Saturday, 10 April 2021

Faithful Irish Exiles- Pioneers of the Faith in Many Lands

April 10 is the feast of Saint Paternus of Paderborn, one of many Irish or reputedly Irish holy men who left this country for continental Europe. I say reputedly as many of the claims of Irish links for saints such as Rupert and Arbogast cannot be substantiated although with Columbanus, Fiacre, Virgil etc. we are on firmer ground. Their legacy was a source of pride to Irish writers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and below is an extract from an article on this theme by Magdalen Rock, syndicated from the Catholic Herald by the New Zealand press in 1923. Magdalen Rock was a pseudonym of County Tyrone schoolteacher Ellen Beck (1858-1924). She was a prolific contributor to the religious press of her day and I am pleased to preserve both her own memory and her legacy of writings on the Irish saints here at the blog.  

Faithful Irish Exiles

Pioneers of the Faith in Many Lands

(By Magdalen Rock, in the Catholic Herald.)

Saint Patrick came to Ireland in 432, and in the next century Columba, led by remorse or by the missionary spirit that to the present seems characteristic of the Irish race, left his own loved land to found the famous monastery of Iona, from which Scotland and Northern England were brought and re-converted to the knowledge of the true God. Irish bishops governed the See of Lindisfarne; an Irish monk founded old Melrose; Adamnan, the biographer of Columba, is among the best Latin writers of the Middle Ages.

Towards the close of the same century, Columbanus departed from Bangor, with twelve companions, to found Luxeuil and Bobbio; the memory of Saint Gall survives in Switzerland, where a canton bears the name of one of the most earnest of Columbanus’s disciples. Saint Frigidan was Bishop of Lucca for twenty-eight years of work and miracles; Livinus died a martyr in Flanders in 633; Saint Fiacre, who flourished about the same time, founded a monastery near Meaux, in France; Saint Fursey, whose visions gave Dante inspiration, died venerated by all in 648, after founding a monastery in East Anglia, and a more enduring one at Lagny, near which Saints Folian, Gobban, and Dicuil died in the odor of sanctity. 

Irish Saints and Scholars.

Saint Arbogast was Bishop of Strasburg in 646, and another Irish saint, Cathaldus, ruled in far-distant Taranto; Fridolin the Traveller founded monasteries in France and in the islands of the Rhine; Saint Virgilius, whose scientific opinions startled the world, was Bishop of Saltzburg in 785, and another, Dicuil the Geographer—flourished about the same period, and is said to have visited Iceland.

Saints Donatus and Andrew are the pride of Fiesole, as Saint Rupert and Marianus Scotus are of Ratisbon; Clemens and Albinus delighted the scholars of the court of the great Charlemagne, while the wonderful learning and eccentric genius of John Scotus Erigena, who combined scholastic and mystical theology, drew on him praise and blame.

Faithful Irish Exiles, New Zealand Tablet, Volume L, Issue 22, 7 June 1923

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2016. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Erin's Saints and Monks in Germany

March 27 is the feast of an important saint from the Germanic world, Rupert of Salzburg. He is one of the saints referenced below in a paper from 1900 on 'Erin's Saints and Monks in Germany'. I reprint this with the caveat that one has to be careful in claiming Irish antecedents for continental European saints.  Although there are many Irish saints whose careers in Europe are well-documented, Columbanus, Gall and Virgil, to use some examples from this text, there was also a fashion among European monasteries in the middle ages to claim Irish founders. Seventeenth-century martyrologists working in exile on the continent were only too keen to talk up Ireland's European links and nineteenth-century Irish writers only too happy to accept such claims at face value. The ever-sceptical Father John Lanigan (d.1825), however dismissed claims that Saint Rupert and his relatives should be numbered among the Irish saints, a verdict which modern historians would uphold. That said, this paper is still an enjoyable read, particularly the address made to Daniel O'Connell in 1844 from the heads of the German Universities, acknowledging their country's debt to Ireland:


By M.R. Taylor.

“Let us now praise men of renown and our fathers in their generation."— Eccl xliv: i.

"From the Queen Island of the West,
As from a source of light,
Went forth the Gospel messengers
That chased the old world's night.

Nay, God's good Providence decreed
That o'er the world's wide face.
Her exiles still should sow Faith's seed,
An apostolic race."

IN April, 1844, the immortal Daniel O'Connell received from the distinguished heads of German Universities an address of sympathy, in which Germany's debt to ancient Ireland is acknowledged in the following graceful language: "We entertain towards the ill-treated people of your beloved isle the deepest and sincerest sympathy. A land sighing under the yoke of bondage, a land red with the blood of martyred patriots, necessarily enlists the pity of men not yet dead to human instincts. Indifference to misfortune of this sort would argue total loss of nature's finer feelings. Want of sympathy in the present crisis would besides render us guilty of another and a deeper crime — that of the blackest ingratitude. We can never forget that your fond country is our mother in the Faith. From the remotest period of the Christian era she commiserated our people. To rescue our pagan ancestors from idolatry and secure to them the blessings of the true Faith she generously sent forth her heroic sons, sacrificing her own wealth and her children's blood. Along with a rich store of merit for the people of Ireland, Catholicity in Germany is the result of their labors, and we can never, but by the basest kind of indifference, lose memory of the fact. When we behold the native land of these faithful apostles delivered over to undeserved misfortune, the fact rises all the more vividly to our mind.”

This affectionate expression of gratitude to Erin, voiced by the learned men of Germany, must make every true Irish heart throb with new emotions of pleasure. Faith and civilization are of a  truth God's highest gifts to man. Hence the propriety of forever holding sacred the memory of such holy missionaries as heralded the advent of these heavenly blessings among a people. The Church has already raised the greater number of them to her altars, to receive, as saints, the homage and veneration due their heroic lives of virtue, self-sacrifice and Godlike love.

When St. Patrick preached to her roving inhabitants the truths of salvation, imparting to them belief in the Triune God, Erin saw the dawn of her golden age, and for centuries after she was great and glorious among the nations of the world. Schools and monasteries arose, towns and cities were built. Universities attracted the flower of Europe's youth, who, like St Fulgentius,

“Exemplo patrum, commotus amore legendi
Ivit ad Hibernos, sophia mirabile claros"

"What way in search of lore his fathers went,
To Erin, wisdom's shrine, his steps he bent."

That was a period of peace and prosperity, when liberty stamped the golden harp upon the emerald banner, an age of fervent simplicity, alive in the one true Faith upon which the happiness of  heart and mind centred.

In this golden age Ireland stretched a merciful hand across the wide waters, sent her sons to distant lands to lavish upon others the abundant blessings she enjoyed, to bring to tribes submerged in barbarism the light of salvation, true religion allied with civilization.

Strange, too, that in those portions of Germany where Irish saints planted the tree of Christianity it has neither withered nor died, while in other parts it has bent, broken and fallen, and only scattered fragments suggest its early existence. There are indeed few lands as thoroughly Catholic as little Bavaria, once St. Rupert's spiritual field; as Tyrol, in whose towering mountains a St. Virgil (Feargal) scattered the seed of religion; as Southern Baden, or beyond the lake in northern Switzerland, where a St. Fintan, a St. Gall, a St. Fridolin, brought heaven's grace to the Teutonic tribe inhabiting the region.

St Columban is rightly termed "The Father of Ireland's Foreign Missions." Born in 539, he was reared a monk, and learning the science of true asceticism became the lawgiver of a host of spiritual disciples.

He set out in 589 for the continent, selecting for himself twelve companions. The fact that Irish apostles invariably chose that number of disciples is another proof, that in every particular they followed the example of the God-Man, who with twelve followers began the world's christianization.

Northern Europe was then sitting in the "shadow of death;" in Italy and France, from the Alps to the Baltic, paganism reigned supreme.

