festilogy, at the 4th of April. We find, the entry, Tighearnach, Cluna Eoais, only, set down in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the same date. Several ancient foreign Martyrologies commemorate the festival of St. Tigernach of Clones. Thus, the Utrecht Martyrology of St. Jerome, Florarius, Maurolycus, Felicius, and Ferrarius; the Manuscript Martyrologies of Canons Regular at Albergense, of St. Caecilia, at Leyden, of St. Gudule, at Bruxelles, and of Florarius, as also Greven. The Martyrology, printed at Cologne, A.D. 1490, and also, that printed, at Lubeck, the same year, have notices of this saint. We find entered, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated on this day, Tigernach, who was Bishop of Cluaineois, or Clones, in Fera-Manach. Between Fera Manach and Oirghialla, Cluain-eois lies. In Scotland, he was venerated, also, on this day, as we find an entry, in the Kalendar of Drummond, and inThomas Dempster's "MenologiumScoticum." Under the head of Cluain-eois, Duald Mac Firbis enters Tighernach, son of Cairbre, the holy bishop of Cluain-eois, quievit 548, April 4th. Even yet, the people in and about Clones have a great veneration for St. Tierney, as the patron is locally called. Several curious memorials of him are remaining. Thus, the natives point out, on the Belturbet road, and close to the town, where stood a stone, which was denominated Cloch Tighernach, and which seems to have had some former connexion with the saint.
No longer does the matin bell call the cloistered monk from his last slumbers in Clones. The old procession, the rites and ceremonies of former times, have not been witnessed there, for many a long day; since the sacrilegious spoiler and exterminator have left only ruins, to attest the holiness of this spot. Round tower, moat, abbey church, and old graves, lend an air of solemnity and awe to the scene, which even in desolation must deeply impress the imagination and thought of a pensive tourist or an antiquary, when he turns thither, from the more crowded thoroughfares of our larger towns and cities. The religious mind is filled with like emotions, while the wreck around discloses ample proof of time's changes, and proclaims the mutability of a nation's fortunes.
Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.