Sunday, 1 September 2013

Saint Sceallan of Armagh, September 1


We begin the month of September with a notice by Canon O'Hanlon of the intriguingly-named Saint Sceallan the Leper. I think that the term 'leprosy' was used in the Irish sources to cover a variety of skin diseases, as Joyce's Social History of Ancient Ireland explains:
Some cutaneous disease, very virulent and infectious, known by names--such as lobor, clam, and trosc--that indicate a belief that it was leprosy, existed in Ireland from a very early date: but experts of our day doubt if it was true leprosy. Whatever it was, it would seem to have been a well-recognised disease in the fifth century; and after that time our literature, especially the Lives of the Saints, abounds with notices of the disease.
Our saint was presumably one of its sufferers and as his name is not found in the earlier Martyrology of Tallaght, Canon O'Hanlon suggests he may have lived during the ninth or tenth century:

St. Sceallan, the Leper, of Armagh, County of Armagh.

On this day, the feast of St. Sceallan occurs in some of our native Martyrologies. His memory is recorded in the Calendar of Marianus O'Gorman. Also, we find entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, that veneration was given to Sceallan, the Leper, of Ard-Macha, or Armagh. The Irish Calendar, belonging to the Ordnance Survey Records, has a similar entry. By the Bollandists, his festival is noticed, at the 1st of September. This holy man seems to have borne patiently the loathsome disease, once so common in Ireland, and from which his appellation was derived. When he lived does not seem to be known, but it was probably in the ninth or tenth century. The name of Sceallan, the Leper, of Armagh, is not found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, contained in the Book of Leinster.

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