Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Saint Fidarle of Rahan, October 1

October 1 is the feastday of Saint Fidarle (Fidairle, Fiodhairle, Fidharleus), an eighth-century abbot of the County Offaly monastery of Rahan. Rahan is the modern spelling of this placename, past variants include Rathen and Raithin. The Irish Raithean translates as 'a ferny place' and the locality was also known in the Irish Annals as Raithin Uí Suanaigh meaning 'the Ferny Land of the O’Swanys'. The O’Swany family were the hereditary successors to St Carthage at the monastery of Rahan from the eighth century onwards. Our saint is a member of this family as the Martyrology of Tallaght, the earliest surviving Irish calendar, makes clear in its recording of his name at this day:

Fidairle húa Suanaig 'descendant of Súanach.'

The later Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman notes not only his family but also that of his monastery:

Fidarle descendant of Suanach, (and) abbot of Rathen.

The 17th-century Martyrology of Donegal adds the recording of the date of Saint Fidarle's repose in the Annals of Ulster:

1. A. KALENDIS OCTOBRIS. 1.

FIODHAIRLE, Ua Suanaigh, Abbot of Raithin. The age of Christ when he went to heaven was 762.

Although no further information on Saint Fidarle as an individual seems to have survived, if you are interested in learning more about the monastery he once governed there is a comprehensive report by the Heritage Service of Offaly County Council available online here. It is richly illustrated with maps, drawings and photographs of the site and brings together the major historical sources in its appendices.

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