Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Saint Cummine, Son of Aride, July 29

The name of another obscure Irish saint is recorded in the Irish calendars at July 29. In the case of Saint Cummine (Cuimmein, Cuimín)  a patronymic has also been preserved, but the knowledge that he is the son of Aride does not help to identify him with any particular time or locality. Our saint shares his name with a number of others, most famously perhaps the learned Saint Cuimín Fada whose feast falls on November 12:

St. Cummine or Cuimmein, Son of Aride.

The name of Cumianus, Cummine, or Cuimmein, appears at the 29th of July, in the Martyrologies of Tallagh, of Marianus O'Gorman and of Donegal. He is called the son of Aride, Ardi or Aradius.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Saint Samson of Dol, July 28

The largest entry by far for July 28 in Volume 7 of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints is that of Saint Samson of Dol, which is somewhat ironic since he is not an Irish saint at all. At the end of his long piece we are told, with a reference to Colgan, that 'The name of this holy bishop occurs in our Irish Calendars, because his education had been received in Ireland.' I am not sure in which of the Irish calendars his name does occur as O'Hanlon goes on to admit ' There is no mention of this saint, however, at the 28th of July, in the published Martyrology of Tallagh. He is missing, likewise, from the Martyrology of Donegal.' I am happy to include Saint Samson, however, on the grounds that his Vitae do record that the saint spent time in Ireland, and that at least one church on this island was dedicated to him, a devotion perhaps due to Welsh settlers who came here in Norman times. There is no doubt that Saint Samson is an important saint who would repay some further research, and as a starting point I reprint below one of the sources used by Canon O'Hanlon, a paper published in 1868 as part of a series called 'Chronicles of Cornish Saints'. In it the author, the Rev. John Adams, summarizes the traditional accounts of the saint's life and labours. One senses the writer's discomfort with the miraculous aspects of the Vitae as well as an anti-Roman sentiment, common to Protestant proponents of the idea of an independent 'Celtic church', in his discussion of the legend of the saint's pallium. I find these old papers still have a great deal of value though in offering the traditional view of a saint and thus a basis on which to explore more recent thinking. I was left wondering, for example, what modern scholarship would have to say about the whole question of Saint Samson's episcopal status as well as the inscribed cross.  Finally, if you would like to read a translation of the Vita of Saint Samson, one can be found at the Lampeter University website here.


III.—Chronicles of Cornish Saints.
IV.—S. Samson.
By the Reverend John Adams, M.A., Vicar of Stockcross, Berks.
Read at the Autumn Meeting, November 30, 1868.

In the life of S. Petrock the name of S. Samson incidentally occurs as that of a hermit who occupied a cell somewhere in the neighbourhood of Padstow, and who was highly esteemed for his zeal and holiness. Several memorials of this Saint's connection with Cornwall still exist in the county. There is a parish in the Hundred of Powder still called by his name. It is also designated Golant, a word compounded of two Cornish words,— Gol, holy, and Lan, an enclosure; and this probably was its earliest name; but in the 14th century we find it called S. Samson's; and in subsequent times, when the sacred spot became the site of a Parish Church, the name of the holy man, who in former times had hallowed the place, was given to the Church, and Golant thenceforward became S. Samson's. The parish of South-hill also has a Church dedicated to him, and in ancient times it was known as S. Samson's de South-hill. One of the Scilly Islands too has from time immemorial borne his name; leading us to conjecture that it also was one of his traditional abodes. Furthermore, there was at one time a chapel called S. Samson's on the site of Place House, near Padstow; and that chapel probably occupied the actual spot of the hermitage or oratory, where S. Samson dwelt at the time of Petrock's visit. These local traces of Samson entitle him to a place amongst the Cornish Saints, and give us an interest in the legendary accounts of him which have come down to us.

