Monday 6 October 2014

Saint Colman Lucell of Clonkeen, October 6

On October 6 we commemorate one of the many Irish saints with the name of Colman who appears to have been an abbot at one of the many Irish places with the name of Clúain. This particular saint also seems to have been known as Lucell. The earliest of the calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, simply records the name of Colman. The Martyrology of Oengus leads with a notice of Abb Clúana in Lucell, 'Lucell the abbot of Clúain', and the scholiast notes record:

6. Lucell abbot of Clúain, i.e. abbot of Clonmacnois, i.e. a successor of Ciaran of Cluain, and he is at Ross Fothairbe on the shore of Lough Mask in the west of Connaught.

The commentator on the 12th-century Martyrology of Gorman's entry for Lucell subach sluagach, 'happy, hostful Lucell', however, identifies him with Colman: .i. Colmán ab Clúana Cáoin., 'i.e. Colman abbot of Clúain Cáin'.

The 17th-century Martyrology of Donegal reprises all of this information, identifying Colman, as Abbot of Clúain Cáin, describing him also as Lucell and allowing the possibility that he may have been at Clonmacnoise: 'COLMAN, Abbot of Cluain-caoin, i.e., Luicheall; or he was of Cluain-mic-Nois'.

There are a number of places in Ireland where the placename of Clúain Cáin, anglicized as Clonkeen, is found. One is not far from the monastery of Clonenagh, founded by Saint Fintan. A diocesan historian of Kildare and Leighlin writes of this place:


This name, which is derived, according to Colgan, from Cluain-Caein, i.e. secessus amaenus sive delectabilis, "the beautiful lawn or meadow,"-is the title of an ancient parochial district, the church of which still exists in ruins. It is of apparently great antiquity, and is divided into two portions that would represent nave and chancel, except that there is a solid wall separating them apparently as old as the rest of the buildings and only pierced by a window high up. Dimensions: nave 45 feet by 22 feet; chancel (if it may be called so), 25 feet by 18 feet. Colgan speaks of St. Fintan having been born in Clonkeen of Leix; if so, then this place may lay claim to the honour of having given birth to one of our greatest Irish Saints.

The following particulars are given by Archdall in Monast. Hib, in reference to Cluainchaoin (Clonkeen).
Cluainchaoin was an ancient monastery, not far from Clonenagh.
The following Saints are recorded as Bishops here:

St. Fintan, a holy Anchorite, who died A.D. 860. (In the Martyrology of Donegall at 7th Feb., "Fiontain, Priest, of Cluain-Caoin," is calendared.)

The Feilure of Aengus, at 6th Oct., mentions "The. Lucell, Abbot of Cluain;" to which the Gloss in Leabhar Brac adds:

"Lucell, the bright one (here used) for his name - Or Cluain Luicell, i.e. Cluain Cain, i.e. Abbot of Cluain-Luicell, i.e. Colman, son of Cull, &c" This entry refers perhaps to this place...

Rev M Comerford "Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" Vol. 3 (1886)

Given however, that there are other potential candidates for 'Clonkeen' including the monastery of Clonkeen near Ardee in County Louth, which is known from Patrician hagiography, it doesn't seem absolutely certain that this was the monastery of our saint. I will leave the last word to Canon O'Hanlon, this time wearing his county historian's hat. In a footnote to a discussion of Clonkeen in Volume 1 of his History of the Queen's County, he remarks: 'In the similar names of Irish Saints and their places, many inaccuracies of identification occur.'

Yes, indeed, and never more so it seems than when dealing with any saint called Colman...

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