Friday, 17 July 2020

Saint Golgus (Colgus of Iona), July 17

Some of the problems faced by hagiologists in their study of the saints are illustrated by Article VIII for July 17 in Volume VII of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints. He suggests that in the supposed feast on this day of an Abbot Golgus, we may be dealing with a case of mistaken identity. The error has been made by the seventeenth-century Scottish calendarist David Camerarius:
Reputed Feast of St. Golgus, Abbot.
At the present date, David Camerarius mentions a Golgus, Abbot, said to be alluded to by Adamnan, in his Third Book—assumed to be in his work Vita S. Columbae—and by other writers. While the Bollandists insert this reputed feast, on his authority, they remark, that under such form, they could not find his name, and therefore, they defer classing Golgus, Abbot, among the saints, until strengthened by further authority than that of Camerarius.
So, this raises the possibility that behind 'Golgus' lies a member of the Iona monastic community, Colgus.  Indeed, although he does not say so here, in the Introduction to Volume I of his magnum opus Canon O'Hanlon wrote that a 'St. Colgius or Colchuo, is said to have been author of a Treatise on the Miracles of his Master, St. Columkille'.

A footnote states plainly that
 In Dempster's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum," tomus i., lib. vii., num. 578, he is called "St. Golgus."
Thus it seems that Canon O'Hanlon had already concluded that Golgus is probably a misspelling of Colgus (Colgius), a Latinization of the Irish name Colga. He reiterates this conclusion in the final footnote to his article on the mysterious Saint Golgus:
Probably Camerarius meant to have written Colgius, who is mentioned by Adamnan, in lib iii., cap.20, but whose festival - if one he had - is not known.
Here is an account of Colga of Iona and one of the miracles of its founding saint to which was a witness from the classic translation of Bishop William Reeves:

CHAPTER XXI.
Of another very similar Vision of great brilliancy.

ANOTHER night also, one of the brothers, whose name was Colga, the son of Aid Draigniche, of the grandsons of Fechrech mentioned in the first Book, came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying. Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm. On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: "Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen."

Life of Saint Columba, founder of Hy. Written by Adamnan. Edited by William Reeves (Edinburgh 1874), 92.
 
Knowledge of Colga of Iona seems to be confined to this source and I have not been able to find another recorded feast day for him. Ó Riain's A Dictionary of Irish Saints does not mention this saint in connection with the Golgus recorded on the Scottish calendars at July 17 but suggests that he may be identical with Saint Colga of Kilcolgan, County Galway.

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