Landing in France, they founded the monasteries at Aurgray and Luxeuil, piously aided by Sigebert, King of Austrasia and Burgundy. But their stay here was of short duration. Theodoric, Sigebert' s successor, ordered their expulsion from his dominions. They travelled to Germany and settled in a place called Tucconia, near Lake Turicin, now known as Zurich, in Switzerland.

The great apostle was not alone in his misfortune. Devoted followers shared his exile, and foremost among them was the zealous St. Gall. He was the son of parents possessing a goodly store of blessings spiritual and temporal, and as conspicuous for piety and charity as for riches. To God, the giver of all good things, who had manifested so many unmistakable signs of favor towards them, they offered Gall in the days of his infancy and sent him at an early age to the monastery of Bangor to be educated under the tutelage of the holy Abbots Comgal and Columban. Within this hallowed abode sacred learning flourished, and Gall made rapid progress in the study of Holy Scripture, the liberal arts and in the observance of regular discipline.

Abandoning his native land, he shared St. Columban's apostolic labors and trials.

Together they reached Tucconia, where St. Gall set fire to a pagan temple and caused the offerings to be thrown into a neighboring lake. The idolaters, exasperated at this conduct, resolved to  put the missionary to death, but he had the good fortune to escape from their hands with St. Columban. Reaching the castle of Arbona, situated on a river of that name which flows into Lake Constance, both were hospitably detained seven days by a holy priest, Willimar. During this time plans were discussed for a place of retreat in the interior.

They learned from their host of an old building called Bregantium in Rhaetia, later known as Bregent in the country of the Grisons, and thither they journeyed.

St. Gall preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of the canton, converting many. Those who remained obdurate persecuted the monks and slew two of their number. Gunzo, governor of the country, declared himself their enemy and Theodoric, by the death of Theodebert, becoming master of Austrasia, St. Columban was forced to abandon his undertakings in this territory and seek refuge in Italy.

Gall determined to go with him, but a serious fever prevented his departure and forced a separation. St. Columban left for Italy and Gall returned to Willimar, with whom he remained until his complete recovery. The desire of leading a solitary life induced him to return to the desert. Here he built cells which were the foundation of the famous abbey bearing his name. Becoming acquainted with the language of the natives, St. Gall made so many converts among the idolaters that he may he justly regarded the “Apostle of the Alemanni”. A beautiful daughter of Gunzo, the governor, possessed by a devil, was delivered by the saint and acting on his advice, consecrated her virginity to God, in the monastery of St. Peter at Metz.

At the time of this miracle the Bishopric of Constance was vacant. Constance bears the distinction of being one of the most ancient cities of Germany, and its splendid cathedral is a model of medieval architecture. In 1417 a council assembled in this venerable town to settle a dispute as to the lawful successor of St. Peter.

Gunzo wrote to our hermit begging his assistance at a synod, held for the purpose of electing a prelate for the aforesaid Bishopric. The duke, bishops, clergy and people, earnestly desired to put the saint in this exalted position. He repaired thither at their urgent request, attended by a deacon named John, who for three years had been his disciple. St. Gall refused the honor and desired the clergy and people to make John, his companion and a descendant of a royal family of Ireland, their bishop, and his election followed. At the consecration St. Gall delivered the sermon, considered a model of ancient Irish oratory. On October 16, 646, St. Gall departed this life at the age of ninety-five.

The abbey known by his name changed the rule of St. Columban for that of St. Benedict in the eighth century. It was enriched by the liberality of Charles Martel, Louis Debonnaire and Louis the Large. The estates and civil jurisdiction possessed by the monastery became so considerable that Henry I. raised it to a principality of the empire. Its domain was curtailed during the civil wars, waged by the Calvinists. The town of St. Gall, by embracing the religion of the insurgents, deprived the abbot of what rights he before enjoyed. These were the rank of prince, the right of suffrage in the general Diet, an extensive jurisdiction and an annual income of one hundred thousand ducats. He had, besides, a mint, and when the Helvetic Diet required auxiliaries, could raise an army of twelve thousand men.

St. Gall's Abbey, one of the most striking of the primitive foundations, is famous for the galaxy of learned men it produced, and for its library, which abounded in valuable manuscripts and printed books. A great number of these, however, were stolen and lost in the civil wars.

Of the writings of St. Gall extant we have the sermon before mentioned; a discourse upon Church Government, and a Psalter, of which Joachim Vadiamus speaks in his treatise on colleges and  monasteries. To-day this abbey is almost a ruin. Like Ireland, the holy house had its age of blessings and prosperity when its influence was felt from sea to sea.

The monasteries founded by the monks of St. Gall's were numerous and distinguished, notably Richeman, on a little island in Lake Constance, which like the first institution, was one of the most influential abbeys of the Empire. It, too, has fallen into decay. A portion of the abbey is reserved for the residence of the Bishop, who administers the affairs of the still flourishing see of St. Gall's.

As the apostle of Bavaria and German Austria, the Church venerates St. Rupert, also called Rudbert or Robert. Irish historians declare him their countryman, though the French deny this  claim. However, the deepest research rather favors the former.

Son of the Hy-king of Hibernia, he was born in the year 537 and baptized by a nephew of St. Patrick. Early in life he dedicated himself to the service of religion, making a compact with his  brother Trudbertus and sister Erentrude to forsake home and labor for souls in a pagan land. They reached Rome by way of the Alps. While in the Eternal City, Rupert was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to make that portion of Europe later known as Germany the scene of his labors. Trudbertus separated from his companions, proceeding to the territory of the Rauraci. Rupert with Erentrude finally arrived at Worms, celebrated in the civil and ecclesiastical vicissitudes of central Europe.

Childebert, son of Sigebert, was king of Austrasia, one of the three divisions of "Greater Gaul." He bade Rupert welcome, and he straightway set to work. Numbers, hearing of his miracles and teachings, came to receive instruction and baptism at his hands.

So filled with admiration for the saint were princes and people that Rupert was, shortly after his arrival, elevated to the dignity of Bishop of Worms. The rebukes of the prelate provoking the hatred of a tyrant, named Borcharius, a deputy governor of the province, he was assailed by the vilest calumnies and ultimately driven from his Bishopric in 580.

Worms, in the Middle Ages, was glorious as a residence of Charlemagne, who called Irish monks to construct its venerable cathedral, as well as that of Aix la-Chapelle. The famous round towers awaken pleasant recollections of similar architectural adornment in Ireland. " Salvete Turres " we may say today; but alas! Catholic voices and prayers have ceased within. Worms expelled the Irish saint, her faith fell a victim to the Reformation and the city is now Protestant.

For many months the meek and holy Rupert lingered near the confines of Austrasia, hoping his persecutors would relent, but in vain. Then the prelate returned to Rome. Again he was admonished to select Germany as the field of his endeavors, and obedient to the Heaven-sent command, departed in 582 for Bavaria.

At this time Theodore the Elder was duke of that district. Although a pagan, through the influence of his wife Regintrude, a fervent Christian, his heart was favorably disposed to receive the counsels of the zealous Rupert, and he summoned him to Ratisbon. The saint was welcomed with all possible marks of honor, and invited to preach the truths of the Gospel to the people. The old Roman city of Reginium, now called Ratisbon, was then the capital, and thither the Bishop journeyed to appear before the ducal court. Theodore and his courtiers acted as escort and the saint's entry was a signal triumph.

The inhabitants of Bavaria had previously received the tenets of Christianity from St. Severin ; but had entirely fallen away from his teachings. The work of evangelizing had therefore to be begun anew. Rupert turned his first attention to the ruling classes. Within a brief period his eloquence, learning and versatile genius so captivated the hearts of the nobles, that they straightway determined to embrace the religion taught by the wonderful Irish missionary.

The baptism of Duke Theodore and his court was attended with the greatest impressiveness and splendor. He became the prelate's most enthusiastic co- operator, accompanying him on his visits  to the villages, town and castles of the nobles, and, at the solicitation of the prince, Rupert traversed the whole extent of his dominions, paganism fleeing at his approach.

