Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Saint Siollan of Moville, October 21

In the calendar appended to his Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore, Bishop William Reeves notes on October 21:

' S. SIOLLAN, abbot of Magh Bile'.

The Martyrology of Gorman commemorates him as:

'Sillán, a prince who was not evil and cruel'

and the notes add:

'Sillán the Master, i.e. great-grandson of Garb, abbot of Mag bile.'

This latter information is also found in the entry for October 21 in the Martyrology of Donegal which records:

' SIOLLAN, the Master, Mac Ua Gairbh, abbot of Magh-bile.'

Saint Siollan is the second saint of the monastery of Moville to be commemorated this month, as another of its abbots, Sinell, has his feastday on October 1. Here's a reminder of the history of this foundation from Archbishop Healy:

Moville, or Movilla, is at present the name of a townland less than a mile to the north-east of Newrtownards, at the head of Strangford Lough, in the county Down. This district was in ancient times famous for its great religious establishments. Bangor, to which we shall refer presently, is not quite five miles due north of Moville...Further south, but on the western shore of the same Lough, anciently called Lough Cuan, were the Abbey of Inch, the famous Church of Saul, in which St. Patrick died, and the Church of Downpatrick, in which he was buried with SS. Brigid and Columcille. And in one of the islands in the same Strangford Lough, now called Island Mahee, quite close to the western shore, was that ancient monastery and school of Noendrum, of which we have already spoken. Religious men from the beginning loved to build their houses and churches in view of this beautiful sheet of water, with its myriad islands and fertile shores, bounded in the distance by swelling uplands, that lend a charming variety to this rich and populous and highly cultivated county.

...Finnian is said to have returned to Ireland and founded his school at Moville about the year a. d. 540, that is some twenty years after his namesake of Clonard had opened his own great school on the banks of the Boyne. The name Maghbile means the plain of the old tree, probably referring to some venerable oak reverenced by the Druids before the advent of St. Patrick. At present there is nothing of the ancient abbey-school except a few venerable yews to mark the city of the dead, and an old ruined church on the line of the high road from Newtownards to Donaghadee. This old church, which was one hundred and seven feet in length, in all probability did not date back to the original foundation of the place, although it undoubtedly stands on the site of St. Finnian's original church. The spot was aptly chosen, sheltered by an amphitheatre of hills from the winds of the north and east, and commanding far away to the south a noble prospect of Lough Cuan's verdant islets and glancing waters.

St. Finnian died in A.D. 589, according to the Annals of Ulster, at a very great age.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Saint Fintan Moeldubh, October 20

October 20 is the feastday of a Saint Fintan or 'Fintan Moeldubh', who may have been especially venerated as a patron of Ossory, a kingdom and diocese of south-central Ireland. Confusion arises, as we shall see, because some of the Irish calendars list 'Fintan Moeldubh' as a single individual, while others suggest that there is both a Fintan and a Moeldubh commemorated on this day as two separate individuals. Saint Fintan Moeldubh is traditionally held to have been the second abbot of the monastic school of Clonenagh. The evidence, and the difficulties it presents, has been examined by a 19th-century writer on the history of the Diocese of Ossory, Father Edward Carrigan:
St Fintan of Durrow, Co Laois


In the Annals of the Four Masters, Durrow is referred to as Daurmhagh Ua nDuach; and, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as Dermhagh Ua nDuach. Both forms of the name signify the same thing, viz., the Oak Plain in [the territory of] Ui Duach.

St. Fintan was formerly the Patron of Durrow. His feast was celebrated here, according to Bishop Phelan's List, on the 16th Nov. It is impossible, however, to identify the Saint with any degree of certainty. The likelihood is, that he is identical with a St. Fintan, by some, surnamed Moeldubh. St. Fintan Moeldubh was the second Abbot of Clonenagh, having been appointed to that office by the founder of the monastery himself, St. Fintan macGaibhrene ui Echach, as he lay on his death-bed:

"When, therefore, his [i.e. St. Fintan macGaibhrene's] death was near at hand, knowing the day of his departure, he called his people around him, and, with the permission and blessing of the brethren and the saints who had come to visit him, their holy father, he himself appointed in his seat after him, a man noble by race and morals, and named by the same name, i.e. Fintan Moeldubh."

In 599 or 600. St. Fintan Moeldubh administered the last rites of the Church to St. Canice, when dying, at Aghaboe. At this time he may have been in charge of the monastery of Durrow for he cannot have succeeded to the abbacy of Clonenagh till some years later, if it be true, as recorded in the Three Fragments of Annals, that St. Fintan macGaibhrene ui Echach did not die till 610. St. Fintan Moeldubh died, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, in 626.

