Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Saint Criotán of Bangor, September 16

Among the saints commemorated on the Irish calendars on September 16 is Saint Criotán of the County Down monastery of Bangor. The Martyrology of Gorman describes this seventh-century monastic as Criotán Certronnach Celloir Comhgaill Bennchair, which the editor, Whitley Stokes, translated as 'Critán, the Justly-Dividing, Comgall of Benchor's cellarer'.  The Martyrology of Donegal's entry expands on this to include something of the saint's genealogy:
CRIOTAN CERTRONNACH, Cellarer of Comhgall, of Bennchor.  
Eithne, daughter of Saran son of Colgan, and sister of Ronan, was the mother of Criotan Certronnach; who was so called because he used to divide fairly.
The editor's note explains that certronnach, 'divide fairly' derives from the Irish cert, 'right', 'just' and roinn or rann, 'a division'.

Saint Comgall is the founder of Bangor and thus Saint Criotán is a member of the monastic household, holding a specific office within it. Father John Ryan, in his classic study of Irish monasticism, discusses the office of cellarer, whose responsibilities are perhaps rather more important than one might think:

The cellarer (ceallóir or coic) had under his charge not only the kitchen, but the supplies upon which the kitchen depended. He had, therefore, to be a man in whom the fullest reliance could be placed. Over-generosity on his part might lead to unbecoming ease and laxity, whilst an all too rigorous regime might lead to murmuring, discouragement and discontent. Even Caesarius of Arles proved a failure when appointed to fill this office at Lérins, and had to be superseded by another. Hence much might be said in justification of a statement made in one of the later rules that the discipline of the community depends on the cellarer. [This statement is from the Rule of Ailbe, 32: 'as the food is, so will the order be'.]

John Ryan S.J., Irish Monasticism - Origins and Early Development, (2nd. edition, Dublin, 1972), 274 .

 It would seem therefore that our saint made a success of his office and was awarded the epithet of 'the justly-dividing' in recognition. We can conclude with Canon O'Hanlon's account from Volume IX of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Criotan, or Critan Certronnach of Bangor, County of Down.

[Seventh Century.]

An entry of Critain is found in the Book of Leinster copy of the Martyrology of Tallagh for the 16th day of September; but, it is omitted from the published edition of Rev. Dr. Kelly. However, the festival of Critan is found in the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman, at this date. Veneration was given, at the 16th of September, as we find set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, to Criotan Certronnach, Cellarer of Comhgall, of Bennchor. Eithne, daughter to Saran, son of Colgan, and sister to Ronan, was the mother of this Criotan Certronnach, who was so called because he used to divide fairly. The present Saint is entered in our Calendars without such a distinction; and, therefore, we may doubt, if he filled any higher office than that of Cellarer in the Monastery. The Annals of Ulster and of the Four Masters placed his death under the year 668. The Annals of Clonmacnoise enter his decease previously to this date, and on the same year, A.D. 665, with Mochwa, or Mochuo, son of Ust, who is also called Abbot of Bangor.

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