Saturday, 7 November 2015

Saint Colmán the Pilgrim, November 7

On November 7 we commemorate a Saint Colmán who is called 'the Pilgrim' on the later Irish calendars. The 12th-century Martyrology of Gorman records at this day:

Colman lergrinn loigt[h]ech, Colmán, delightful, indulgent

to which the note is added:

ailithir Innsi mo Cholmóc, a pilgrim, of Inis mo Cholmóic.

The later Martyrology of Donegal has this entry:

7. C. SEPTIMO IDUS NOVEMBRIS. 7.

COLMAN, Pilgrim, of Inis-Mocholmóg.

Interestingly, there is an inscribed stone at Kilcolman, Maumanorig, County Kerry whose Ogham inscription mentions 'Colman the pilgrim'. Archaeologist Peter Harbison links this site with the pilgrimage route to Mount Brandon, in honour of Saint Brendan the Navigator, saying:

It was from the earthen-banked round enclosure of Kilcolman in the townland of Maumanorig, overlooking Ventry harbour, that the Saint's Road to Mount Brandon appears to have had its visually detectable starting point. Within it is a bullaun, and beside that a large, low boulder with two crosses carved on it (Fig. 23). One of these crosses, unusually deeply sunk into the surface of the stone, is a large cross of arcs - a series of compass-drawn arcs arranged so as to form a cross. It is surrounded by a circle and stands on a stem with a three-pointed foot. The other, smaller, equal-armed cross is more shallowly carved, has bifurcating terminals and is placed close to the end of an Ogham inscription, which forms two sides of a frame around the large cross. This inscription Macalister read as 'ANM COLMAN AILITHIR' and translated as 'Name of Colman the pilgrim'. But given the pilgrimage context, it might be better to think of it in terms of asking for a prayer for the soul of Colman the pilgrim. The use of the formula ANM is generally regarded as being late in the series of irish Ogham inscriptions and another instance on a stone at Ratass near Tralee was dated to the 8th or early 9th century by Donncha Ó Corráin, on the basis of the genealogy of the person named in the inscription. The Kilcolman stone, may, therefore, not be too far removed in date from the Ratass stone.

Peter Harbison, Pilgrimage in Ireland: the Monuments and the People (London, 1991), 191.

Even more interesting is the fact that this is not the only reference to a pilgrim Colman preserved in stone, for there is a stone at Clonmacnoise which bears the name Colman written in ordinary script but with the word bocht, poor, inscribed in Ogham underneath it. There is nothing to suggest that this poor Colman is the same individual as the pilgrim of Maumanorig and nothing to suggest that either is the Colman the pilgrim commemorated in the calendar of the saints today, but it is interesting none the less.

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