Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Saint Cilline Droicteach of Iona, July 3


At July 3, the Irish calendars commemorate Cilline, an eighth-century abbot of Iona. This saint has the epithet droichteach, 'bridge-maker' attached to his name. Canon O'Hanlon seems to interpret this quite literally, but I can't help wondering if there is also a spiritual dimension to this title, much as in the Latin title pontifex. Our saint seems to have flourished at a particularly interesting time in the history of Iona, as the sources seem to record more than one abbot exercising authority simultaneously. In the past this led some commentators to talk of a 'schism' at Iona due to the Paschal dating controversy, with rival abbots representing the 'Celtic' and 'Roman' points of view. I hope to be able to examine this theme in more detail in future posts.

St. Cilline or Cillen, Droicteach, Abbot of Iona, Scotland.
[Eighth Century.]

Among a long line of illustrious abbots who presided over Iona, the present holy man is classed. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 3rd of July, the simply entry of Cilline, Abb. Iae, occurs. He is noted in the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman, at the 3rd of July. At this date, the Bollandistss have noticed him, also, on the foregoing authority and on that of Sirinus. Some notices of him occur, in the work of Bishop Forbes. This distinguished saint derived his origin from the race of Conall Cremthainne, son to Niall of the Nine Hostages, of the southern Hy-Neill. This saint's pedigree is thus given in the Naemhsenchas. His father's name was Dicolla, son of Cilline, son to Amalgadh, son of Feradhaigh, son to Feic, son of Cerbaill, who was son to the aforesaid Conall Cremthainne. He was born in Ireland, probably towards the close of the seventh century. The epithet, suffixed to his original name Cilline, and which was Droicteach, signifying "Bridge-maker," has reference apparently to work of that kind on which he had been engaged, previous to his leaving Ireland for Scotland. It is likely, that he felt a religious inspiration to join the Columban institute in Iona, and there, too, it would seem, that he chose to live as an anchorite, according to the custom of those monks, who desired to observe a very strict discipline. His virtues were so highly esteemed by that community, after the death of St. Cilline Fada, or the Tall Abbot of Iona, whack took place, A.D. 726, Cilline Droicteach was selected as his immediate successor. Meanwhile, Feidhlimid or Failbhe seems to have been elected Abbot of Iona in the year 722, nor do we find that he ceased to enjoy that title, during the administration of Faelcu, of Cillene Fada, and of Cilline Droicteach, until he departed this life at the very advanced age of eighty-seven years, completed in 759, and during the administratorship of Slebhine. Whether Feidhlimid or Failbhe had been the principal or only a coadjutor Abbot over Iona cannot be gleaned with any degree of distinctness from the Irish Annals. It is thought, that owing to the circumstance of Cilline Droicteach having chosen the rigid rule of an anchorite's state, the active duties of his presidency, over the monastic institute of Iona, had been in a great measure discharged by his coadjutor, Fedhlimid. He continued alive, during the presidency of Cilline Droicteach. The present hoiy man brought to Erin that shrine of the many relics, which Adamnan had collected, to make peace and friendship between the Cinel-Conaill and the Cinel-Eoghain. This appears to have occurred in the year 727. The Relics collected by Adamnan were returned to Iona in 730. The present saint, called Cilleine Droctigh, anchorite of Ia, died on the 3rd of July, A.D. 747. Other accounts have A.D. 751 and 752. He is reputed to have been the fourteenth abbot of Iona, commencing with the great founder, St. Columkille. We have him recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal, at this same date, as Cillen Droichtech, Abbot of Ia Colum Cille.

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