Canon O'Hanlon's lead article for September 27 features Saint Lupait (Lupita), a holy woman claimed by some hagiographers to have been the sister of Saint Patrick. Much confusion surrounds the details of her life and her cultus. Saint Patrick's own writings give only the names of his father and grandfather, but later hagiographies supplied him with an entire family tree. Lupait is one of five sisters attributed to Saint Patrick by later writers and she is portrayed as having shared his experience of being sold into slavery in Ireland. Back in the 1820s Father John Lanigan suggested that the origin of the stories about Saint Patrick's sisters may lie in a group of women who were part of his Irish mission and whose status as spiritual sisters was transformed into that of biological sisters by later writers. I intend to look deeper into this question, but for now present Canon O'Hanlon's account of Saint Lupait, which summarizes the traditional view of her:
ST LUPAIT OR LUPITA, ALSO THOUGHT TO HAVE BEEN LIAMAIN OR LIEMANIA, SISTER OF ST. PATRICK. [FIFTH CENTURY]
Colgan promised to treat about St. Lupita, at the 27th of September, but he did not live to redeem that promise. The Bollandists, who have a notice of Lupita at the 27th of September, remark, that while some writers style her a widow and others a virgin, they do not find her name on the Kalendar list of other saints, nor have they indications of her public cultus. As we learn in the various Lives of St. Patrick, this pious woman, Lupait or Lupita, was sister to our great Apostle… The various Lives of St. Patrick contain some accounts regarding her, yet they are of a doubtful and unsatisfactory nature. The earliest account we have of Lupita leads to the inference, that as she was sister to St. Patrick, that her parents were Calphurnius and Conchessa, and that she was born in Nemthor.
A miracle is recorded, on a particular occasion, when with her brother, St. Patrick, both were engaged in herding sheep. This appears to have happened in Nemthur, when they were young. Endeavouring to prevent the lambs from approaching the ewes, they ran swiftly, and the girl falling, her head struck against a stone, which caused a fracture, that endangered her life. Patrick at first wept bitterly; but raising his sister from the ground, he made a sign of the cross over the wound, which immediately was healed. However, in after time a white mark remained, to show where it had been. Both returned home, as if no accident happened. It is said, St. Lupita had been made a captive, with her brother, St. Patrick, when some pirate vessels, conducted by the seven sons of Factmud, a king of the Britons, touched in British Armorica. The Tripartite Life of St. Patrick states, that two of his sisters—Lupita and Tigrida—were taken with him, and sold as slaves, in the northern parts of Ireland. Another Life records only the capture of his sister Lupita, with others, who were sold there, when the Apostle of Ireland was only seven years old. It seems difficult—if not impossible—to reconcile the various discrepancies of narrative in the many Lives of St. Patrick.
In that Book on the Mothers of the Irish Saints, attributed to Aengus the Culdee, it is stated that Lupait, the sister of St. Patrick, was the mother of seven sons, named respectively Sechnall, Nechtan, Dabonna, Mogornan, Darigoc, Ausille, and the Priest Lugnath or Lugna. It has been asserted, that Lupait is an error for the true name of Liemania or Liamain. This is sought to be verified, owing to the discovery of a very ancient tombstone, which bears an inscription supposed to identify it with one of her sons named Lugnad or Lugna. This St. Lugna or Lugnath is set down as the luamaire or "pilot" of St. Patrick. It is thought, that while the Apostle was in the western part of Connaught, with a sister named Nitria and fifteen disciples called Franks, he may have appointed one of these, and he, Lugnat, to a station on Lough Mask, in the immediate neighbourhood of Inchaguile, where the tomb to which allusion has been made was found. As already stated, in the Life of St. Patrick, Liemania's husband was called Restitutus Hua-Baird or Longobardus, because he belonged to the nation of the Lombards; yet it is supposed from her parentage, she could not have been the Sister of St, Patrick. Neither is the name or feast of Liemania to be found in our Irish Calendars, if she is distinguishable from Lupit or Lupita.
She was sold in the district known as Connallia Murthemnensis or Conaille Muirthemne, now that part of the County Louth, extending from the Cuailgne or Cooley mountains to the River Boyne. The Tripartite Life of St. Patrick states, that while he had been sold to Milchon, son to Buan, the dynast of Dalaradia, his two sisters Lupita and Tigrida were sold in the territory of Conall Murthemne. Nevertheless, St. Patrick knew not of his sisters' captivity; neither did they of their brother's servitude. A curious romantic legend is told about her being brought as a spouse by Milchuo, to her brother St Patrick, who owing to the white mark caused through the wound already alluded to recognised her as his sister. According to one account, St. Patrick had five sisters, and of these Lupait, who is first named, is said to have been a virgin.
While in Ireland, Lupita lived for a time with her nephew, St. Mel, Bishop of Ardagh, so that she might profit by his teaching and example, in the exercise of a spiritual life. Although this was in accordance with a custom of the primitive church, it gave scandal to some; and while St. Patrick was in the southern part of Teffia, he resolved on visiting St. Mel, to ascertain whether any truth could be in the rumours spread abroad, which however the Irish Apostle did not credit. A miracle wrought in their favour satisfied him regarding the innocence of his sister and her nephew. Nevertheless, he deemed it advisable, that both should live in separate houses, saying: “Men should dwell apart from women, lest occasion of scandal arise for the weak, and lest our Lord's name be injured through us, which God avert." Whereupon he ordered that Mel should live at Ardagh, and Lupita at Druimheo, to the east of a mountain called Brileith, which separated both places.
Lupait founded a monastery for religious women on the eastern side of Armagh, but at what period is not stated. It seems probable, the selection of such a site was owing to a desire she naturally entertained, that it might have the advantage of St. Patrick's supervision and direction. From him also, it is said she received the veil. There was a church, called Temple na fearta, near the city of Armagh, and, according to Harris a nunnery was there founded by St. Patrick, in the fifth century. It is said, St. Patrick employed his sister Lupita in weaving or embroidering vestments and in arranging linens, for altar purposes. In this work she was assisted by other holy virgins.
In Ussher's Tripartite version, it is said, that St. Lupita was buried at the eastern side of the city of Armagh. By some writers, the place has been called Temple na Fearta. Others place her remains at Armagh. But, as the former place is very near the latter, this difference of statement can be easily reconciled. The following curious account is given by Ward, that about the middle of the seventeenth century, the body of St. Lupita was found in an upright position, and between two crosses, one before and the other behind, while these remains were buried under the ruins of the old church of Temple Fartagh. Her festival was held, on the 27th of September—although not set down in the O'Clery's Calendar—at Innis-Lothair. This place is said to be identical with Inish-Lirroo, or Inish Lougher, on Lough Erne. It lies within the parish of Devenish, in the barony of Magheraboy, and in the County of Fermanagh. At the 27th of September, the feast of Lupita, a virgin, is recorded in Thomas Dempster's "Menologium Scoticum," although in his allusion to her in another work, while stating that she flourished in 592, he says the day for her cultus is uncertain. We are informed by Ferrarius, that the holy Virgin, Lupita, was venerated in Ireland, on the 27th of September. Arturus and Castellan enter, at this date, the celebration of Lupita's feast.
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Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.