Concerning most of those Saints but little can be said, for the simple reason that but little is known; but in regard to S. Samson there is abundance of information, such as it is, and the difficulty lies, not in the poverty of materials, but in disentangling facts from a mass of fictions in which they have been enveloped. There is hardly one of the hagiologists who has not given a sketch of Samson's life. Capgrave, Ussher, Boscius, Alford, Baillet, Vincentius, the Compiler of Liber Landavensis, and many others, have narrated the current legends concerning him. Moreover there are several independent manuscript Lives of him still in existence, all of which are, however, more or less overloaded with incredibilia. The most ancient Life, and that which was no doubt the main source of all subsequent accounts, may be found in Mabillon,—Acta Benedictorum, Saeculum i, 165; and also, in a corrected form, in the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists, July 28. It was written at the request of a certain Bishop Tigerinomalus; and the author, who seems to have been a Gallican monk of the generation immediately succeeding that of the Saint, adduces strong reasons for the authenticity of his narrative. " I wish it to be understood," he says, in the preface, " that these words are not put together thoughtlessly and rashly, or from confused and unauthorized rumours; but that they consist of information which I derived from a certain religious and venerable man, who resided for about 80 years in a monastery which S. Samson himself had founded beyond the sea, (i.e. in Britain), living a catholic and religious life, in times most approximate to those of the Saint, and being himself a cousin of S. Samson, and a deacon; and that no doubts may be thrown upon the veracity of my words, I call Christ, the Saviour of us all, to witness that I have not undertaken to hand down this very brief narrative to posterity from any fallible or uncertain conjecture of its truth, but from the statements of most holy and thoroughly competent men, and also from most accurate and elaborate documents, which I found in the same monastery, written in a true and catholic spirit, by the above-mentioned deacon." Here then we have a biography of Samson which lays strong claims to authenticity, a biography written at the beginning of the seventh century, and within a few years of his death, embodying too an older document, drawn up by a kinsman and fellow-labourer of the Saint. Unfortunately, however, there is much in the work which cannot be reconciled with those claims. There are, for example, many strange stories of miracles wrought by Samson which are manifestly as fabulous as the adventures of Jack the Giant Killer, But those fictions do not invalidate the genuine basis of the narrative. They are probably additions of a later age; for, if one may judge from the smooth and flowing style in which they are written, they could not have proceeded from the same hand which penned the rugged Latin of the Preface and some historical parts of the biography. As the Galilean monk adopted and expanded the document which he found in his monastery, so, in a subsequent generation, we may suppose some hagiologist clothed the rude work of the old monk with such traditional or fictitious matter as would give it a place amongst the current literature of the middle ages. In the Life before us then we may regard the supernatural stories as a mere excrescence, or as resembling the fanciful pictures which illustrate many a modern book without detracting from the veracity of its narrative; and, where no authority is specified for any statement in the subjoined sketch, it may be assumed that we are following the historical outline contained in this ancient Life.

Samson was born in the province of Demetia or Dyveck which comprised the western division of South Wales, near the close of the fifth century. His parents, Ammon and Anna by name, remained childless for many years after their marriage, and believed that he was given to them by God, in answer to their prayers for the blessing of a son. At an early age he was sent to S. Iltutus, to be educated by him in the famous monastery of Llanilltut, in Glamorganshire. There he remained till he had grown to manhood, studying with great diligence, and constantly rising higher and higher in spiritual attainments and in the love of the brethren. At the request of Iltutus, he received both deacon's and priest's orders from the hands of Dubricius, Archbishop of Caerleon, "a dove on each occasion," says the old writer, “descending from heaven, and resting on his right shoulder." There were in the monastery two nephews of Iltutus, one a presbyter, and the other the butler of the community, who were envious of Samson's popularity, and, fearing that he would be chosen Abbot after the death of their uncle, they made an attempt to poison him; but, through Divine interposition, their evil design was frustrated; for though he drank the deadly cup which they had prepared for him, he received no hurt. One of them subsequently confessed the crime to the Saint, and with grief and tears besought pardon. Soon afterwards, when the monastery had become famous throughout the land, Samson withdrew from it, with the consent of the Abbot, to a smaller and stricter fraternity, which had been recently established on a neighbouring island by an aged presbyter named Piro, He was welcomed by the old man as though he were an angel sent from God, and spent his time there in religious exercises and manual toil by day, and in profound study of the Scriptures by night. An incident, however, is recorded, which is very inconsistent with the ascetic character of this monastery. In the life before us it is tenderly characterized as a " res inopinata"; but all subsequent biographers of the Saint seem to have taken a graver view of the matter, for they pass it by in silence, none of them making any allusion whatever to it. “ One gloomy night," so runs the narrative, "the Venerable Abbot Piro took a solitary stroll into the grounds of the monastery; but, what is still more serious," adds our author, “he was in a very tipsy condition, and tumbled headlong into a deep pit. The brethren were alarmed by his loud cries for help, and, hurrying to the spot, they dragged him out of the hole in a hopeless state, and before morning he was dead." Thereupon Samson is unanimously elected Abbot of the monastery and holds the government of it a year and a half. He then goes to Ireland with some eminent and learned men of that country, who had visited him on their homeward journey from Rome; and, after spending a short time there, preaching the way of eternal life to all who came near him, he returns to his own monastery on the island. Finding there his father and his uncle excelling in devotion all the other brethren, he sends the latter to take the management of a monastic institution in Ireland, and departs with the former and two other companions to a wide desert on the shores of the river Severn. Leaving his fellow travelers there in a castle which they had discovered, he goes further into the wilderness, and dwells in a secret cave which had an opening towards the east; and there he lives a life of great abstinence, holding intercourse with angels, and every Lord's day visiting the three brothers whom he had left in the castle. "At the time that I was in Britain," says the old writer, "the place was held in great reverence, and an oratory was built on the spot where holy Samson was wont to say mass and hold communion with Christ every Sabbath day." We are next told, that at the request of a synod, Samson became Abbot of a monastery founded by S. Germanus, and that whilst he held that office he was consecrated Bishop by S. Dubricius. In harmony with a practice of the Celtic Church, he seems to have been raised to the episcopate more on account of his distinguished merits than with a view to his exercising episcopal functions in any particular place.

