Tuesday 3 October 2017

The Seven Bishops of Cluain Caa, October 3

On October 3 we find another of the groups of saints who are a feature of the Irish calendars - The Seven Bishops of Cluain Caa. The Martyrology of Donegal records:

THE SEVEN BISHOPS, of Cluain Cua. We find seven bishops, the children of one father, of the race of Fiacha Suighdhe, son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachtmhar, as we have said at the 21st of July.

A Footnote from the editor adds:

Cluain Cua. The more recent hand adds, Cluana Cáa rectius, more correctly, of  Cluain-caa. This is the reading in the Mart. Taml., and Marian.

The entry for July 21 reproduces the genealogical details ascribed above to the bishops commemorated on October 3:
THE SEVEN BISHOPS, of Tamhnach Buadha, [Bishop Tedda, of Tamhnach,] and we find seven bishops, the sons of one father, and their names and history among the race of Fiacha Suighdhe, son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachtmhar.
I turned next to the twelfth-century Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman to see if he could shed any further light on these bishops or the locality of Cluain Caa. They form the last verse of his entry for the day:
The bishops of Cluain Caa,
their day I will mention.
with a footnote reading 'seven bishops of Cluain Caa'.

In consulting the index of places attached to the calendar I found that, according to the nineteenth-century scholar and translator W.M. Hennessy, Cluain Caa was located in Queen's County, i.e. County Laois:
Cluain Caa, Oct. 3, wrongly spelt Cluain cua, Progs. R.I.A. Irish MS. series i. 100, 101, where Hennessy locates it in Queen's co.
I also confirmed the entry in the earlier Martyrology of Tallaght:
Secht n-epscoip Clúana Caa.
So it would seem that the calendars concur in having a feast of seven bishops from Cluain Caa celebrated on October 3.  Only the Martyrology of Donegal supplies the genealogical detail and suggests that they are siblings. It is also only this calendar which seeks to link them to the group of bishops commemorated at Tamnach Buada on July 21. The Martyrology of Gorman notes only 'austere bishops from Tamnach' at this date and does not cross-reference this episcopal grouping with that commemorated on October 3.

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