Ratisbon claims St. Rupert as its first bishop. There he commenced his apostolic labors in Southern Germany, and for nearly forty years his work was an uninterrupted success. This city, retaining much of its medieval character, is pleasantly situated on the right bank of the Danube, while the first hill of the Bohemian forest almost touches its gate. German Emperors, in the Middle Ages, made it their residence and it became a centre of learning and religion, as well as of political and commercial influence. The magnificent cathedral, a counterpart of Cologne's famous cathedral, was begun in the thirteenth century, the present illustrious Bishop accomplishing the work of its completion. It is dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles, but a beautiful Gothic altar is consecrated to St. Rupert, and his statue surmounts the smaller tower. No city of the continent is richer than Ratisbon in monuments of the Irish saints and monks. One of the parish churches contains the tomb and relics of St. Mercherdach, who came from Erin in 1040, with twelve companions. Blessed Marianus founded a renowned monastery, under the Rule of St. Benedict, exclusively tor Irish monks. To-day its life is extinguished, though the buildings and handsome church remain. This abbey is usually known among the natives as the Scots' church. That it was an Irish institution, as were other grand establishments at Vienna, Wurzburg, etc. , no historian doubts. The ancient Irish were called Scots. Witness the following couplet:

"Phoenio Phoenius adbhearta brighgan dochta.
Gavidhel o Gavidhal-glas ganta, Scuit o Scota”  

'Beyond question we are called Phaenians from Phaenius, 

Gadelians from Gadelglas, and Scots from Scota. '

In the British Museum there is an ancient German manuscript, dating probably from the eleventh century, which describes in a quaint way, the ecclesiastical foundation in Ratisbon, by pious men from Hibernia:

“Darnach ze Kurtzer zeit geschach,
Daz man trolich chomen sach,
Manich schar guter manne vil,
Als ich evch beshaiden wil.
Sie furen von yberina
In pilgreins weise dort und da,
Ze Rome wollten sie gahen
Und gutlichen da empfahen
Von gots genad pabstlichen segen."

“Soon afterwards it happened that many a band of good men came, joyful and glad, as I wish to relate. They came from Hibernia in pilgrims' garb on their way to Rome. They desired then to receive God's grace and the Pope's blessing." These were heartily welcomed in St. Rupert's city, and in 1120 the monastery and church of St. James were built. At this time Prince Connor, of Ireland, spared neither money nor labor to render the abbey worthy of his countrymen. Old chronicles say, “The erection of so spacious a cloister, of such remarkable workmanship, abounding in stately turrets, walls, pillars and vaults, so expeditiously constructed, must be wholly attributed to the immense sums of money appropriated for that pious purpose by the King of Ireland and by other nobles of the realm.”

St. James’ is still a stately monument of medieval Irish architecture. The massive interior columns are surmounted with capitals, carved to represent angels, birds, oak leaves, vines, and figures innumerable. The windows bear images of the principal Irish saints, Patrick, Columban, Bridget and Gertrude. The grand entrance has a cornice ornamented with the shamrock, or, as a German sculptor expresses it, "St. Patrick's leaf”. Letters of the Irish alphabet are chiseled in many stones of the edifice, on some also the cross. The same workmanship is displayed on the Irish church at Gocking, Bavaria; and the portal of St. Emerari's Abbey, in Ratisbon, dating from this period, reminds one of Cormac's Chapel, in Ireland.

Let us now return to St. Rupert and his labors.

A splendidly equipped vessel was placed at his disposal by Duke Theodore, and he with his missionary companions sailed down the Danube, preaching at every port. On this auspicious voyage
lower Pannonia was reached, and a wonderful harvest of souls reaped.

Later he founded a mission at Lauricum, now called Lorch, and the Alpine region of Carinthia was also blessed with the presence of the saint It was on this journey St. Rupert established the famous shrine of Our Blessed Lady at Alt Ottingen. It is to Southern Bavaria what Loretto is to Italy and Lourdes to France. Venerable with age, the chapel, once a pagan temple, contains the image which tradition says he brought with him. Perhaps it was the sacred Palladium conveyed from Ireland. Ireland's love for Mary is part of history, and many of her most beautiful titles, such as Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Queen of Angels, had their origin in the loyal hearts of Erin. Even to the present Alt Ottingen has preserved its ancient glory. Thousands of pilgrims visit annually St. Rupert's Madonna, black yet beautiful," “Nigra sed formosa”.

The Duke desiring the Bishop to found a monastery in his kingdom, he again set out and passing the lake shore of the Waller-zee, entered Juvavia. A rude cross was planted on one of the slopes called Monchsberg, and a church was erected. The church in due time was consecrated under the invocation of St. Peter. On its completion the prelate sailed for the country of his birth. He visited Ireland's great centres of learning and from them chose twelve able scholars who returned with him to Germany. The monastery was built for them with all possible haste, and received its name from the rushing torrent of the Salz. Before many months a city began to grow about those hallowed walls, and Salzburg, under the administration of its first Bishop, St. Rupert, became populous and renowned. It is the present capital of Upper Austria, and is said to have the most beautiful situation in Europe. In grandeur or environment it stands unrivaled, and abounds in interesting recollections.

The holy Bishop built his sister Erentrude a convent at Nunberg, of which she became abbess. She died in the odor of sanctity and is venerated throughout Bavaria as a saint. Duke Theodore enriched the monastic church of Salzburg with donations of royal munificence, and it was through his intervention with the Holy See that Rupert was named its Bishop.

Our saint was miraculously warned of his approaching end and with prophetic lips foretold the day of his death. Clergy, religious and people heard the announcement with unfeigned sorrow. He appointed Vitalis his successor, and on the morning of Easter day asked for the Holy Viaticum. Recommending his monks to be faithful to their vows, bequeathing the welfare of his flock to God's Providence, his pure soul took its flight to the realm of eternity, March 27, 623, in his eighty-sixth year. He lived to see the entire Bavarian nation converted to the Faith, and ruled the Sees of Salzburg and Ratisbon for forty years.

The remains of St. Rupert were interred in the Abbey Church of St. Peter, where his tomb may still be seen. In the adjoining cemetery his rock-hewn cell is shown, enclosed within a little chapel. Monks of the Benedictine Order now occupy the abbey founded by St. Rupert. It is rich in manuscripts and literary treasures, its library comprising one hundred thousand volumes.

St. Rupert was more than a spiritual benefactor to Southern Germany. On the mountain sides, near Ratisbon, he planted vines, brought from the province of the Rhine, reopened the salt springs at Reichenhall, organized commerce on the Danube, commenced the working of gold and silver mines in the south, encouraged agriculture in the lowlands and on the Alps, and laid out the public highway at Noreja and the famous Kaernter road.

One of the most celebrated successors of St. Rupert was Virgil, a native of Ireland and a man distinguished for learning and virtue. His true name is Feargall. Adamnanus of the race of Conall Gulban, and house of O' Donnell, elected in 679 abbot of Hay, was his kinsman.

Animated with a desire of visiting the Holy Land and seeing the places described by his august relative, Virgil travelled in company with seven bishops to France. The need of reform and the abject state of Christianity in the kingdom induced him to remain among the Gauls, for a brief period at least. Childeric III. was titular king, with Pepin, the Short, major domo for the entire kingdom, at the advent of St. Virgil in Gaul. All writers are loud in their praise of Pepin's princely virtues. His zeal for religion and love of the Church were equalled only by his consummate wisdom and valor. This prince accorded to Virgil a most courteous reception, making him the recipient of his confidence and bestowing upon him the post of confessor. At the expiration of two years Virgil was sent by Pepin on a mission to Bavaria, bearing letters of recommendation to Duke Odilo, a friend and brother-in-law. Here he labored with unremitting zeal for the conversion of souls.

