Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Saint Cuan, October 15



Among the saints commemorated on the Irish calendars on October 15, is a saint Cuan. Although the 12th-century Martyrology of Gorman simply names the saint, the later Martyrology of Donegal identifies him with the Cuan mentioned in the hagiography of Saint Moling, when that saint went to plead for the remission of the tribute paid by the men of Leinster to the King of Tara:

15. A. IDIBUS OCTOBRIS. 15.

CUAN. I think this is the Cuan, of Cluain-mór, who went along with Moling to request the remission of the Borumha. Thus Moling himself speaks in the history called the Borumha :

"Dear the three who faced the difficulty,
Who will go with me for my welfare,
Dubhthach, Dubhan, who conceals sorrow,
And Cuan of Cluain-mor."

I think that the Cluain-mor, of which he speaks, is Cluainmor-Maedhog, in Leinster.

If the commentator is correct, this would place Saint Cuan at the monastery of Cluainmór-Maedhog, anglicized as Clonmore Mogue, County Carlow. It was associated with some well-known saints including Saint Fionnán Lobhair and Saint Onchu. The latter assembled a collection of saints' relics which remained at the site. The monastery thus attracted pilgrims but sadly also attracted the attention of the Vikings who attacked Clonmore on Christmas night in the year 836. The deaths of the abbots of Clonmore and records of attacks on the monastery ranging from the eighth to the eleventh centuries can be found in the Irish annals.

The most recent authoritative work on the Irish saints, Pádraig Ó Riain's 2011 A Dictionary of Irish Saints, however, makes no mention of the Moling/Cluain Mór connection but instead lists Cuán of Ahascragh, County Galway at October 15. The saint is known from the genealogical sources, one of which assigns the nickname caoin, 'pleasant' to him. The death of our pleasant holy man is also recorded at the year 770 in one set of Irish annals. Finally, the Ordnance Survey letters of the 19th century record the date of a local commemoration of the saint as October 15 under the anglicized name of 'Cavan'.

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1 comment:

  1. Then there was a St. Cuan of Mothel, County Waterford. Himself and St. Brogán are depicted in the fine window over the altar at the church in Clonea-Power, a few miles from me. This church has some great windows, including four or so from the Clarke studio, Dublin.

    A pattern was held annualy for generations at Mothel's famous Holy Well. Now there is just an annual Mass.

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