Saturday, 25 October 2014

Saint Laisren of Ard-mac-Nasca, October 25

October 25 is the feast of a saint from my own part of the world - Laisren of Ard-mac-Nasca, on the shore of Lough Laoigh. Lough Laoigh, the 'lake of the calf', is the ancient name of Belfast Lough and Ard Mac Nasca, 'the height of the son of Nasca' is the village of Holywood, County Down. A nineteenth-century parish priest of Holywood, Father James O'Laverty, wrote a five-volume history of the northern diocese of Down and Connor, and naturally he has much to tell us of his own patron:

The ruined church of Holywood occupies the site of a very early ecclesiastical structure, which was built by, or at least presided over by St. Laisren, whose festival was kept on the 25th of October. The Felire of Aengus the Culdee, who died A.D. 819, treating of the saints whose festivals occur on that day, says :—" Laisren the Great, son of Nasca, i.e., Laisren, son of Nasca of Ard-mac-nasca, on the shore of Lough Laig, in Ultonia." Of St. Laisren little is known; Colgan supposes that he is the St. Laisren, son of Nasca, who with his brothers, St. Gobban and St. Graphan, were placed in a monastery, which St. Carthagh, of Lismore, erected in Inispict, now called Spike Island, Co. Cork. St. Carthagh studied under St, Comgall in Bangor; and it is likely, that the sons of Nasca, having formed his acquaintance in Bangor, accompanied him on his return to Munster. They studied under his spiritual care in the great monastery which he erected in Rathyne, Co. Westmeath; and they afterwards formed three of the twelve monks, whom he placed in the monastery erected by him on Spike Island about the year 620. Gobban seems to have been bishop of that monastery, and his festival was observed there on the 17th of March, We cannot ascertain the date of St. Laisren's return to Ulster, or of his taking charge of the monastery of Holywood, but we find him mentioned as one of the Irish ecclesiastics, to whom the Roman clergy addressed a letter in the year 642. The primate and the chief clergy of the North of Ireland, addressed to Pope Severinus, in the year 640, a letter, in which they besought his decision regarding the proper mode of calculating Easter, about which there was then a great controversy raging throughout this part of Ireland.The Pope died before their letter reached Rome, but it was answered by the Roman clergy in a letter, which is preserved in Venerable Bede's History of the Anglo-Saxon. Church. The reply of the Roman clergy makes known to us the names of those who solicited the decision of Rome. It is addressed—" To the most beloved and holy Thomian, Columban, Cronan, Dimma, and Baithan, bishops ; to Cronan, Ernian, Laistran, Scallan, and Segienus, priests; to Saran, and other Irish doctors and abbots." Thomian was primate, he died in 660. Columban was bishop of Clonard, he died in 652. Cronan was bishop of Nendrum or Mahee Island, in Strangford Lough, and in all probability was bishop of the diocese of Down, he died in 642. Dimma was bishop of Connor, he died in 658. Cronan was abbot of Moville, near Newtownards, he died 650. Ernian was abbot of Torey Island, he flourished about 650, Laistran is intended for Laiseran of Ardmacnasca, or Holywood, the mistake is caused by the similarity of the letters T and E in ancient manuscripts. Scallan was abbot of Bangor, he died in 662. Segienus was abbot of lona from 623 to 652. Saran died in 661...

...The ancient gloss on the text of Aengus — Laisren, son of Nasca, of Ard-mac-Rasca, on the banks of Lough Laigh, in Ultonia— describes very accurately the site of the ancient church of Holywood, the ruins of which stand in the vicinity of the large funereal mound, which is now in the pleasure grounds of Mr. Read, of Holywood. That mound was certainly the Ard - mac - Nasca—the height, or mound of the son of Nasca—and received its name from St. Laiseran, the son of Nasca. Our readers will readily understand that the sepulchral mound was named the Mound (Ard) of the son of Nasca, merely because it stood in the grounds adjacent to his church. It belongs, however, to a period long antecedent to the time of St. Laiseran, and was erected to cover the remains of some mighty chief, whose tomb, being the recognised place for the religious and deliberative assemblies of the neighbourhood, became the most important place in the district; and some spot adjacent would consequently be selected as site of the Christian church. It is on this account that we find churches near the great sepulchral mounds of Dundonald, Ballyrichard, Donaghadee, Holywood, Ballymaghan, the Knock, and every other great sepulchral mound in the diocese of Down.

The church of Holywood stood, a few perches to the north of the mound, on the banks of Lough Laoigh exactly as described in the ancient gloss. We have no account of any of the successors of St. Laiseran, but the church must have been held in high estimation for its sanctity, since the adjoining townland, which was called Ballyderry (the town of the wood), was named as early as the period of the English Invasion,—Sanctus-Boscus or Holy Wood,—from its proximity to the church.