The difficulty of a satisfactory identification of the Patron of Durrow is rather increased than otherwise by our Irish Martyrologies, as will appear from the following:

(a) The text of the Calendar of Aengus, at Oct. 20th, has the quatrain:

"Fintan Moeldubh-great that shout!-
A fair sun at that mountain
Of those splendid Eoganacht."

On this passage, Aengus's scholiast, in the Leabhar Breac, comments as follows:

"Fintan Moeldubh, i.e. Fintan Moeldubh in Ui Duach in Ossory, and of the Eoganacht Chaisil is he, and at Dermag Hua nDuach in the north of Ossory he is. Or, Fintan and Maeldubh are two saints, and in Cluain Immorroiss in Offaly is Maeldubh, and, quod verius [est], he was also brother of St. Comhghan of Glenn Uissen.

"Now as to Maeldubh, some say that he was of the Eoganacht Chaisil. However, according to the truth of the history of the men of Ireland, he is of the seed of Brian, son of Echaid Muidmedon. ……………Maeldub, son of Amalgaid, son of Fothad, son of Conall glun, son of Brian, son of Echaid Muidmedon.
"And it is that Maeldub that took Fechin of Fore into fosterage with him, and sent him to learning."

(b) The Martyrology of Donegal, at the same day (Oct. 20), commemorates Fintan and Maeldubh, as two distinct saints, thus:

"Maeldubh, son of Amhalgaidh, of Cluain-Immorrois in Ui Failghe; or of Dermagh in Ui Duach in the north of Ossory. He was of the race of Brian, son of Eochaidh Muighmedhoin.
"Fionntain, of Derrnagh in Ui Duach."

(c) Similarly, at the same day, the Martyrology of Tallaght has the two separate entries:

(d) Again, on the same day, the Calendar of Cashel has:

"St. Fintan Maeldubh of the territory of Eoghanacht Cassil, and the instructor of St. Fechin: that he is also sprung from the same territory of Munster, Marianus O'Gorman and Aengus Increased, testify at the cited day."

These extracts help to establish one point, at least, and that is, that the feast-day of the St. Fintan, venerated as patron at Durrow, was not the 16th Nov., as Bishop Phelan's List states, but the 20th of October.

The traditions of Durrow throw no light on St. Fintan's history; neither do they preserve the memory of his festival day. His holy well, called "Fintan's Well," or rather " Fantan's Well," is within Lord Ashbrook's demesne, at the distance of about 100 yards from Durrow bridge. At its head, firmly embedded in the earth, is the rough limestone pedestal of a small cross; the socket is 5 in. long, and about the same in width and depth. The cross itself has been long missing. The small inch lying between the holy well and the river Erkina is called [St.] "Fantan's Island."

THE MONASTERY OF DURROW - The foundations of what was traditionally known as "Durrow Monastery," remained till 1835, about 60 yards north-west of the churchyard of Durrow, between the base of the "Castle Hill" and the small stone bridge crossing the Erkina at this point. The monastery was founded by St. Fintan; but nothing further appears to be known about it. If it survived the middle of the 12th century, it was probably destroyed soon after, in 1156 or 1157, when the army of Muircheartach O'Lochlainn, King of Ulster, burned Daurmhagh Ua nDuach and other monastic centres in its neigbourhood.
Rev. E. Carrigan "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory" Vol. 2 (1905)

Tradition also links Saint Fintan Moeldubh with the 'Apostle of Connemara', Saint Fechin of Fore. A biographer of Saint Fechin records this incident following the repose of Saint Fintan:
Saint Fintan Maeldubh, the second abbot of the famous monastery of Clonenagh, was a warm friend and admirer of Fechin, and seems to have wished his monks to take Fechin as their superior. When Fintan died in 626, Fechin went to Clonenagh, where the monks gave him Fintan's staff and chrism-vessel and vestments, willed probably to Fechin by his dear friend, but the monks declined to have a stranger over them, even though the stranger were a Saint Fechin.