In this short sketch, I shall pass over the controversy between St. Boniface and St. Virgil. Able historians have freed the apostle of Germany from wicked imputations cast upon his character by Protestants and other enemies of the Church. Virgil certainly possessed a more thorough acquaintance with science. We ascribe to him the theory that "the earth is spherical, instead of flat, and we have our antipodes," a marvelous doctrine in that early age. It was nevertheless taught by this distinguished scholar, the fearless exponent of secular and religious  tenets, and a living proof that Irish universities of the Middle Ages deserved their widespread reputation for learning.

On Pepin's recommendation, Virgil was named for the vacant See of Salzburg. Reluctant to accept the appointment, he for two years commissioned Dobba, a bishop whom he had brought from Ireland, to perform the episcopal functions, reserving for himself the office of preaching and instructing, until compelled by his colleagues to receive the episcopal consecration in 766.

Childeric the Third, surnamed the Stupid, after enjoying an empty title for nine years was deposed and consigned to St. Bertin's Abbey, where he became a monk in 752. Dying in 755, he ended the Merovingian line of kings. Pepin in 751 was unanimously chosen sovereign and crowned at Soissons by St. Boniface. This is the first instance of the use of royal anointing in France, and the practice was suggested by St. Virgil.

The Metropolitan rebuilt on a scale of magnificence the monastery of St. Peter, at Salzburg, and translated thither the body of St. Rupert. On his return from an apostolic journey to Carinthia he was seized with a slow fever, and, after a fervent preparation, cheerfully departed this life on November 27, 784. Many and great saints have governed the diocese of Salzburg, but none to whom the Church is so deeply indebted as to St. Virgil.

The city of Wurzburg, on the Main, one of the most distinctively ecclesiastical towns of medieval Europe, was for more than a thousand years the capital of an ecclesiastical principality, ruled over by eighty-two bishops who were princes of the empire, and exercised great influence in the affairs of Germany.

Its cathedral in the Domstrasse was erected on the spot where St. Kilian suffered martyrdom. He was the city's first bishop and an Irish missionary, apostle and patron of Franconia.

The annalists tell us little of the early life of Kilian. He was of noble descent, and, after years of study in a famous school, received Holy Orders. Entering the monastery of Iona, he subsequently sailed for France.

We next find him in the Irish monastery of Florentius, on the banks of the Moselle and later in Rome. Kilian made known to the Holy Father his desire to preach the Gospel in Germany.

The Sovereign Pontiff, joyfully acceding to his request, invested him with the episcopal dignity. He at the same time conferred full power for the prosecution of his work and commissioned him to proceed to Wurzburg in Franconia. From the outset his efforts were successful.

Gosbert, a learned prince, ducal throne of Wurzburg. Inviting Kilian to visit him, he became a docile candidate for baptism and the saint's devoted friend. Prior to his conversion he married Geliana, the wife of a deceased brother, and learning that the union was llicit, he determined to break down the barrier to eternal happiness.

From the moment Geliana learned of Gosbert's resolution, she sought a way to be revenged upon his holy preceptor. The Duke was suddenly summoned to war. Geliana decided to rid herself in her lord's absence of the interfering Bishop and his two companions. For this purpose she bribed two wretches to  carry out the heinous project. But the vile conspiracy was made known to Kilian. It is related that in his sleep a venerable form appeared to him saying :

"Beloved Kilian, a little longer shalt thou labor, to then be victor with me."

Immediately the saint arose and calling his brethren addressed them:

“Let us watch and pray. In a little while the Lord will knock at the gate, Let us take heed lest we be found sleeping."

Before many hours, the assassins broke into the place, where the Bishop and his companions were kneeling, wrapt in prayer's ecstatic joys,
“Friends," he said, turning, to the miscreants, "what do you want? And yet you are only obeying commands, and must accomplish your work." These were his last words. With drawn swords the murderers rushed on their victims and soon had them weltering in their blood. A grave was hastily dug and the corpses, together with books and sacred vestments, cast in. The perpetrators of the horrible deed vainly imagined that the crime would remain forever hidden. They deceived themselves. The unholy deed was revealed to a pious virgin, inhabiting a cell near by, and she was often seen near the martyrs' graves. Geliana, fearing detection, had the remains of her victims removed and buried in a stable.

Gosbert returned, and seeking the Bishop made inquiries of her as to his whereabouts. She professed innocent ignorance. Soon, however, one of the assassins was seized with madness and made away with himself. The woman also became a raving maniac, dying in horrible agony.

Fifty years after the death of St. Kilian, in 689, Burchard, Bishop of Wurzburg, removed the relics of the murdered prelate and his two companions to the beautiful church he erected for their reception, and here their tombs may now be seen. The monastery of Wurzburg long continued to preserve its connection with Ireland.

Few shrines on the Continent have undergone so little change as that of St. Kilian. Save for the deepening shadows time has thrown around the old church, it remains as it was when the martyr was
laid in the Neue Minster, twelve hundred years ago.

* * *

St. Arbogast was a native of Ireland, according to the chronicles of that country, and was the son of a noble family. Traveling into Alsace, in 630, he led an anchorite's life in the Sacred Forest, the interpretation of the Teutonic name Heiligesforst. Charity sometimes induced him to leave his retreat, to instruct the. people in knowledge and fear of God. His conduct attracted the attention of King Dagobert II., who frequently invited the pious hermit to his court and secured his succession to St. Amand in the See of Strasburg, 646.

After Arbogast' s elevation to the episcopacy, he raised to life Dagobert' s son, killed by falling from a horse. Assisted by the liberality of his royal friend, the Bishop enriched the church of Strasburg with several large estates and Dagobert, filled with affection for the humble Metropolitan, bestowed upon his See the manor and town of Rufach, with an extensive domain situated on the River Alse or Elle, in conjunction with the royal palace of Isenburg.

St. Arbogast endowed several monasteries, the principal being Surburg and Shutterau. Having occupied the episcopal See for twelve years he died, according to Bosch, the Bollandist, in 678. In his will he ordered his body to be interred in the place of public execution, called Mount Michael, in imitation of his great model, Jesus Christ, who suffered outside the walls of Jerusalem. His wishes were respected and subsequently a monastery was founded over the spot and dedicated to his memory. The magnificent church of Strasburg was erected at no great distance. To St. Arbogast are ascribed a book of homilies and learned commentaries on the epistles of St. Paul.

Of St. Findan, another of those noble missionaries, we know only a few facts from his life, published in 795 by Melchior Goldastus. He was son to a Prince of Leinster, and when the Danes invaded Ireland, was made prisoner. Escaping in a miraculous manner, he went to Rome. From Rome he traveled to Germany, remaining in that country twenty-seven years. For years he lived as a hermit. Later on he became abbot of the monastery of Richnaw, erected by himself on a peninsula in the Rhine, where he died 827.

In the calendar of saints, a fact, remarkable in these latter days, may have been noted, viz. : the prominent part the sons of kings and scions of noble families played in the Christianization of Europe.

That Ireland furnished her quota to the service of Heaven's Sovereign is obvious. Another prince of blood royal, who labored in Germany, was St. Fridolin, sometimes known as “The Traveler." His father was one of the rulers of Ireland, but the glamor of the court failed to attract the youth and he dedicated his life to Christ in the solitude of the cloister.

Advancing years brought him the preferment of abbot. He resigned the honor and abandoned his native land to found monasteries in various portions of Burgundy, Austrasia and Helvetia. The Abbey of Sekingen, located on an isle in the Rhine, afterwards one of the four forest towns belonging to the house of Austria, was the culmination of his heroic achievements. Here he died venerable in God's service.

Fridolin flourished at the close of the seventh and commencement of the eighth century, and his memory has been preserved with veneration in many parts of the Continent. He was the titular patronof the Swiss canton of Glavis, whose inhabitants carried his picture on their coat of arms. He is clad in the Benedictine habit, though he was not of that order.