Shortly afterwards it is revealed to him that God has predestined him to depart from his own country, and to become a mighty pillar of the Church in a land beyond the sea. The Gallican martyrology, however, informs us that the immediate cause of his migration was to escape from a savage Saxon tyrant who had invaded his neighbourhood, whilst other authorities state that he was driven away by a pestilence. Bidding farewell to his weeping relatives and disciples, he crossed the Severn sea with his cousin S. Maglorius and many other companions. His destination was Brittany, but on his route he appears to have sojourned awhile in Cornwall. Tradition accuses him of carrying off with him into Brittany all the manuscripts which he could collect. "Scarce am I reconciled to this Samson," says the Church historian. Fuller, "for carrying away with him the monuments of British antiquity. Had he put them out to the Bank by procuring several copies to be transcribed, learning thereby had been a gainer, and a saver had he only secured the originals: whereas now her loss is irrecoverable, principal and interest, Authenticks and Transcripts are all embezzled; nor is the matter much whether they had miscarried at home by Foes' violence, or abroad by such friends negligence." That there is some ground for this complaint, may be inferred from a statement in the life before us, to the effect that, on Samson's arrival at the coast, apparently the coast of Cornwall, he dismissed the ship, and procured a waggon to carry across the country the holy vessels and volumes which belonged to him. He also employed two horses to draw his own car, which he had brought with him on his return from Ireland. On his journey he passed by a certain village called Tricurium, where he saw men worshipping, with profane rites, an idol standing on the summit of a lofty hill. Taking two companions with him, he hastens to the spot, and gently admonishes the idolaters and Gedian their chief, that instead of adoring an image, they ought to worship the one God, Who created all things. "In that mountain," says the narrator, "I have myself been, and have adored and felt with my own hand the sign of the cross, which holy Samson himself engraved with iron on a stone which stands there." After this Samson retires to a cave near a certain river, and there lives a celestial life, constantly applying himself to prayer and fasting. Two puerile miracles are connected with those incidents; one the restoration to life of a boy who had fallen from his horse in the idolatrous village, and had broken his neck, and the other the destruction of a huge and venomous serpent, in the cave which the Saint afterwards occupied. But for the credit of the narrative, the remark which was made at the beginning of this sketch must be borne in mind, that the miracles are written in a different style from that of the historical incidents, and may therefore be supposed to have formed no part of the original Life.

It was, we may conjecture, at this period that Samson and Petrock met, as recorded in the life of the latter; and assuming that Samson was consecrated by Dubricius, about the year 550, a few years before the death of the venerable Archbishop, and that he arrived in Cornwall a year or two afterwards, the time of his abode there would just coincide with that of Petrock and Constantino; so that we may suppose those three holy men to have often held sweet counsel together on Cornish soil. Memorials of their Oratories still remain, contiguous to each other, on the northern coast, bearing silent witness of their Christian fellowship and their devotion to God. How long Samson dwelt in Cornwall, or whether he visited it on more than one occasion, we are not informed; but we are told in Liber Landavensis that he directed his people to build a monastery near his cave, and that when he departed from the country he left his father Ammon and his cousin in the monastery.

On his arrival in Brittany, he found the inhabitants in great misery. Jonas, their native prince, had just been murdered by a tyrannical governor, Commotus by name, who had usurped the province ; and his son Judual had been sent away as a captive to King Hildebert. Moved with pity, Samson hastened to the king, hoping to redeem Judual from prison. After sundry perils and supernatural deeds he gains his object and returns to Brittany with the young Breton prince. They enlist an army on their homeward route, and enter the country prepared to do battle with the usurper. At one blow the foe is vanquished, Samson praying and fasting, and Judual fighting at the head of his warriors. After this, Samson receives great honour and large gifts from King Hildebert, and spends the rest of his days in a monastery which he founded at Dole. So ends his history as given in the oldest Life, and in Liber Landavensis. But we gain one more glimspe of him in his old age. He was present at the 3rd Council of Paris, held A.D. 557; and so great was his humility, we are told, that he declined to occupy the luxurious apartments which the king had prepared for him in the palace, preferring to lodge in the neighbouring monastery of S. Vincent; and his name is thus subscribed last but one in the list of fifteen bishops who signed the decrees of the council, "Samson, a sinner."