Some think that it was on this occasion that Fechin parted from Clonenagh without giving the monks his blessing. What it really was which gave him offence is not known. Conscience however reproached him afterwards for giving way to anger, and, as the legend tells us, he was miraculously transported back to the monastery of Clonenagh where he gave a cordial blessing to all the religious.
Rev. J.B. Coyle, The Life of Saint Fechin of Fore - The Apostle of Connemara (Dublin, 1915), 47.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Saint Cronan of Tomgraney, October 19

October 19 is the commemoration of a County Clare saint, Cronan of Tomgraney. The Martyrology of Donegal records:
CRONAN, of Tuaim Greine.
The website of the Clare County Library has a page which explains the origins of the place name associated with our saint and which mentions him as the founder of its monastery. Sadly by the nineteenth century, the Ordnance Survey scholar, John O'Donovan, was dismayed to find that little local knowledge of the saint had survived, not even the memory of when his feast day was commemorated. Another nineteenth-century source, the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literaturealluded to some of the difficulties in disentangling the founder of Tomgraney from others of the same name:
Cronan (Croman, or Chronan) is a very frequent name in Irish hagiologies, and has several synonyms, as Cuaran, Mochuaroc, and frequently Mochua, Cron and Cua having in Irish the same meaning.
13. Of Tuaim-greine (now Tomgraney, in the barony of Upper Tulla, County Clare), commemorated October 19. This saint appears twice in the Mart. Doneg., first in the original hand at October 19; and next in the second hand, on the authority of Mar. O'Gorman, at November 1. Among the saints of the family of St. Colman of Kilmacduach (Feb. 3), or house of the Hy-Fiachrach, Colgan gives "St. Cronan, son of Aengus, son of Corbmac, etc., February 20 or October 19;" and Mart. Doneg. at February 20 also mentions that there is a Cronan with this pedigree (Todd and Reeves, Mart. Doneg. pages 55, 279,293; Colgan, Acta Sanctorum, page 248, c. 2).
James Strong and John McClintock, eds., The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Haper and Brothers; NY; 1880). [extract from online edition here.]

Modern scholar, Pádraig Ó Riain in his dictionary entry for the saint explores the evidence from literary sources and place names and confirms the difficulties of the earlier hagiologists in establishing a single identity and feast day for this saint.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Saint Teca of Rooskey, October 18

At October 18 the Irish calendars record the name of a female saint, Teca and associate her with the locality of 'Ruscach, in Cuailgne'. The Martyrology of Donegal records:
TECA, Virgin, of Ruscach, in Cuailgne.
The earlier Martyrology of Tallaght, however, gives an affectionate twist on her name and records at the same date:
Mothecca Rúscaigi  (my Teca of Rúscach).
The index of places appended to the Martyrology identifies our saint's locality as Rooskey, County Louth. This place is mentioned in the Life of Saint Moninna, when that saint, originally named Darerca, was first involved with the religious life:
There were with her at first, as they tell, eight virgins, as well as one widow who had a small boy named Luger. Darerca adopted the child as her foster son and when she had thoroughly accustomed him to the ways of the church, she raised him to the high dignity of a bishop.  He crowned his good works as leader of the whole of his people - the Conaille - by building the church of  Rúscach [Rooskey, Cooley, County Louth] in honour of God.
Liam de Paor, ed and trans., 'The Life of Saint Darerca, or Moninna, the Abbess' in Saint Patrick's World (Dublin, 1993), 282.

I have no further information on Saint Teca or at what period she flourished. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Saint Maonach of Dunleer, October 17

At October 17 the Martyrology of Donegal records:


MAENACH, son of Cláirin, Abbot of Lann Léire, A.D. 720.

A footnote adds that the year 720 is the date given for the repose of this saint in the Annals of Ulster. The place name associated with the saint, Lann Léire, is modern Dunleer, County Louth and a local researcher has made an interesting historical archive on the district available here. In the nineteenth-century Bishop Reeves sought to derive the name from the old Irish words lann, church and léire, austerity, but modern scholarship inclines to the view that it simply means 'the church in the district of Léire' rather than 'the church of austerity.' The name was in common use up until the twelfth century but after the coming of the Normans the lann element was replaced by dún, fort. The monastery of which Saint Maonach was abbot was originally founded by the saintly brothers Furadhran and Baithin. Our saint is the first abbot to be mentioned in the Annals after the founders. Thus Lann Léire must have been a foundation of some importance and various commentators have noted that no other County Louth monastery is referenced so frequently in the Irish Annals. Not only are its abbots recorded but so too are other events such as as attacks by the Vikings as well as by native marauders, culminating in the burning of the monastery in 1148.  One can only hope that Saint Maonach exercised his abbacy in less interesting times.

