Monday 22 November 2021

Saint Medhbh of Ardachadh, November 22

November 22 is the feast of Saint Caecilia, the martyr now regarded as the patroness of music and honoured throughout the universal Church. Indeed the Martyrology of Oengus devotes its entire entry for the day to her with this lyrical tribute, as translated by Whitley Stokes:

22. After suffering in martyrdom, O Mary! a shining light, Caecilia beautiful, radiant, ran to the angelic Prince.

But other Irish calendars record the feast of a native holy woman at this date, Medhbh (Medb, Maeve) of Ardachadh. The late twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman notes:

Medb of Ard-achad

whilst at November 22 the early seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal lists:

Medhbh of Ardachadh

Stokes identifies the locality Ard-achad, 'high field' with Ardagh, County Longford. Much has been recorded of the patron of the Diocese, Saint Mel (feast day February 6), but alas, nothing more is recorded of Saint Medhbh. The most famous bearer of this ancient Irish name is the legendary queen of Connacht, but sadly the saint is one of many Irish holy women who remain shrouded in obscurity.

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Finola Finlay said...


Ariadne said...

Should we assume that Saint Medhbh lived around the same time as Saint Mel (5th Century) as she is also a saint of Ardagh?

Marcella said...

Not without other supporting evidence, no. Sometimes the years of the deaths of monastics are recorded in the various Irish Annals but that tends to be just the Abbots or Abbesses. As noted, Medhbh is not listed in the Martyrology of Oengus and unfortunately there is a gap in the manuscripts of the Martyrology of Tallaght for the month of November. So the earliest reference I could find was in the Martyology of Gorman which was written in the 1180s, I think. So without some other source to help narrow down the timeline it would be very difficult to say. It is quite usual for only the name and location of an Irish saint to survive as the only information known about them, alas.

Freni Gillespie said...

This makes me so happy, but I wish something more was known about her holiness, character, etc. I just read in the Catechism that the for a “baptismal name” parents, godparents and pastor are to make sure the child isn’t given a name foreign to Christian sentiment. I wasn’t thinking of that when I named my daughter Rowan Maeve, but no one said anything when we had her baptized. I’ve since learned that there is a St. Rowan (Ruadhan of Lorrha), and now I’ve learned there’s also a St. Maeve!

Marcella said...

I share your frustration, but alas it is simply not possible to find out any further details on this holy lady. There are only a handful of Irish female saints with full written Lives and sadly, she isn't one of them. I was pleased though to find a Saint Maeve on the Irish calendars, even though it wasn't possible to learn any further details about her as an individual. Unfortunately, that is the case for the vast majority of saints on our native calendars. Best wishes to your daughter, she has two good saintly patrons there!