Modern writers speak of him as having been at the beginning of his Episcopate Archbishop of Menevia, afterwards Archbishop of York, and subsequently Archbishop of Dole. But none of his early biographers give him those designations, nor is there a tittle of evidence that he was ever more than a missionary bishop. His name appears in no authentic catalogues of the prelates of Menevia; whilst the Samson who was Archbishop of York in the sixth century, was a brother of Gildas, and quite a different person; and with respect to Dole, this fact settles the question of his connection with that see—that until the time of Nomenoius, in the ninth century, there was no bishopric of Dole in existence. The truth probably is, as one of his biographers intimates, that he went to Brittany to preach the gospel to his own countrymen, who had settled there in great numbers as refugees, and that he exercised episcopal functions amongst them whilst he lived in his monastery at Dole. The story too of his carrying with him the pall from Menevia, and so depriving subsequent prelates of that see of their Archiepiscopal dignity, is utterly groundless; though it has been repeated by one writer after another for hundreds of years past, and is in modern books almost the only thing commonly stated in connection with Samson's name. In no ancient Life of the Saint is there any allusion to the story; nor can it be shown that any British bishop before the time of Augustine ever received a pall from Rome, or that the symbol was even known in the British Church. Moreover, if Samson had been invested with it, and had abstracted it from Menevia, it would not have lessened the dignity of his successor, because every Archbishop had a new pall sent to him by the Pope on his consecration, and the old pall did not pass from bishop to bishop in succession. The fiction may be traced to the twelfth century, and seems to have been invented to account for the disappearance of the metropolitan title from S. David's, and to make it appear that the early British Church was subject to that of Rome.

Welsh authorities tell us that Samson returned from Brittany to Wales at the close of his life, and was buried at Lantwit; and there is still in existence a remarkable monument which lends plausibility to this tradition. It consists of the stone shaft of a cross, nine feet in height, which was disinterred in the church yard of Lantwit, in the year 1789, and has on it this inscription in Latin:—" In the name of God Most High, here begins the cross of the Saviour, which Samson the Abbot prepared for his own soul and the soul of King Juthael and of Artmal the Dean." "The first of those names, I am satisfied," says a late Welsh archaeologist of high repute, "is that of S. Samson, who was Bishop of Dole in Brittany, in the sixth century; and also Abbot of Lantwit. The next corresponds with that of Juthael, King of Brittany, the contemporary and patron of Samson, sometimes written Judual. The last name, Artmal, I am not able to identify, but think it possible that he also may have been of Dole." If this interpretation of the names is correct, the tradition may be true, that Samson returned to "Wales and ended his days there. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered, that another learned Cambrian takes a different view of the names on the monument, and argues that they were, probably, all names of Welshmen; so that, according to this theory, the cross might have been erected by Samson whilst he was a monk at Lantwit. At all events, none of the extant Lives of him make any allusion to his return to Wales from Armorica, but speak of his dying at Dole in a good old age; and his earliest biographer, to whom we are indebted for most of the particulars in this brief memoir, thus beautifully describes his departure.—"Being perfect in life and in age, and having, after the Apostle's example, finished a good course, with all good qualities fully and completely adorned, he left his attenuated body to be embalmed and buried in the monastery at Dole, in the hope of the resurrection to eternal life, whilst his happy soul went fall of bliss to Christ; and the brethren, at the time of his departure, heard the hymns and music of angelic choirs."

Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Volume III, (1868-1870), 89-98.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Saint Lutt of Tigh Luta, July 27

One of the purposes of this blog is to bring before us the names of long-forgotten saints and today in Saint Lutt of Tigh Luta we encounter one of the many obscure Irish holy women listed on our calendars. Reading Canon O'Hanlon's account below there is only a single sentence  of information directly relevant to the saint and that is the recording of her name and locality in the Martyrology of Donegal. The rest of the paragraph is taken up with a discussion of the history of possible locations where she may have flourished and with a refutation of 'Maria Monk' style contemporary prejudices:

St. Lutt, Virgin, of Tigh Luta, in Fothartha Mora.

From the earliest times in Ireland, holy women sought to escape from the snares of this world, by retiring to institutions where they could live together in a holy and peaceful state of society. Yet, even when the rights of conscience were partially recognised in these Islands, and when nunneries began to increase, some intolerants outside the Church imagined that these convents required regulation and inspection. It was foolishly asserted, that moral if not physical restraint was often used, to retain religious ladies within their beloved walls of enclosure. Such charges and suspicions were alike insulting to the nuns, and even to their outer-world relations and friends. Veneration was given, at the 27th of July, according to the Martyrology of Donegal, to Lutt, a virgin, of Tigh Luta, in Fotharta Mora; Where that district or place was situated does not seem to be known. The people called Fotharta were descendants of Eochadh Finn Fuathart, brother to Conn of the Hundred Battles, and who settled in Leinster Here they acquired lands in the counties of Carlow and of Waterford. The territory of Fothart Osnadhaigh—comprised in the present barony of Forth, in the county of Carlow—was so called from Cill Osnadha, now Kellistown. It was more frequently known as Fotharta Fea, from the plain of Magh Fea, in which that church was situated. The O'Nuallains, Anglice, O'Nolans or Nowlans, were the chief inhabitants of this district. The chief family of the Fotharta, in the county of Wexford, commonly called Fothart an Chairn, now Carnsore Point, took the name of O'Lorcain, or Larkin, but shortly after the Anglo-Norman invasion, the O'Lorcains were dispossessed. There were other territories of the name in Leinster, such as Fothart Airbreach, around the Hill of Cruachan Bri Eile, now Croghan, in the north-east of ihe King's County; and Fothart Oirthir Life, in the present county of Wicklow.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Saint Toman of Mungret, July 26

A County Limerick saint is recorded in the Irish calendars at July 26, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Thoman, or Toman, of Mungret, County of Limerick. 