Albuin, an Irish monk, filled with zeal for the propagation of the faith, left his country in 742 and went to Thuringia, a portion of Upper Saxony, where the mildness of his preaching and persuasive eloquence, converted numbers of Gentiles to Catholicity. The Pope nominated him Bishop of Fritzlar, or rather Buraburgh. He is appropriately named the Apostle of the Thuringians.

When considering the lives of the founders of German monasteries, we observe that houses following the Rule of St. Columba gradually adopted that of the Father of Western Monasticism, St. Benedict. This supplantation may be accounted for by the fact, that the Rule of the Irish saint was rigid, allowing no concessions, no mitigations, while St. Benedict's was milder.

For centuries, and in many ways, Ireland has been glorious, but more resplendently does she shine by the reflected light of sanctity, which emblazons the names of numbers of her sons, upon the pages where are perpetuated the lives of Erin's saints. These, then, are some of the renowned men whom the Church and the world may well praise.

“Their bodies are buried in peace and their names liveth unto generation and generation." — Eccl. xliv: 14.

Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Volume 35, (1900), 604-618. 


Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.



Thursday, 18 March 2021

St. Christian O'Connarchy of Mellifont, March 18

Last year we were introduced to a twelfth-century Cistercian saint, Christian O'Connarchy of Mellifont Abbey. Here is a brief reminder of him from a late nineteenth-century guide to the monastery this holy Cistercian founded:

In 1186, St. Christian O'Connarchy, or Connery, who had been the first Abbot of Mellifont and afterwards Bishop of Lismore and Legate of the Holy See, died, and was buried at O'Dorney, Co. Kerry, a monastery of his Order, which was founded in 1154, from Manister-Nenay. He had resigned all his dignities six years before, in order the better to prepare himself for a happy death. He was enrolled in the Calendar of the Saints of the Cistercian Order, and his festival was kept in England in pre-Reformation times, on the 18th March. In the eulogy of him in the Cistercian Menology it is said, "that he was remarkable for his sanctity and wonderful miracles, and that next to St. Malachy, he was regarded by the Irish nation as one of its principal patrons," even down to the time that that was written, A.D. 1630. An Irish gentleman who visited Italy in 1858, wrote from Venice to a friend, that he had seen amongst the fresco paintings which covered the wall of the beautiful church of Chiara- valla, the first Cistercian monastery founded in Italy, a painting of St. Malachy; also one entitled, "S. Christianus Archeps. in Hibernia Cisterciensis" — "St. Christian, a Cistercian monk, and Archbishop in Ireland." The error in ranking him as Archbishop probably arose from his having succeeded St. Malachy as Legate. It was in his Legatine capacity that he presided at several Synods, chiefly the memorable one convened by King Henry at Cashel, in 1172.

Mellifont Abbey, Co. Louth, its ruins and associations : a guide and popular history, 64.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Women Writers on the Irish Saints

March 8 is International Women's Day and so today I wish to acknowledge some of the women writers on the Irish saints whose work I have encountered during research for this blog. I read a good deal of the Victorian popular religious press and am struck by how many opportunities publications such as the Irish Monthly, the Irish Rosary, the Messenger of the Sacred Heart etc. provided for women writers to have their voices heard.  One, whose work I am delighted to reprint here at the blog, is "Magdalen Rock", the pen name of County Tyrone schoolteacher Ellen Beck (1858-1924). Miss Beck lived in (and indeed rarely left) the village of The Rock, near Dungannon where she had been teaching in the local school since the age of sixteen. Her writings helped to transcend this rather insular existence as I have seen her work syndicated in American and Australian newspapers. I particularly enjoy the monthly feasts series she wrote for the Irish Rosary magazine and you can find her Saints of March article on the blog here

The research for my new blog on the Irish Martyrs has introduced me to another lady writer of this era, "Laura Grey", which I suspect might also be a pseudonym. Unfortunately I have been unable to find out anything about this author but I have one of her papers at my other site here. A writer called Rosaleen O'Neil also wrote very competently about the Irish martyrs in 1905 and I was disappointed not to find any further papers by her or any other information on the woman herself. The two articles I have found can be accessed here

Helena Walsh Concannon (1878-1952) was a rather better-known Irish woman writer whose output went well beyond the popular periodical press. A native of Maghera, County Derry she published over twenty books, some (sorry, feminists!) under her married name of Mrs Thomas Concannon. Her husband, Tomás Bán Ó Conceanainn, was a distinguished member of the Gaelic League who shared his wife's deep Catholic faith and her interests in nationalist politics and Irish history. Helena published a number of articles and books on the Irish saints including Saint Patrick: his Life and Mission in 1931, chapter XVI of which is entitled "Saint Patrick and the Women of Ireland".  Here she looks at how Saint Patrick evangelized the women of Ireland and the part played by women in his wider missionary endeavours. A century ago she also produced the Women of 'Ninety-Eight, a study of the female personalities associated with the 1798 Rebellion, long before women's history was fashionable.  

Moving on in time brings me to a woman whose work I have on my bookshelves but sadly have not made much use of here at the blog. The Saints of Ireland by Mary Ryan D'Arcy was first published by the Irish American Cultural Institute in 1974. When I read on the back cover that "over the 30-year period of research, her file cards, books and papers threatened to evict the family",  I immediately recognized a woman after my own heart. Mrs D'Arcy's book contains eight chapters beginning with Early Irish Saints and ending with Modern Irish Missionaries. Along the way she deals with the Irish saints in Britain and Europe as well as the Irish martyrs of the Reformation period. In the introduction she tells us that her interest started with a prayer book from the old country containing a Litany of the Irish Saints and a desire to know more about these strange and largely unknown names. I have a particular respect for the fact that in a pre-Internet age, she 'delved into the record of Irish achievement, sorting through libraries in a dozen American cities and carrying on an immense correspondence with scholars and researchers throughout the U.S., in Ireland, England and on the Continent'. No wonder her book required three decades of research!

Although today is a 'feast' on the secular calendar it is my hope that these women writers of the past are now enjoying the company of the Irish saints in heaven whom they honoured here on earth.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Irish Saints' Names - March

Time for the final instalment of the 1914 series on Irish saints' names from the Australian press, offered to prospective parents as suggestions for naming children. I have gathered together all of the monthly entries on this page for convenience. The March selection includes three women saints, a famous abbot of Aran and a famous martyrologist, but there will be no prizes for guessing which even more famous saint features on March 17! More surprising perhaps is the inclusion of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in Irish guise at March 20. There was a medieval Irish Life of Saint Cuthbert which claimed Ireland as the land of his birth and I hope to make a post explaining more on the saint's feast day.
Irish Saints' Names.
There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked, m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.
1. Moinenn (Maena). m., Clonfert, 571. 
2. Feargna (Fergna), m., Iona, 623.
3. Faile (Faela), f., Kilfaile, Galway.
4. Muicin (Mucna), m., Moyne, Tirawley. 
5. Ciaran (Kieran), m., Seirkeiran, King's Co., 550.
6. Cairpre (Carbry), m., Clonmacnoise, 899.
7. Cairetan (Caritan), m., Tidavnet, Monaghan.
8. Senan (Senan), m., Scattery Island, 545.
9. Lugaid (Lewy), m., Kilcool.
10. Scadna (Scadna), m., Seirkeiran, King's Co., 570.
11. Aengus (Aengus, the Culdee), m., Tallaght, 824.
12. Mura (Mura), m., Fahan, 645.
13. Mocaomoc (Kevin), m.. Leamokevogue, 656.
14. Talmac (Talma), m.
15. Diocuill (Dichull), one of the sons of Nessan, Lambay.
16. Abban (Abban), m., Wexford.
17. Padraig (Patrick), Apostle of Ireland, 493.
18. Comman (Comman), Bp., 677.
19. Lactnan (Lachtnan), m., Freshford, Kilkenny, 623.
20. Mo-nalloc (Cuthbert), m., Lindisfarne, 688.
21. Enda (Enda), Bp., Arran, 542. 
22. Failbe (Falvy), m., Iona, 678. 
23. Ciannait (Kinnata), f.
24. Caorlan (Caerlan), m.. Armagh, 588. 
25. Caimin (Camin), m., Scattery Island, 653.
26. Garban (Garvan), m.
27. Fionntan (Finntan), m. 
28. Cassan (Cassan), m.
29. Sodealb (Soldevia), f., in Affaly, sister of St. Eithne.
30. Tola (Tola), m., Clare, 734.
31. Faolan (Faelan), m.

 Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 27 February 1914, page 11

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2016. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

The Irish Monasteries of Ratisbon

February 9 is the day on which we commemorate an eleventh-century Irish monastic who achieved fame in Germany, Blessed Marianus of Ratisbon. Behind this Latin name lies a Donegal man, Muiredach MacRobertagh, who left his homeland in 1067 on pilgrimage to Rome but ended up settling in Ratisbon. The monasteries of Ratisbon were among the most prominent of the so-called Schottenklöster, those monasteries of Germany founded and staffed by Irishmen. It is important to remember that in the early middle ages Ireland was often described in Latin writings as Scotia and that the term was only later applied to the country we know as Scotland. Marianus Scotus, as the founder is known is thus not Marianus the Scot but Marianus the Irishman. The later exclusive use of Scotia to denote Scotland was to have consequences for the Irish which went well beyond semantics.  For in the sixteenth century they would be dispossessed of the foundations they had made in Germany in favour of Scottish churchmen. Below is an 1894 paper by Father J. F. Hogan on the Irish monasteries of Ratisbon. In it the Irish Ecclesiastical Record's German specialist describes the history of the Irish monasteries of Ratisbon and their famous founder:


THE corporation of Irish monasteries in Germany that owed its origin to the blessed Marianus Scotus of Ratisbon, is well worthy of attention, not only on account of the great influence it exercised on the religious and artistic history of Germany, but also on account of the rapidity of its development and the extensive proportions which it attained. From the great foundation of St. James at Ratisbon (1090), branches were established in 1136 at Würzburg, in 1142 at Vienna, in 1160 at Memmingen, in 1166 at Constance, in 1172 at Nüremburg, in 1194 at Eichstatt, and at some intermediate or approximate periods at Erfurt in Saxony, at Oels in Silesia, and at Kehlheim in Bavaria. Other smaller foundations were also made; so that when the Abbot of St. James's attended the Council of Lateran, in 1213, and obtained from Pope Innocent III. The acknowledgment of his brotherhood as a religious union or congregation exempt from episcopal control and directly subject to the Holy See, he could count at least fifteen well established, and flourishing houses, all acknowledging him as their ruler and head. The founder of the original house at Ratisbon, from which all these establishments emanated and grew was Marianus Scotus, an Irish monk, who should be carefully distinguished from his illustrious namesake " Marianus the Chronicler," who died at Mayence in 1082. Both were, we believe, natives of Tyrconnell in Ulster. They were practically contemporaries, and had both emigrated to Germany, each on a mission of his own. The Irish name of Marianus of Ratisbon, was Muiredach MacRobertagh, a name which still flourishes in a modern disguise in the county Donegal. We are indebted to a manuscript composed by an Irish monk of Ratisbon, and happily preserved in the Carthusian monastery of Gaming, in Lower Austria, for the most detailed account of the life of Marianus. In this and other less complete biographies we find the substance of the following facts relating to the saint. Marianus Scotus, who is described by the chronicler as having been very handsome in appearance and most attractive in his manners, was carefully instructed whilst still young, in sacred and secular literature. In due course he assumed the monastic habit, and prepared for the expedition which was evidently the ambition of his life. In the year 1067 he left Ireland forever, accompanied, according to some, by two companions, Joannes and Candidus; and according to others, by seven, viz., Johannes, Candidus, Donatus, Dominus, Mordacus, Isaac, and Magnaldus.

Their chief object on setting out was to make a pilgrimage to Rome, breaking their journey, as was the custom, at the hospitable monasteries on the way. On this errand, they reached Ratisbon, where they were first received by Otto, the Bishop, who had been formerly a Canon of Bamberg, and who received them into the Benedictine Order, and gave them the clerical habit of that great brotherhood. After a short sojourn at the monastery of St. Michelsberg, they were allowed by their superiors to proceed on their way. Arriving at Ratisbon for the second time, they met with a friendly reception from Emma, the Abbess of the Convent of Obermünster, who employed Marianus in the transcription of some books. A cell was arranged for him at the Niedermünster, in which he diligently carried on his writing, his companions preparing the parchment for his use. Before resuming his journey southwards, he resolved to pay a visit to an Irish recluse named Murchertach, who lived the life of a hermit in the immediate neighbourhood. Murchertach had left Ireland long before Marianus, and had now spent many years in the practice of the most austere penances.

On this account, Marianus was deeply impressed when the hermit urged him to submit to the guidance of Heaven as to whether he should continue his journey to Rome, or settle at once and for ever in Germany. He passed the night in considerable anxiety in Murchertach's cell, and in the hours of darkness it was intimated to him that where on the next day he should behold the rising sun, there he should remain and fix his abode. Starting early on the following morning, he entered the Church of St. Peter outside the walls of the city, to implore the blessing of heaven on his journey. On coming forth, he beheld the sun stealing above the distant horizon. "Here, then," he said, "I shall rest, and here shall be my resurrection." His resolution was hailed with joy by the people. Emma, the Abbess of Obermünster, granted him the Church of St. Peter, for the use of himself and his brethren; and a wealthy citizen of Ratisbon, named Bezelin, built for them, at his own expense, a small monastery, which the Emperor Henry IV. soon after took under his protection, at the solicitation of the Abbess Hazecha.

The fame of Marianus and the news of his prosperity soon reached Ireland, and numbers of his countrymen hastened to join him. They were chiefly from the province of Ulster like Marianus himself. They became so numerous that it was found necessary, in 1090, to build another monastery to receive them. This was called the monastery of St. James, and it became in the course of years one of the richest establishments of the kind in Europe. Of Marianus the founder, little further is recorded except his great skill and industry as a scribe:

"Such [says his biographer] was the grace of writing which Providence bestowed on the blessed Marianus, that he wrote many lengthy volumes both in the upper and lower monasteries. For,  to tell the truth, without any colouring of language, among all the acts which divine Providence deigned to perform through this wonderful man, I deem this most worthy of praise and admiration,  that the holy man wrote from beginning to end with his own hand the Old and New Testament with explanatory comments on the books ; and that not once or twice, but over and over again, with a view to an eternal reward, all the while clad in sorry garb and living on slender diet. Besides, he also wrote many smaller books and manual psalters for distressed widows and poor clerics of the city, towards the health of his soul, without any prospect of earthly gain. Furthermore, through the mercy of God, many congregations of the monastic order which in faith and charity and imitation of the blessed Marianus, have come from the aforesaid Ireland, and inhabit Bavaria and Franconia, are sustained by the writings of the blessed Marianus."

In his glosses and commentaries on the sacred text he made use of the writings of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, Cassiodorus, Arnobius, St. Gregory, Fulgentius, Cassius, Leo, and Alcuin. His death is recorded on the 9th of February 1038.

There are several manuscripts written by Marianus still extant: but the most important is the Codex in the Imperial Library of Vienna, which, as Dr. Reeves remarks, interests us not only on account of the beauty of his execution, but also as supplying the Irish name of the writer. The existence of this manuscript was revealed to the public only in 1679, when Lambecius published his famous catalogue of the Library of Vienna. It was from this catalogue that Cave, Harris, Lanigan, Oudin, and Zeuss obtained their information.