Rev. James O'Laverty, An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. II, (Dublin, 1880), 190-193.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Saint Colman, October 24

I have often alluded on this blog to the problem of trying to disentangle Ireland's homonymous saints.  I must admit that my heart sinks when I see the name Colman in particular on the calendars. I therefore had to give a wry smile when reading the entry for this day in the Martyrology of Donegal:

24. C. NONO KAL. NOVEMBRIS. 24.

COLMAN.

Another COLMAN.

Yes, indeed, another Colman, I'm afraid I can tell you nothing more about either. The Martyrology of Tallaght records a Colmani meic Fuidicain at this date so it looks as if one of this pair had a patronymic attached to his name. Let's leave the last word to the Martyrology of Gorman:

24. C

two Colmans reckon ye with them, the gentle ones, I will praise them.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Saint Dalbach of Cúil Collainge, October 23

October 23 is the feastday of a County Cork saint associated with the asceticism of the Céile-Dé movement, Dalbach of Cúil Collainge. This saint features in a poem, the Oentú Maelruain, listing the particular disciples of the Céile-Dé leader Maelruain of Tallaght. The locality, Cúil Collainge, is identified by Father Peter O'Dwyer in his commentary on the poem as being close to Castlelyons, County Cork. Father O'Dwyer also estimates that Saint Dalbach would have reposed around the year 800. Below is the entry for the saint's feast from The Martyrology of Donegal plus the notes which state that Cúil Collainge was founded by Saint Abban:

23. B. DECIMO KAL. NOVEMBRIS. 23.

DALBHACH, of Cuil Collainge. He was of the race of Oilioll Flannbeg, son of Fiacha Muilleathan, son of Eoghan Mór, son of Oilioll Olum. Cuimin, of Coindeire, states, in the poem which begins, "Patrick of the fort of Macha loves," that this saint was a great performer of penance, and that he never touched his hand to his side as long as he lived. Thus he says :

"The fair Dalbhach, of Cúil, loves
To practise intense penance;
He never touched his hand to his side
As long as he retained his soul."

Abán was he who blessed at Cúil Collainge first. Life of Abán, chap. 11.

Who blessed. That is, who in founding a church gave his blessing to the place. The Life of S. Abban, as published by Colgan, says, at chap. 20, "Deinde sanctus Dei venit ad terram Huath Liathain, et ibi cellam, quae dicitur Ceallcruimthir, prope civitatem Culcollingi, vel Cillculen, aedificavit : et alios ex discipulis suis ibi dimisit." Actt. SS. p. 615 b.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Saint Donatus of Fiesole, October 22

22 October is the feastday of Saint Donatus of Fiesole, an Irishman who, accompanied by his faithful companion Andrew, set off on a pilgrimage to Rome and ended up being chosen as a bishop. He is a wonderfully attractive character, a man of deep holiness yet one who who was also a significant figure at the very highest levels of both church and state. Neither were his talents restricted to diocesan administration, for Donatus had a reputation as a scholar too. I find him especially interesting as a biographer of Saint Brigid of Kildare and as a promoter of her cultus in Italy. More about this can be found at my other site here. Here we will look at the life of our scholarly bishop as told by Margaret Stokes in her book 'Six Months in the Apennines or A Pilgrimage in Search of Vestiges of the Irish Saints in Italy':

DONATUS, BISHOP OF FIESOLE.
Oct. 22, A.D. 824-874.

THE name of Donatus of Scotia stands high in ecclesiastical dignity as that of one among the early prelates who worthily occupied the chair of Fiesole, and Monsignore Francesco da Cattani da Diacceto, Florentine gentleman and Bishop of Fiesole, has thus recorded his merits : —

" He whose duty it is to guide the young in the way of good works and good actions may well follow the holy footsteps of that most perfect youth Donatus. In him wisdom and learning grew with increase of years, and his memory was stored with all things most worthy. In the government of the flock committed to him, he was diligent as Moses, faithful as Abraham, chaste as Joseph, just as Phineas, courageous in battle as David, and following our Saviour Christ in love and charity.

" He was born in the kingdom of Scotia, of noble parents, sprung from a long line of ancestors, all true to that faith which shone forth in Donatus from his earliest years. To this he added learning, so that he surpassed all his contemporaries, not less in intellect than in devotion, while he shunned the company of wicked men and such as loved vain things, even as the psalmist saith, 'I have hated the congregation of evil-doers, and will not sit with the wicked'.