The name of Thoman, without further designation, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 26th of July. At the same date, in the Martyrology of Donegal, the name is entered as Toman, of Mungairit. We have already seen, this place is situated, about three miles south-west from Limerick City, and within the county of Limerick.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Saint James the Apostle, Spain and Ireland: A 17th-century View




July 25 is the feast of Saint James the Apostle and I came across some interesting claims that he may have visited Ireland in the work of a seventeenth-century Irish priest, John Lynch (c.1599-1677). Father Lynch was one of a number of post-Reformation Irish writers who sought to uphold the reputation of the native medieval Church. The target of his most famous work, Cambrensis eversus (Cambrensis Overturned), published at St. Malo in 1662, was not any of the classical reformers, but rather the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman chronicler, Giraldus Cambrensis, Gerald of Wales. Gerald's accounts of Ireland betrayed a colonialist-type approach to the natives whom he saw as unsophisticated barbarians who were not even properly Christian at all. He recorded all manner of weird and wonderful tales in association with Irish saints and holy places, including, I might add, the story of the perpetual fire at Kildare and its all-female attendants. For Gerald, Ireland was less a 'land of saints and scholars' and more a land of the bizarre and barbarous. Father Lynch's work set out to put the record straight and in doing so he amassed a huge body of historical evidence. A central plank of his thesis was that Ireland had always been faithful to the centre of Western Christianity at Rome, something for which its people were now suffering. Some of the sources produced were rather curious, as Professor Salvador Ryan explains:

Most surprising of all, perhaps, Lynch underscored Ireland's ancient loyalty to the Roman Church by claiming that the Gospel had first been preached in Ireland by no less than one of the twelve Apostles. Cambrensis eversus cites Joseph Pellicer (1602-79), chronicler to King Philip IV of Spain, who in the course of expounding on the legend that St James the Apostle had preached the Gospel in Spain, had also claimed that there were 'many authorities and facts proving that James had also preached in Ireland'. Here Lynch also quotes the work of his fellow countryman, the historian Philip O'Sullivan Beare (c.1590-1660), whose Tenebriomastix ('A Scourge for the Trickster'), written in the early 1630s, details how St James, on his return from Spain, had preached in Ireland, accompanied by his father Aristobulus or Zebedee, who stayed on after him as Ireland's first bishop. Only then had James passed over to Britain. Lynch thus established an impeccable Roman and even apostolic pedigree for the Irish Church.

S. Ryan, 'Reconstructing Irish Catholic History after the Reformation' in K. van Liere, S. Ditchfield and H. Louthan, eds., Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World (Oxford, 2012), 197.


Fortunately a translation of Cambrensis eversus is available online, so I thought it might be interesting to see exactly what the Spanish chronicler had to say about Saint James and Ireland. The claims are cited in connection with a discussion of the antiquity of Irish Christianity which in Lynch's view predates not only Saint Patrick but also the mission of Palladius:

However, that there was no absurdity in Prosper’s statement of the existence of Christians in Ireland before the arrival of Palladius is evident from the undoubted fact that many illustrious heralds of the faith had preached Christ in Ireland before the mission of Paladius; and that their labour was not without fruit is equally certain from the scattered ears, if not the abundant harvest which sprang up in the field of their religious labours. Thus, according to Joseph Pellicer historian to the king of Spain, there are many authorities and facts to prove that St. James the apostle preached the Gospel in Ireland. He quotes many passages to that effect from the Works of Julian archpriest, of St. Justa, which I transcribe here from the “Tenebriomastix" of Philip O'Sullivan against Camerarius.

"No. 136, I have read in the book of Dexter of Barcelona, that St. James, on his return from Spain, preached the faith in Ireland. He embarked at the port of Braganta, in Gallicia, and was accompanied by Aristobulus, or Zebedee, his father, who, it is said, remained there after him, and was the first bishop. The apostle then passed over to Britain, having provided Ireland with bishops, priests, and deacons. No. 167, St. James, returning from Spain, visited Britain and Gaul, and preached in Ireland. He landed in the harbour of Dublin and erected a church to St. Mary, and converted those districts to Christianity. His seven companions, his own disciples and, as it were, his fellow apostles, Torquatus and Ctesiphon, were established by him in Ireland. No. 208, It appears from a constant tradition and the old monuments of Spain, that St. James, the son of Zebedee, passed over to Ireland (which had been peopled from Spain) with seven disciples and others, and laid there the foundation of the Christian faith. No. 434, This apostle wrote the first Epistle and Scripture of the New Testament to the Spaniards. No. 482, Idelsetus, chosen among the 12 disciples of St. James, was consecrated in Ireland and sent with others by St. Peter into Spain. No. 483, Seven holy bishops, disciples of St. James, returning from Rome, landed in Gaul, and passing thence preached the faith in Ireland."