A more detailed account of the manuscript was given later on by the learned and laborious Father Denis, whom Dr. Reeves describes as "one of those highly cultivated and gifted men whom the dispersion of the old society of the Jesuits threw upon the world, and who in these circumstances was made chief librarian in Vienna in the latter part of the last century." The Codex contains all the epistles of St. Paul, according to the text of the Vulgate, and in the same order in which they are found in our Bibles, except that between the Epistle to the Colossians and those addressed to the Thessalonians, the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodicacians is introduced; not, however, without the marginal observation, "Laodicensium epistola ab alio, sub nomine Pauli, putatur edita." The last folio of the work concludes with the words which are all written in vermillion:


and between the two first lines, over " Marianus Scottus," in the same hand, is written the Irish name of the scribe.

But to return to the monastic foundations of Marianus, we have already seen that the first house established in connection with the Church of Weich St. Peter soon became too small to hold the numbers of Irishmen who flocked to join him in his pious retreat. They accordingly purchased from the Count of Frontenhausen, for the sum of thirty pounds, a piece of ground which was situated at the opposite town gate, now called the Stadt-am-Hof. The ancient chronicle, which was kept by an Irish monk of St. James's, gives an interesting account of the progress of the new foundation. It tells us that two Irishmen of noble birth, named Isaac and Gervase, were sent, with several other companions, by Domnus, abbot of St. Peter's, to collect funds in Ireland for the building of the new monastery. They were well received by Conchobhar O'Brien, King of Munster, and returned to Ratisbon loaded with rich presents. With the money thus brought from Ireland the site was purchased, and a good part of the new monastery erected. "Now, be it known," writes the chronicler, " that neither before nor since was there a monastery equal to this in the beauty of its towers, columns, and vaultings, erected and completed in so short a time, because the plenteousness of riches and of money bestowed by the king and princes of Ireland was almost unbounded."

Yet, notwithstanding their copiousness, the treasures sent from Ireland were soon exhausted, and Christian, abbot of St. James, a descendant of the great family of the MacCarthys, at the request of his brethren, undertook a journey to Ireland to seek the aid of Donnchadh O'Brien, the brother of Conchobhar, who was now dead. He was most successful in his mission, and was preparing to return with a large supply of gold and valuables when he fell sick and died, and was buried before St. Patrick's altar in the Cathedral of Cashel. His successor, Abbot Gregory, was consecrated in Rome by Pope Adrian IV., and afterwards proceeded to Ireland, where he received the money that had been collected by Christianus, with considerable additions. With this he repaired the church, roofed it with lead, renewed its floor, and added cloisters around it, devoting the greater portion, however, to investments, which were necessary in order to ensure the future.

Wattenbach reminds us how enterprising and successful the monks were in providing funds to carry out their building projects:

" Whilst the building of the monastery of St. James was in progress, one of the monks pursued his journey, accompanied only by a boy, till he reached Kiev, then the residence of the King of Russia. Here the King and his nobles made him rich presents, so that he loaded several waggons with valuable furs, to the amount of a hundred silver marks; and arrived at home in safety, accompanied by some merchants of Regensburg. For at that time Russia was not so isolated as she is now; and  Regensburg in particular kept up a very lively commercial intercourse with Kiev, a city whose splendour Thietmar, Bishop of Merseburg, described, in the beginning of the eleventh century, in vivid colours."

It was with such treasures, aided by the privileges and exemptions conferred upon the monastery by emperors and popes, that the foundations were laid of the princely estate with which the famous "Monasteriurn Scottorum" of Ratisbon was ever afterwards endowed. It soon became the parent house of many flourishing colonies, always retaining authority over them, and exercising it when the occasion required. Paritius, in a work from which both Wattenbach and Reeves have chiefly drawn their information, gives the fullest account which we possess to-day of its history and progress. We give below the list of abbots who ruled it, according to him, from 1070 to 1720.

[Marianus Scotus, the founder, 1070-1098; Dominions, discipulus Marianus, 1008-1121; Dermitius, 1121-1133; Christian, 1133-1164; Domninus, 1164-1172; Georgius, 1172-1204; Johannes, 1205-1212; Matthaeus, 1212-1214 ; Georgius II., 1214-1223; Jacobus, 1223-1266; Paulinus, 1266-1279; Macrobius, 1279-1290 ; Matthaeus II., 1290-1293 ; Mauritius, 1293-1295; Marianus, 1295-1301; Donatus, 1301-1310; Johannes, 1310-1326 ; Nicholas, 1326-1333 ; Johannes, 1333-1341 ; Gilbert, 1341-1348; Nicholaus, 1348-1354; Eugene, 1355-1370; Matthaeus, 1370-1382; Gelatins, 1382-1383; Matthaeus, 1383-1396; Philip I, 1396-1402; Philip II., 1402-1421; Donatus, 1431-1436; Alexander Bog, 1548-1555; Balthazar Dixon, 1555-1567 ; Thomas Anderson, 1557-1576; Ninian Winzet, 1576-1592; Alexander Bailie, Maurus Dixon, Placidus Fleming, 1672-1720; Maurus Stuart, and Bernard Baillie. Abbot Placidus Fleming completely renovated the church in 1678.]

The most important events of its history were the foundations of new monasteries, which took place from time to time. Before we proceed to deal with these seriatim, it may be as well to state briefly the vicissitudes through which St. James's passed.

During the course of its history it received many proofs of paternal solicitude from the Roman Pontiffs. In the year 1120 it received a letter of protection from Pope Callixtus II. Innocent II., Eugene III., and Adrian IV. issued Bulls to its abbots, commending and encouraging their work. Innocent III., on the occasion of the Fourth Council of Lateran, 1213, at the request of the abbot, George II., took the establishment, with all its branches, under the direct protection of the Holy See, and confirmed the Abbot of St. James of Ratisbon as general or president of the whole congregation or union of Irish monasteries. Nor was civil patronage less generous in its assistance to these exiled monks. Cut away from the strife and contention of political life, devoted wholly to the service of God, preaching His word and inculcating His precepts by lives of perfect sanctity, these strangers became universally popular. The fame of their simplicity and zeal reached the courts of the great, as well as the homes of the poor. For all they had the same welcome, the same remedies, the same helpful sympathy. Their charity was unbounded. Their presence was regarded as a blessing to the whole country. Hence donations and legacies came to them fast and abundantly. We get an idea of the extent to which their possessions had accumulated, from a charter of the Emperor Sigismund, granted in 1422, renewing and confirming a previous charter of Frederick II., dated 1212. This latter document mentions, as Bishop Reeves has computed them, "seventy denominations of land, seven mills, ten vineyards, three fisheries, four chapels, eight manses, besides woods, pasturages, and gardens, all belonging to St. James's monastery. The deed is attested by one archbishop, six bishops, one king, one landgrave, two dukes, one marquis, and two earls." The record of these various donations was carefully kept in the monastery, as we gather from the fragments that have remained to us. Thus Bertha, "the gentle and artless dove " (simplex sine felle columba), daughter of the pious Margrave Leopold, and wife of the Burgrave Henry of Ratisbon, makes over on the monastery two vineyards and seven acres of land in Austria, in return for which she is buried in the chapter-house and never forgotten in the prayers of the monks. Another pious lady, named Linchardis, is equally generous, and is buried near Bertha "in Capitulo nostro." Noblemen like Werner von Laaber, Berthold von Schwartzenburg, Otto von Riedenburg, are especially commemorated in the Necrologium for their, large donations. Nor should Count Albert de Mitterzil be forgotten, for he was amongst their earliest benefactors, giving them the ground alongside their church on which their monastery was almost entirely constructed. His name is recorded in the Necrologium on the 17th January. Other names equally generous abound on the register.

