Monday 1 September 2014

Saint Neman of Cill Bia, September 1

We begin the month of September with the commemoration of Saint Neman. As Canon O'Hanlon points out, the name of this saint does not appear on the earliest of the Martyrologies and is not a common one. I have inserted two of the footnotes from the entry in the Lives of the Irish Saints into the main text as they seek to offer an explanation for both the saint's name and for the locality in which he may have flourished. The translator of the Martyrology of Donegal appended a note saying that the saint's name may derive from the Irish word for heaven nemh and thus his name is a Gaelic equivalent to the Latin Caelestinus. The name of his associated placename is not easy to pin down, Canon O'Hanlon cites the evidence for County Down below:

St. Neman, Bishop of Cill Bia.

There are no entries made in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, from 31st of August until the 4th of September; and therefore, the present saint's name, with that of other holy persons, is not there found recorded. However, in the copy contained in the Book of Leinster, although entries are given for the missing days, the name of Neman is not mentioned, at the present date. The Martyrology of Donegall registers a festival, at the 1st of September, in honour of Neman, Bishop, of Cill-Bia, which seems to have been one of the early small sees in Ireland. In the table which follows this record, a commentator observes, that if by him, Nemhan be understood, this name may fairly be interpreted Coelestinus. [Dr. Reeves appends the following marginal note to this passage: " As naomhan from naomh, holy is Latinized Sanctanus, so Nemhan, from nemh, 'heaven', is rendered Colestinus."] In the Introduction to the Martyrology, it is stated, that Cill Bhi is in Connaught; but, this is by no means certain. At present, it seems no easy matter to discover this place among the existing parish or townland denominations of Ireland. However, there is a reasonable conjecture, as Cill-Bia and Cill-mbian are not distinct denominations, and while the latter place is said to have been founded by St. Fearghus, Bishop of Druim-Leath-giaise, more commonly called Dun-da-leath-ghlas, or Down; an ancient graveyard called Killyman, in the townland of Barnamaghery and parish of Kilmore, in the Diocese of Down, may represent the site of the once important church of Cill-mbian, mentioned in several of our annals. [In his tract, De Quibusdam Episcopis, Duald MacFirbis—apparently referring to this Church—has it, "Cill-Sqanduil no Cill-bian. Fergus epscop Cille-Sganduil no bian; agus is nor sin." Translated: Kill Sgandail or Kill-Bian: Fergus, bishop of Kill-Sgandail or Kill-Bian, and that is true." These denominations may be anglicised into Kilscannel and Kilbean or Kilmean.] It might well be expected, that Cill-mBian —pronounced Killmian— as having been founded by one of the bishops of Down, should remain closely connected with the See; and, as Killyman was a chapel in the mensal parish of Kilmore, and probably one of seven mentioned as having belonged to it, not unreasonably it may be regarded as the ancient Cill m-Bian. If such identification be correct, as the founder, St. Fearghus, Bishop of Downpatrick, died A.D. 583, the present St. Neman flourished hardly at an earlier date than the seventh century. How long Cill m-Bian or Cill-Bia continued to be the see of a bishop does not seem to be known; for we cannot find farther allusion to it in our Irish Annals or Calendars. Neither is the name of Neman one often to be met with, and certainly not in a form, to furnish probable identity with the saint there venerated. Under the head of Cill-Bia, Duald Mac Ferbis enters Nemhan, bishop of Cill-Bia, at the 1st day of September.

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