To these we may add a passage from Vincent of Beauvais. “When the apostles visited all parts of the globe, St. James, by the inspìration of heaven, landed on the shores of Ireland, where he strenuously announced the word of God, and is said to have chosen seven disciples — namely, Torquatus, Secundus, Indalecius, Tisephont, Eufrasius, Cecilius, and Ischius." Joseph Pellicer asserts that these facts are confirmed by Braulio in his additions to the Chronicle of Maximus. The words of Dexter appear to add some authority to these statements, where he writes under the year 41, “that St. James visited Gaul and the Britains" for Ussher proves, by a host of authorities, that Ireland was anciently included among the British isles.

Rev. M. Kelly, ed and trans, John Lynch ‘Gratianus Lucius, Hibernus’, Cambrensis Eversus, Vol. II (Dublin, 1850), 663-665.


Professor Ryan's work puts these 17th-century Spanish quotations firmly into their historical context and makes some further interesting observations on other attempts to link Ireland and Spain:

O'Sullivan Beare also makes every effort to identify Ireland's early history with that of Catholic Spain. He emphasizes the 'Milesian Myth' which details how the Irish race is descended from four sons of King Milesius of Spain, who came to Ireland in 1342 BC, and how since that date Ireland has been ruled by no less than 181 kings of Milesian lineage. In one notable episode from the distant past, a mythical king of Munster is restored to his kingship by 3,000 Spaniards after he flees to Spain and marries the king's daughter. Like Lynch, O'Sullivan Beare also makes reference to Ireland's supposed link with St. James the Apostle. Modern scholars have noted that throughout this period Ireland is spelt as Ibernia rather than Hibernia in an effort to create the optical illusion that the name is somehow cognate with Iberia.

S. Ryan, 'Reconstructing Irish Catholic History after the Reformation' in K. van Liere, S. Ditchfield and H. Louthan, eds., Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World (Oxford, 2012), 198-199.


Today there is an Irish Society of the Friends of Saint James which was founded to promote the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. A paper by scholar Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel on The Irish Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is available to read at the archives of the periodical History Ireland here. Blogger Edel Mulcahy also has a piece on The Camino Connection here.





Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Birthplace of Saint Declan



July 24 is the feastday of Saint Declan (Deglan) of Ardmore, County Waterford. Below is an article on the birthplace of the saint from a 19th-century antiquarian journal which draws on the hagiographical tradition:

THE BIRTHPLACE OF ST DEGLAN
BY VERY REV. F. O’BRIEN, P.P., V.G., M.R.I,A.

The better to understand the subject and object of the paper which I am about to read for you, I beg to call your attention to the Ordnance Map of the County of Waterford. You are aware that the eminent men under whose inspection and supervision that map was compiled and published as the result of their survey of Ireland, were accompanied by and had associated with them during their labours two of the most eminent Irish scholars of their time, namely, Mr. Eugene O’Curry and Mr. John O’Donovan. The ordnance surveyors availed themselves of the services of those learned men for the purpose of discovering the names by which the various places they visited had been popularly known, and the history traditionally attached to them. On that map is marked the townland of Dromroe, between Lismore and Cappoquin, on the road between the railway crossing at Round Hill and Tourin. You will find marked there in that townland a small shrubbery within which is a small plot enclosed by a fence, with a representation of a monument in the corner of it Within the same fence you will find marked by dots upon the map the vestiges of the remains of an oblong structure, covered with grass and brambles. The shrubbery and vestiges of remains are designated on the Ordnance Map “ Graveyard and St. Deglan’s Chapel in ruins.” The grass and brambles having been removed, the lower walls of the oblong structure have come to light, made up of stones piled over each other without mortar. Its dimensions are about fourteen feet long by between six and eight feet wide. From the manner in which the stones are placed in the portion of the walls that remains it is easily conjectured that this ruin belongs to that class of antient ecclesiastical stone buildings, some of which are to’ be met with in a pretty good state of preservation in Ireland at the present day. These are admitted by archaeologists to be the most antient specimens of Christian buildings to be found in Ireland, and in point of antiquity that which is the subject of this paper may claim a place among the first.

The ruin, as already stated, bore the name of "St. Deglan’s Chapel,” and the land adjoining “graveyard,” when inspections were made and measures were taken for the compilation of the Ordnance Map now more than fifty years ago.

The least curious and most unconcerned about antient local history visiting this romantic spot, situated, I may truly venture to say, in the loveliest part of Munster, may very naturally ask why was this ruin, which had all but disappeared from the notice as well as from the memory of the neighbouring inhabitants, called "St. Deglan’s Chapel,” and why was the little field surrounding. it, which a short time ago was about being incorporated with the adjoining farm, and from being “God’s Acre ” was to become man’s property, called the “ graveyard,” or, as the people designate it at the present day, religin deaglai. To answer those questions it will be necessary for us to make ourselves acquainted from the most reliable sources within our reach with the history of St. Deglan, who were his ancestors, where was he born, at what time did he live, and why was this ruin called after him “St. Deglan’s Chapel.”

