Friday, 12 April 2013

Saint Ailell (Helias) of Cologne, April 12


April 12 sees the commemoration of an Irish abbot of Saint Martin's Monastery in Cologne, Ailell, or Helias as he was also known. Our saint fell foul of the Bishop of Cologne, but being an Irish saint it didn't do to cross him and His Grace did not live to carry out his threat to expel the Irish monks from their foundation. It seems that it was also not a good idea to cross Abbot Helias over monastic discipline, as one of the brethren found out. Abbot Helias is a fascinating man, one of many Irishmen who made a contribution to the Christian life of Continental Europe. Canon O'Hanlon's account of him follows below, in the future I hope to reprint some papers dealing with the subject of Irish monastic foundations in Germany. 

ST. HELIAS, OR AILELL, OF MUCNAMH, AND ABBOT OVER ST. MARTINS MONASTERY, COLOGNE, GERMANY.

[TENTH AND ELVENTH CENTURIES.]

MANY, among our Irish Saints, seem to have heard a voice resounding in their ears, like that speaking to Abraham, "Go out of thine own country, and from thy Father's house, into the land which I shall show thee." Those holy men left their native land, not to acquire riches, but to follow Christ, and to bear his sweet yoke. Some Acts of St. Helias, or Ailill, seem to have been arranged by Colgan for publication, at the present date. The Bollandists insert some particulars, regarding Helias Scotus, at the 12th of April; and, he is distinguished, as having been a beatified and a chief servant of God. According to the Martyrology of Donegal, there was a festival held on this day, to commemorate Helias, or Ailell. It is probable, this holy man was born, in the latter part of the tenth century. According to Marianus, he was a Scot by descent, as also a prudent and religious man. He belonged to the family, or religious house of Mucnamh. This place is now known as Mucknoe, a parish in the barony of Cremorne, and county of Monaghan. The present holy man must have been very much distinguished, since he is called by the Four Masters, "head of the monks of the Gaeidhil;" and, it seems most likely, that his religious training was received in Ireland, where he dwelt for some time, before setting out for the Continent. His course was directed to Cologne, where a religious foundation, for men of the Irish or Scottish race, had been long established. It seems probable, that he lived under direction of the Scottish Abbot Kilian, who ruled the house of St. Martin there, from A.D. 986, to the day of his death, A.D. 1003. Helias left Ireland, to embrace a solitary life. He became Abbot over the Scots house, at Cologne, having succeeded Kilian, A.D. 1004, and he governed St. Martin's Monastery, in that city, for twenty years. Some of his Scottish countrymen lived there, and in the monastery of St. Pantalion. The discipline he enforced was strict and rigorous; and, as we learn, some immortified inmates of the latter house contrived to prejudice the mind of Piligrinus, bishop of Cologne, against their Irish abbot and their fellow monks of Scottish birth. In the year 1027, it is stated, that the cause of religion was greatly promoted, by this holy man, according to Sigebert; but, it seems doubtful, that he survived to this latter year. He was regarded as a prudent and religious man. Marianus Scotus relates a prophetic declaration of this Helias, respecting the death of Piligrinus, bishop of Cologne, who had threatened him and the Scots under his rule, that if they did not remove from the monastery of St. Pantaleon, before he returned from a royal station, they should be expelled. They replied to his threat: "If Christ be for the strangers, Bishop Piligrinus himself should not return from that place alive to Cologne." It so happened, that his death took place, on the 8th of the September Kalends, A.D. 1037, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Helias.

We are told, that Ailill died, A.D. 1042; and, at the same year, on the second of the April Ides, corresponding with the 12th day of this month, the death of Helias Scotus is noted, by Marianus Scotus, according to the Bollandists. According to Thomas Dempster, he edited many tracts, but all perished, except a small one, intituled, "De Scotorum Peregrinorum Innocentia ad Imperatorem." ..Among the illustrious men of the Benedictine Order, Helias is classed, by Trithemius who styles him a saint, and who states, that after death, his many-sided merits became recognised by indubitable evidence. His temper or habits of thought must have been moulded, in extreme views of duty; for, we are told, that a French monk, having written a beautiful Missal without his leave, in the monastery of St. Pantalion, Helias ordered it to be publicly burned, in presence of the monks, so that no other should transgress, in a like manner, without permission. His death may be assigned, to the year 1042, if we follow the computation of G. Waitz, and on the 3rd of the April Ides, as found in the Chronicle of Marianus Scottus. Dempster has an entry of Helias the Solitary, and Abbot of the Scots, as also Arnold Wion, at the 12th of April. He was succeeded by Maiobus Scottus, a chaste, patient and wise man, who ruled eighteen years. Besides the foregoing writers, Dorgan, Menard, Bucelin, and Ferrarius, in his General Catalogue of the Saints, have the same date for his feast. Both at home and abroad, its commemoration seems to have been observed.

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