Thursday 17 February 2022

Saint Fintan's Road: A Legend of Clonenagh


February 17 is the feast of Saint Fintan of Clonenagh. I have previously brought Canon O'Hanlon's account of the miracles attributed to this great monastic saint here.  Below is another of his contributions on Saint Fintan, this time wearing his other hat as 'Lageniensis', the poet. For the Canon was not just a hagiologist but also a folklorist, illustrator and poet. The Irish saints were the subjects of many amateur versifiers in the Victorian popular religious press, but Canon O'Hanlon's poems were issued in a collection printed by James Duffy and Company in Dublin in 1893. In it he combined all of his interests as the poems are not only inspired by the local folklore of his native County Laois but all of them are copiously annotated with references to saints, placenames and topography etc. 

St. Fintan’s Road, a Legend of Clonenagh

The night-clouds were dark, holy Fintan returning,
Dun, dreary and dismal the prospect before,
As feebly he journeyed, foot-sore;
No bright lunar orb in the starless sky burning,
Soft yielding each step that morass scarce bore,
For quagmires had sprinkled it o’er.
“Dear grey abbey-walls,” said the saint while approaching,
“Oh, when shall I find your delightful repose,
On the fertile and grass-bearing knowes;
The tempest howls over on wild moss encroaching,
Tall pines of the wilderness bend as it blows,
And the danger more fearfully grows.
Pious peasants relate, how that tempest then ceasing
Unveiled the bright moon, from a covert of shade,
In all her true glories arrayed,
When a clear shining star, through the liquid air chasing,
Led on to his churches a road newly made,
And in calm were the soughing winds laid.
Even yet, at the lone hour of midnight returning,
Swains tread on with joy, o’er that causeway secure,
For their patron will safety insure;
Nor fear they if midnight be shadowed in mourning,
While telling their prayers, devoutly and pure,
To Fintan, the saint of that moor.
'St. Fintan’s Road, a Legend of Clonenagh' in The Poetical Works of Lageniensis (Dublin, 1893), 252-255.


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Wednesday 9 February 2022

A Papal Tribute to a Learned Irishman

February 9 is the commemoration of the eleventh-century Irish monastic scribe Marianus Scotus,
Muiredhach Mac Robartaigh, a Donegal man who pursued his vocation at the Irish monastery of Ratisbon in Germany. He left Ireland in the year 1067 and died at Ratisbon on February 9, 1088. He is the second Irishman with the Latinized name of Marianus to find fame among the Germans, as a decade earlier his namesake, Marianus the Chronicler, began his scholarly work at the monastery of Mainz. Now it seems there may also have been a third, Marianus the Master, who had once been a teacher to Pope Adrian in Paris, as writer Seumas MacManus explains:

The scholarship of holy Marianus Scotus of Donegal has already been referred to. There was another Irish Marianus, tutor of Pope Adrian, who taught in the royal school in Paris, about the same time that Marianus Scotus was doing his good work in Ratisbon. And this latter Marianus only accidentally escapes the oblivion to which hundreds and thousands of his exiled learned countrymen were consigned. He seems to have retired in his old age to the monastery of his namesake at Ratisbon. And when Abbot Gregory, who was a successor of Holy Marianus, visited Adrian in Rome, that Pope paid a wonderful tribute to Marianus the Master. The incident is set down in the Chronicles of Ratisbon, which says:

'A distinguished Irish ecclesiastic, Marianus, entered St. James's, who had long taught the seven liberal and other arts in Paris. When Gregory was admitted to an audience at Rome, Pope Adrian inquired, among other things, after his old preceptor at Paris. 'Master Marianus is well,' replied Gregory, 'and is now living a monk among us at Ratisbon.' 'God be praised,' exclaimed the Pope ; 'I know not in the Catholic Church an abbot [than you, Gregory] who has under him a man as excellent in wisdom, discretion, genius, eloquence, than this same Marianus.'

 Seamus MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race - A Popular History of Ireland, (New York, 1921), 165.


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