We learn from the Bollandists, on the authority of Colgan, Ware and Usher, that the ancestors of St. Deglan belonged to a colony who had come from Tara, or rather who had, been expelled from a place there called the Desii, and who had settled- down in the County of Waterford, and had called the place of their new settlement after that from which they had been expelled, the Nan Desii. Their expulsion from Tara took place, according to Smith in his history of the County and City of Waterford, about the year 278. We do not exactly know how soon after the settlement of this colony in the Desii St. Deglan was born, but it is pretty certain some considerable time must have elapsed. Smith also mentions that the part of the country in which they settled extended from the river Suir to the sea, and from Lismore to Creadan Head, comprising, in a manner, all the country at present known as the County of Waterford.

We are told that St. Deglan’s father’s name was Erc, and that his mother’s name was Dethidin. We are told, too, that Erc, St. Deglan’s father, being invited to the house of a relative called Dobraun or Dobhran, besides many other companions, was accompanied by his wife, Dethidin, and that during this their visit to their relative, Dobhran, Dethidin, the wife of Erc, gave birth to St. Deglan. This particular place in which St. Deglan was born is stated by the Bollandists, on the authority of Colgan, supported by Usher and Ware, to be situated in the southern part, of the Desii. To use the original words of the writers, “In australi plaga N. Desii,” -in the southern part of the Desii. The barony of the Desii, as you are aware, begins a very short distance below or to the south of this spot, so that it is accurately described as being in the Southern part of the barony of the Desii. It is stated, too, on the authority of the same writers, to be situated in the eastern part of the country, which the Scoti, a name by which the antient Irish were then known, called mag sciat, or the Plain of the Shields or Bucklers. To give the original language of the writers, “ In orientali seilicet plaga campi quem scoti vacant mag sciat campum scuti.” Smith states that the country around Lismore was antiently known by this name, and the spot to which I am now calling your attention is in the eastern part of this locality. The Bollandists, moreover, as if, to leave nothing wanting as to accuracy in defining this precise spot, state that it is not far distant from the famous City of St Carthage, called Lismore- “Non longe abest a clara Civitate St, Carthagi quae dicitur Lismor,” and that it is distant from the City of Ardmore, where he was afterwards Bishop, about thirteen thousand paces or thirteen miles. “Et abest ab Civitate de Ardmore ubi postea fuit Episcopus per tredecim millia passuum.”

We are told that St Coleman, having heard of the birth of the infant, came to the place where he was born and begged of his parents , who were then pagans, to permit him to baptise it and bring the child up a Christian. To this request the parents consented. And we are also told that Dobhran, in whose house, the infant was born, made a present to St. Deglan’s parents of this the place of his birth, and removed themselves to another place.

Some doubt still exists as to who the St. Colman was who baptized St. Deglan. There were many holy Bishops bearing that name in Ireland, so that it is not easy to determine who amongst them is here designated. Neither Usher, who cites extracts from our Saints’ Acts, nor Colgan throws any light on the subject. It appears to me probable that this Colman was the saint of that name who is still venerated in a parish adjoining that of Ardmore called the Old Parish, or as the people there call it, paraiste an tsean pobuil. There is a townland in this parish called Kilcoleman where the remains of an antient church may be seen, and near it a very old tree and well called tobar colmain, or Colman’s Well. It is generally admitted that there were Christians in Ireland before the coming of Palladius, or St. Deglan, or St. Patrick. St. Prosper, speaking of the mission of Palladius, says----“ Ad Scotos in Christum Credentes ordinatus a Papa Celestino Palladius primus Episcopus Mittitur.” -To the Scoti or antient Irish believing in Christ, Palladius is ordained by Pope Celestine and is sent as their first Bishop. We may reasonably believe that such Christians lived in the Old Parish before St. Deglan’s time, and that it was for this reason it: got the name which it retains to the present day, Old Parish, or Sean Pobul. We may suppose that an acquaintance and an intimacy existed between this St. Colman and St. Deglan’s family before the birth of St. Deglan, as they were near neighbours- St. Deglan’s family and parents we are told inhabited that portion of the Desii around Ardmore.

St. Colman after baptising the infant and predicting many wonderful things as to its future, retired to his habitation with much rejoicing. He recommended that this holy infant should be carefully nursed, and that when his seventh year had been attained he should be sent for instruction to a lettered Christian, if such a one could be found. Dobhran, the aforesaid kinsman of the chieftain Erc, the father of our saint, on hearing and witnessing those things, earnestly entreated the infant’s parents to deliver this child to him to be nursed and fostered by him, as he had been born at his residence. The parents willingly assented to Dobhran’s request.

At the expiration of the seven years of his tutelage a, religious and wise man, named Dymma, as we are told, had lately arrived in Ireland, which was the country of his birth. Having embraced the Christian religion, to the observances of which he addicted himself, this pious servant of God built a cell in this part of the country. To this teacher the boy Deglan was entrusted by his parents and foster-father Dobhran according to St. Colman’s directions. Deglan spent much time under Dymma’s teaching, and Usher tells us that he drained large draughts of learning from various mundane and sacred writings. Through this instruction his understanding, we are told, was rendered acute, and he was distinguished for his eloquence.