And yet the vastness of that great estate did not prevent the institution that possessed it from one day falling into decay, and, what is worse, into disrepute. It even possibly helped its downfall, and made its days of decline more unfortunate than they might otherwise have been. We do not refer here to the frequent fires that consumed the material buildings, and compelled the monks to start from the foundations and begin their work anew. The final overthrow of the monastery was due to influences not less destructive than fire, but more fatal and far-reaching in their effects. Chief amongst these, as Wattenbach observes, was the subjugation of Ireland by the English. The incessant troubles that overwhelmed the mother country ever since the Anglo-Normans landed on our shores, made themselves felt in the Irish religious establishments on the Continent. The firmer and more extensive English domination became in Ireland, the more baneful were its results abroad as well as at home. Few monks went out from Ireland from the fourteenth century onwards. Those that did go were chiefly such as their superiors wanted to get rid of, or who were discontented with the strict rules and severe discipline that prevailed at home. It was not the zeal of the missionary that urged them forward. They sought rather a life of luxury and ease. Hence the duties of religious life are gradually neglected. The new monks are not able to fulfil their task. They fail to become acquainted with the language of the people around them. They cannot preach nor hear confessions. Their conduct leaves much to be desired. The good people whose forefathers lavished riches and wealth on the monks of St. James in the early times, shake their heads in sorrow and almost in shame. The property of the establishment is frittered away and squandered. The buildings fall into ruin. Manuscripts that had been laboriously written out were burnt or cast away. Books were sold or pawned or neglected. Church ornaments and vestments were allowed to become squalid and unfit for use. The monks themselves dwindled in number till they were threatened with extinction. Then it was that the monastery and what remained of the property fell an easy prey to the Scotchmen or "Scoti" of Scotland. They asserted " that these foundations originally belonged to their nation; that the Irish had unjustly thrust themselves in, and for that very reason had brought about the decline of the colonies."

On the 31st of July, 1515, Pope Leo IV. did actually make over the monastery of St. James on the Scotch, and appointed John Thomson superior. Thomson had just then paid a visit to Rome, where he had been a daily guest of the Pope at his dinner-table. This abbot drove out the remnant of Irish monks who still remained, and introduced countrymen of his own from the Abbey of Dunfermline. He was warmly supported by King James of Scotland. In 1653 an Irish Benedictine monk made vigorous efforts to recover possession of the monastery for his countrymen. Several Austrian cardinals supported his claims; but Pope Innocent X. decided against him. The newcomers were, all the same, not much superior to the degenerate Irishmen whom they replaced. They squandered what remained of the property till, under Abbot Alexander Bog, from 1548 to 1556, there was not a single monk remaining at St. James's. In his time also the old parent monastery of Weyh-St.-Peter was lost, having been burned to the ground on the evening of the 25th of May, 1552, during the progress of the Smalcaldic war. An old Ratisbon chronicler, Leonhard Wildman, thus relates the occurrence:

" On Wednesday, in the week of the Holy Cross, they began to destroy the church of Weyh-St. -Peter. In the evening they set it on fire, and burned it to the ground. On the 28th of July I went out, for the first time, by the gate of Weyh-St. -Peter, to see how the dear little monastery had been broken to pieces ; and the scene which this ancient house of God presented made me full sore at heart. Verily, if our forefathers had not built so many chapels, there would not now have been stones enough for the bastions of Prebrunn, and for the Ostengate."

St. James's had a short return of prosperity under the pontificate of Gregory XIII., who appointed as its abbot Ninian Winzet, a zealous opponent of the movement towards Protestantism. He had been driven out of Scotland on account of his orthodoxy and firmness, and now gathered around him at Ratisbon all the Catholic fugitives from his own country. He immediately set about seizing on the other Scotic monasteries that had been subject to St. James, and was successful in the cases of Erzfürt and Würzburg. In the others he failed. He was assisted in his intrigues by a remarkable man, named John Leslie, Bishop of Boss, and formerly plenipotentiary of Queen Mary Stuart in London. This ecclesiastic was high in the favour of the Roman Court. He was the author of a work entitled, De Origine Scotorum. He was appointed Assistant Bishop and Vicar-General of Rouen, in 1579 ; and in 1593 he was nominated to the see of Constance. He was, therefore, in a favourable position to press the claims of his countrymen to the scattered monasteries of the "Scoti." He made particularly adroit attempts in reference to the old monasteries of Nuremburg and Vienna, but failed in both. Under the Abbot Placidus Fleming (1672-1720), St. James's again enjoyed comparative prosperity. In 1718 he established there a college for young men of the Scottish nobility. When Paritius wrote his account of it, in 1723, the Scottish monks then at the monastery were Joseph Falconer, Augustus Morrison, Marian Brochie, Boniface Leslie, Kilian Grant, Placidus Hamilton, Erhard, and Columban Grant. According, however, as religious persecution became less oppressive at home, the necessity for a foreign secular college gradually ceased. A few monks lingered on till 1862, when the old monastery was secularized, or rather when, by an understanding between the Holy See and the Bavarian Government, it was handed over to the Bishop of Ratisbon as partial endowment of the ecclesiastical seminary of the diocese.

In that part of the city of Ratisbon now called the "Stadt-am-Hof," on the western bank of the Danube, the old 'Schottenkirche," or Church of St. James, still stands. Notwithstanding the number of times it was burnt and restored, there are still many traces around it of its Irish origin. One of its doorways in particular exhibits the genuine characteristics of Celtic art, the interlaced ornamentation and serpentine shapes of crocodiles and monsters which represent the triumph of Christianity over heathenism; the mermaid that symbolizes the distant sea crossed by the missionaries, and the peculiar shape and features, as far as they can still be distinguished, of three monks, whose origin could never be mistaken by anyone acquainted with the ancient carved stonework of Ireland, and their prototypes in the illuminated manuscripts of a still earlier period.

Such was the great monastery of St. James. We have been able to give but a brief sketch of its rise, its decline, and its extinction. Something must still be heard of it, however, as we follow the history of its numerous branches.


Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Volume 15 (1894), 1015-1020.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Irish Saints Names- February

The February selection of Irish saints' names as suggestions for naming children, published in the Australian press in 1914. We find six female saints as well as two abbots of Iona among them:

Irish Saints' Names.
There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will he spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, not but more could be given. Year of death as below.

1. Brigid (Brigid), f., at Kildare, 523.
2. Finnech (Finnia), f., Killinchy, Down.
3. Caoilfionn (Kealin), f.
4. Lomman (Loman), m., at Lough Gill.
5. Liadnan (Lianan), m., Fore.
6. Lalloc (Laloca), f., Tirerril, Sligo. 
7. Tressan (Tressan), m., Avenay, France, 7th century.
8. Colman (Colman), m., Clonard, 653.
9. Cronon (Cronon), m., Waterford.
10. Derluge (Derlua), f.
11. Gobnat (Gobnat), f., Ballyvourney.
12. Siadal (Shiel), m., Dublin, 785.
13. Modomnoc (Downog), m., Tibroughney, Kilkenny, 6th century.
14. Mancan (Manachan), m., Mohill. 7th century.
15. Bearac (Berach), m., Cloncraft, Roscommon, 7th century. 
16. Roibne (Revny), m.
17. Oissen (Oisian), m., Trim. 686.
18. Molibba (Moliba), m., Annahill, also on 26th December.
19. Baitin (Baethen), m., Tibohine, 592. 
20. Colcu (Colga), m., Kilcolgan, 794
21. Fionutan (Finutan), m., Clonfert.
22. Maelbrigde (Melbride), m., abbot of Iona, 927.
23. Finnen (Finnan), m., Clonard.
24. Cuimine (Cummian), m., abbot of Iona, 669.
25. Croine (Cronia), f., Tallaght.
26. Aodlug (Aelu), Clonmacnoise, 651.
27. Comgan (Comgan), m., Killashin, 570. 
 Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 6 February 1914, page 6

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2020. All rights reserved.