Thursday 12 November 2020

Graves of Irish Exiles


As November is traditionally the month in which we remember the dead, this seems a fitting time to reflect on the many Irish saints and scholars whose graves are to be found far from our shores. Such was the theme of this 1905 article 'Graves of Irish Exiles', published anonymously in the New Zealand press. The author brings together many of the Irish saints who laboured in Europe and about whom accounts may be found on this blog. But by including many other famous churchmen and scholars from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it also unites this site to my new blog on the Irish martyrs. The early medieval monks may have left Ireland in different circumstances to those who founded the Irish Colleges in Europe during the Reformation period, but for the writer the pain of exile, expressed in typically romantic terms, remains the same:

Graves of Irish Exiles

Scarcely a Cathedral bell is rung on the Continent of Europe (says an exchange) that does not sound above the remains of some Irish priest or Bishop. Seldom a flower fades in the cloistered cemeteries along the banks of the yellow Tiber, or the castled Rhine, that some of its leaves do not touch the lonely grave of some monk or student from the green banks of the Shannon or the Liffey. The names of Irish Students are carved on the flagged floor of many an abbey chapel, and on the walls of many a famous shrine from the Tagus to the Garrone. St. Fridolen sleeps in his island city of Seckingen, in the abbey he himself founded for the Benedictines; the holy remains of St. Fiacre centuries ago were removed from the oratory of Breuil, and may now be found near the mausoleum of Bossiuet, behind the high altar in the Cathedral of Meaux; the noble martyrs Kilian, Colman, and Totnan are buried in the principal church of Wurtzburg; St. Frigidian, lies at rest in the church of 'The Three Holy Levites,' at Lucca, while Cataldus (Cathal) awaits the Resurrection not far from the blue waters of the fair bay of Taranto. Often the twelve knights of St. Rupert may be seen kneeling by the tomb of St. Virgillius, in Saltzburg. St. Caidoc and St. Fricor are interred in the abbey of Centule, in the territory of Ponthieu, Picardy. In the collegiate church of Lens, in the diocese of Arras, the body of St. Vulganus is honored. Marianus Scotus, the chronographer, was laid to pious rest in the Church of St. Martin, beyond the walls of the city of Metz. St. Tressan calmly reposes at Avenay, in Champagne. In a church guarded by the Fort of St. Andrew, at Salins, the relics of St. Anatolius are preserved in a silver shrine. St. Maimbodus securely sleeps in the shade of the castle rock of the valiant city of Montbelliard. The magnificent Cathedral of Mechlin is the tomb and monument of St. Rumold— prince, Bishop, martyr. 

But to come to a later period of Irish history. How many Irish students are laid to rest forever on the hill of St. Genevieve! How many of them sleep their long sleep in the Franciscan Convents of Louvain and Salamanca, in the Dominican garden of Madrid, and in the consecrated ground belonging to the Jesuits at Lisle, Antwerp, Tournay, St. Omer, Douay, and Pont-a-Mousson. Florence Conroy sleeps near the high altar in the Franciscan Church of St. Anthony of Padua at Louvain; Thomas Stapleton's ashes are mingled with the dust of Belgium's most gifted sons in the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo; Luke Wadding has been laid near Hugh O'Neill, on St. Peter's Mount, in Rome. In the Cistercian monastery at Alcala in Spain, William Walsh, from Waterford on the Suir, lies in peace. The grand-souled and patriotic Bishop of Ferns, Nicholas French, passed away from life's toil and troubles at Ghent, in Belgium. His venerated body was piously placed at the foot of the grand altar in the parish church of St. Nicholas in that city. A slab of purest marble, decorated with the Cardinal's hat and armorial bearings, has a beautiful and truthful inscription in honor of his memory. Ambrose Wadding, brother to the famous Luke Wadding, calmly rests at Dillingen; Bishop Edmond O'Dwyer, who governed the See of Limerick, silently lies in the subterranean chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, beneath the Church of St. James, in the city of Brussels. The pious pilgrim to Compostella will find in the world-renowned temple of St. James, Apostle of Spain, the Holy Remains of two Waterford Bishops— Thomas Strong, of the diocese of Ossory, and his nephew, the firm friend of Rinuccini, T. Walsh. The relics of Patrick Fleming and Matthew Hoar, martyred by the cruel followers of the Elector of Saxony, are treasured in the Franciscan convent of Wotiz, near Prague, in Bohemia. 

Ward, Colgan, Lombard, MacCaughwell, Edmund O'Reilly, and the Stanihursts, men whose names will ever live among the names of Ireland's most gifted and patriotic sons, are all in far foreign graves. The winds of Ireland never chant their mournful dirge around their tombs, the maids of Erin scatter no flowers over their graves, the faithful peasants never pray above their ashes. They fell where they have bravely fought with voice and pen for the land of their love. They died far away from the isle of their birth, with the great shadow of Ireland's suffering upon their breaking hearts. They sank to rest in the calm of silent convents, and they tranquilly rest either in the dim shades of old cathedrals, or in the peaceful aisles of chapels whose silence is never broken except by the prayer of some pious monk or nun.

Graves of Irish Exiles, New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXXIII, Issue 16, 20 April 1905

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