About this time Deglan resolved to go to Rome, as the Acts of his Life state, that he might there be initiated to a knowledge of ecclesiastical discipline, receive Holy Orders, and a mission to preach from the Apostolic See. The Acts of his Life also state that after some time Deglan was ordained priest and consecrated Bishop by the Sovereign Pontiff, and that he remained in Rome for a considerable time after. At length having obtained some books, a rule for his guidance and mission to teach from the Pope, his Benediction, and also the blessing of the high dignataries of the Roman Church, Deglan prepared for his return to Ireland, It is related on the authority of Usher, quoted by the Bollandists, that St. Patrick, the future Apostle and Archbishop of Ireland, being then on his way to Rome, met St. Deglan in the north of Italy on his way from Rome, and that both holy persons saluted each other with the kiss of peace and established a mutual friendship before leaving for their respective destinations.

There is some diversity of opinion among ecclesiastical writers as to the precise time St. Deglan arrived in Ardmore on his first return from Rome and fixed his See there, for we are assured that he paid several visits to Rome. Usher, quoted by Smith, states that he commenced his preaching among the people of the Desii about the year 402, or thirty years before the arrival of St. Patrick. He states that he instructed the people with much zeal and success, and that many attracted by the fame of his sanctity flocked around him. He built monasteries, churches, and chapels in various places through the country, and amongst others, we are told by the Bollandists, who quote Usher, Ware and Colgan, that he built a chapel on the very spot he was born. The words of the Bollandists are-“ Ipse enim Dobranus nutritus St. Declani obtulit ipsum locum Sancto Deglano in quo natus fuerat, in quo post multum’tempus Sanctus Declanus cum esset pontifex cellam Deo, aedificavit.“--For Dobhran, the foster-father of St. Deglan, presented the very spot to St. Deglan, that is, the spot on which he was born, on which after a considerable time St. Deglan, when he was bishop, built a chapel in honour of Almighty God. I have reserved this quotation in reference to St. Deglan’s Chapel for the last, as marked on the Ordnance Map, to which I beg to call your attention. Relying on the authority of the writers from whom I have quoted, and the historians through whom the memory of the facts I have stated has been handed down to us, I think we can claim for Dromroe the honour of being St. Deglan’s birthplace, and fix on the very spot on which he was born there, and claim for his chapel, the ruins of which only now remain, an antiquity of fourteen or fifteen hundred years.

Journal of the Waterford & South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, Volume 1 (1894-5), 39-44.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Saint Lassar, July 23

One of a number of Irish female saints with the name of Lassar (Lasair, Lasre, Lassara) is commemorated on July 23.  Canon O'Hanlon in his Lives of the Irish Saints initially seeks to associate this one with the locality of Killasseragh in County Cork. Lassar of Killasseragh is one of a trio of sisters whose memories are preserved in folk tradition within County Cork, where each was assigned the patronage of neighbouring parishes. One popular story was that angels made a road between the parishes so that the sisters could more easily communicate with each other. However,  in his Dictionary of Irish Saints, Pádraig Ó Riain argues that the County Cork Lassar is commemorated in the Martyrologies on May 7, the day after her sister Inneen of Dromtarriff. Thus although Canon O'Hanlon has plumped for Killasseragh as the locality associated with today's Saint Lassar in the heading of his account, he has no firm basis for doing so, a fact he later concedes. Such are the complexities of dealing with homonymous saints that we may never know the precise identity of the holy woman commemorated on this day:

St. Lassar, or Lasre, of Killasseragh, Parish of Kilmeen, County of Cork.

At the 23rd of July, the name of Lasre is met with, in the Martyrology of Tallagh. St. Lassar's day, although marked in the Calendar at the 23rd of July, seems to have been commemorated by stations at the 24th. The townland of Killasseragh, in the parish of Kilmeen, and barony of Duhallow, county of Cork, is called after this saint. It seems very probable, also, that another townland so called, in the parish of Ballynoe, barony of Kinnatalloon, in the same county, has derived its name from the present holy virgin. In the south-west of the county of Fermanagh, the ruins of an old church, with a holy well, dedicated to a virgin called St. Lassara, are still to be seen. It is now called Killassery. In the glen of the Marble Arch, where there are very remarkable caves, and on its western side—upon the brow of a hill not difficult of access—is shown St. Lasser's cell. This is a souterrain. It has, however, no further connexion with a church in the neighbourhood, dedicated to the patron St. Lasser. Some inconsiderable remains of this old building yet exist. We do not undertake to say, that the foregoing localities are in any manner connected with the present St. Lassar; for, there are other saints bearing her name, and not distinguished by any special locality; but, we thought it not amiss, to place upon record here, information which may somewhat help towards a future identification, regarding one or other of the Lassars or Lassaras mentioned in our Calendars. The Martyrology of Donegal notes Lassar simply, at the 23rd of July.