Pádraig Ó Riain in his Dictionary of Irish Saints records a number of later literary sources which take our saint out of his Ulster monastery and seek to place him in Munster. A poem, for example, listing those on whom Saint Seanán of Scattery could call on in a time of need include 'great Maonach, son of  Láirín'. It may be, however, that in some of these sources our saint has become confused with others of a similar name. Interestingly though, the name of Maonach, in its Latin guise of Monachus is to be found at October 17 in a fifteenth-century martyrology written in Cologne. It rather suggests that our saint, although today an obscure figure, was at one time much more well known. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Saint Gall of Switzerland, October 16

October 16 is the feastday of the Irishman hailed as the 'Apostle of Switzerland', Saint Gall, who gave his name to the Swiss canton of Saint-Gallen. He was a contemporary of the great Irish missionary saint, Columbanus, and both were students of Saint Comgall's monastic school of Bangor. Gall was one of those who accompanied Columbanus on his endeavours to evangelize Europe and shared many adventures with him in the territory of the Franks, but it appears that the two parted on less than happy terms, when the indefatigable, if irascible, Columbanus, wanted to journey on to Italy. Below is an account of the parting of the ways from the ninth-century Vita Galli of Wettinus:

"On their journey, however, all the athletes of God were struck down with fever; illness prevented Gall from continuing on his way. While Columban was preparing to leave, Gall threw himself at his feet and said that weakness prevented him from moving on. The holy man, thinking a little mockery might make his friend decide to accompany him, said, 'If you do not wish to share in my work, you shall celebrate Mass no more as long as I live'. He decided, however, of his own free will to remain and to accept the condition... All this happened, I think, according to the will and the providence of God, so that Gall, whom he had chosen, might lead the people of that country to eternal life."

G. and B. Cerebelaud-Salagnac, Ireland-Isle of Saints, (Dublin, 1966), 122-123.

Gall remained in Swabia and he lived as a hermit near the source of the river Steinach. He reposed on October 16th, 646. In 720 the monk Othmar built an abbey on the site of the holy hermit's cell, which was the origin of the town of Saint-Gall.

Columbanus journeyed on to Italy, where he founded the famous monastery of Bobbio. According to some accounts, he and his former disciple Gall were reconciled before the end. On one dark night Gall arose and instructed his deacon to prepare the altar for the celebration of the liturgy, as it had been revealed to him that his old master Columbanus had died. Soon word arrived from Italy that Columbanus had ordered his staff to be taken north to Gall as a sign of forgiveness.

Below is an account of one of the miracles of Saint Gall, taken from Walafrid Strabo's Libellus Secundus de Miraculis S. Galli Confessoris, written before 836. For scholar, J. M. Clark, it is evidence of the presence of Irish monks at the monastery of Saint Gall during the ninth and tenth centuries, bearing in mind that at this time the Irish were referred to as 'Scotti' or Scots:

And once certain newcomers of the nation of the Scots, in whom the habit of wandering has become almost a second nature, left at this monastery one of their fellow-travellers, who was afflicted with many diseases. When he had stayed here for some days, and had daily prayed, with implicit faith, for the healing of his infirmities,one night he saw in a dream an old man of venerable aspect standing beside him. He asked the stranger who he was, and learnt that he was St Gall. And forthwith he said to him: "Thou seest, 'domine,' that I, whose body is quite wasted away, daily wait for a manifestation of thy powers. Do not, therefore, delay further in what I believe thee to be about to do. I know I have been preserved all the time to this end that, just as thy virtue is revealed far and wide to these barbarians, in the same way the splendour and fame of thy merits may also be made known to the men of thy race."

The pilgrim was healed, and Strabo asserts that he was still living at the Abbey and was leading a holy life.

J.M. Clark, The Abbey of St Gall as a Centre of Literature and Art (Cambridge, 1926), 28-9.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Saint Findsech of Sliabh Guaire, October 13

On October 13 the Irish calendars commemorate a female saint, Findsech, who flourished in Sliabh Guaire. I have not been able to find out any more about her, although the author of a paper on the cult of the nine maidens of Scotland notes that October 13 is also the feastday of one of these maidens with the not wholly dissimilar name of Fincana. I am not an expert in the etymology of Irish names, but it seems to me that the only element these two have in common is that which indicates fairness - Finn - something which the Martyrology of Oengus alludes to in its entry for our saint:

A virgin Saint, named Findsech, was venerated on the 13th October; the Feliré Aenguis at that date has "Fair Findsech's feast," the commentator on which, in the Leabhar Breac adds, "i.e. a virgin, and Ernaide (Nurney) is the name of her town in Sliab Guairi in Gailenga. Or in Dal Araide, is Findsech's church. Or in Mag Rechet in Leix." (Morett.)

Rev. M.Comerford "Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" (1883)

The Martyrology of Donegal records:


FINDSECH, Virgin, of Sliabh Guaire, in Gailenga.

while Marianus O'Gorman notes 'dear Findsech' on this date.