Wednesday 13 July 2016

Saint Cruimther Fionntain of Cill-Airthir, July 13

Canon O'Hanlon brings details of an interesting saint at July 13: Cruimther Fionntain of Cill-airthir. The epithet Cruimther or cruimhthear indicates that our saint was a priest. In his account below, taken from Volume VII of the Lives of the Irish Saints, O'Hanlon first tries to find a locality which fits   with Cill-airthir and then introduces the speculation of Father J.F. Shearman, author of the Loca Patriciana, a study of places associated with Saint Patrick, that our Cruimther Fintan is to be identified with a Crubther Fintain mentioned in the Life of the Welsh saint, Cybi, and based on the Island of Aran. When I turned to the authoritative A Dictionary of Irish Saints by Pádraig Ó Riain, a somewhat different picture of our Priest Fintan emerges. Ó Riain places him in Killerr, County Roscommon and does not comment on Father Shearman's Aran/St Cybi theory. Instead he refers to the Life of Saint Mochta of Louth where Fiontan is portrayed as a disciple of Saint Patrick who is torn apart by the demons his master battles during Lent on Croaghpatrick. Saint Patrick restores Fiontan, who doesn't even have a scar from his ordeal. He then went on to become abbot of Killair.  So, a most interesting saint, even if we can only rely on hagiographical rather than historical sources for details of his life and career. Canon O'Hanlon appears to be unaware of the sources Ó'Riain has used, but the account of St Cybi's difficult dealings with the man of Aran, even if he isn't our man, is such a good story that I will publish it on the commemoration of the Welsh saint on November 8:

Cruimther Fionntain, of Cill-airthir. 

Happy must be the condition of Christian communities, where we find the good priest united with a pious people, and a faithful flock bearing reverence towards their holy pastor. A festival to honour Cruimther Fionntain, of Cill-airthir, appears registered in the Martyrology of Donegal at this date. There is a Killartery townland in the parish of Mayne, barony of Ferrard, and county of Louth; there is also a Killartry townland in the parish of Aghavea, barony of Magherastephana, and county of Fermanagh. These seem the only Irish denominations likely to correspond with the ancient nomenclature of his place, which does not appear to be known. The Rev. John Francis Shearman has identified the present Cruimther Fintan with a Crubther Fintain, who lived in the Island of Aran, and who is said to have chased St. Cybi and his companions Maclog and Cyngar, not only from that place, but even away from Ireland. This, however, is manifestly a legendary story. The Bollandists were furnished by Father O'Sheerin, with a notice of Fintanus Sacerdos de Kill airthir, for the 13th of July.

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