“As the boy grew in wisdom and learning, the memory of his sayings was preserved, even as the pure Virgin preserved the sacred utterances of her Son, as it is written, 'His mother kept all these sayings in her heart'. He went forth teaching and directing all who heard his words, thus shedding abroad the light of that knowledge which had been vouchsafed to him, and it was said of him, 'Yea, he loved the people ; all the saints are in his hand ; and they sat down at his feet ; everyone shall receive his words.""

The subject of this eulogy was born about the year 774 in Ireland, during the reign of Aedh Ornidhe. Many incidental circumstances have given rise to the belief that he was educated at the school of Iniscaltra — Holy Island on Lough Derg. A long metrical life of St. Brigid of Kildare was found in an ancient manuscript in the library of Monte Cassino. The prologue to this poem was written by Donatus of Fiesole, and the poem itself is the work of the writer Caolan, who calls himself a monk of Iniscaltra. There are also certain allusions to Iniscaltra in the body of the poem itself, which suggest that the writer was familiar with this place. Thus the poet speaks of the wide water of the river Shannon, in which is Keltra with its company of wise men living under the rule of Benedict...

It happened at the time when Donatus was a teacher in Ireland, that there lived in the same country a noble virgin named Brigid, and her brother Andrew, a comely and gallant youth. Andrew was the elder of the two, and her constant guide and counsellor. It was their custom from earliest childhood, when they walked out together on their way to school, as they passed the church door, to pause and enter reverently and pray, which service they also repeated at every hour that they could save from sleep. Nor were there any poor or miserable that did not leave the house of Andrew comforted, so deeply was love to the unhappy rooted in his heart ; his parents meanwhile were careful that he should be taught the art of riding, as befitted his high rank. As time passed on, a rumour reached the ear of brother and sister that a great teacher, named Donatus, had arrived from many miles distant, who could still further instruct them in divine philosophy, and Donatus having already heard of the great promise of this youth Andrew, took him to his school, and soon came to love him as a son. The kindly greeting with which he was received caused Andrew more satisfaction to his heart than he could express, and an old Latin writer has said of these two holy men : "The greatest happiness of Donatus was theinstruction of Andrew ; the greatest enjoyment of Andrew was in obedience to Donatus."

One day, as they were both standing at the gate outside the city (cashel) walls, discoursing, as was their wont, upon things human and divine, Donatus revealed to his disciple that he had long desired to journey into distant lands, to visit all the holy places throughout Italy, and then to seek a spot where none would know him, so that, far removed from family and friends, he would be free to give up his life to the service of God, desiring to imitate Heraclitus, who ceased not to mourn over human suffering.

Andrew, unable to part from his beloved master, prayed that he might go with him on this journey, and thus these two servants of God determined to depart. So fixed on Heaven were their hearts, that they showed no sorrow in parting, and paid no heed to the opposition of their people.

Great was the grief of Brigid when she learned their project, yet not even her tears could turn them from their course. The unhappy sister said, " Brother dear, why dost thou leave me? When shall we see one another again ? " They clung to one another in a close embrace, and their hot tears showed the tender love that bound them. At last, Andrew with much gentleness put his sister from him. "Go in peace," she said, and pray to God for thy sister, abandoned here in sorrow."

Then the two pilgrims, followed by their friends and families, went down the island to the sea-coast, where they embarked upon a ship whose sails soon swelled in the wind, and bore them to a foreign shore. They had scant money or provision for their journey, since they meant to beg their way from place to place, and having landed, they set off on foot with staff and bag, contented and humble in spirit. They rested at the monasteries where the relics of the saints were kept and honoured, and they often turned aside to visit certain hermitages in almost inaccessible places, where they might hold converse with holy anchorites who had resigned the world. As throughout their pilgrimage they greatly desired to visit every possible place where a holy sanctuary was to be found, in their careful search for such they came upon the beautiful mountain of Fiesole, where were the shrines of numberless martyrs and many stations of the cross.

In those days the people of Fiesole, having been deprived of a pastor, were in difficulty about the election of a new one, because of the civil discords that had sprung up after the recent devastations of the Northmen. The nobles and the people were at variance, and the state was passing through a crisis of great difficulty and danger. Then the good men of the city prayed fervently to God to the end that he might save their tottering state from civil war and mercifully provide them with a good pastor. Having thus prayed with all their might, the righteous petition of this multitude reached the ear of Him who sleepeth not, and He sent them aid in the following manner, as is related by the old historian of Donatus : —

"It was while the dismayed city of Fiesole was in this condition that the men of God, Donatus and Andrew, had turned thither in their wanderings through Tuscany, and, like other travellers, wearied with the great height they had climbed, and tired with their journey, they entered the hospice as the night closed in. Now it happened that at the moment of their arrival the abbey of Fiesole was filled with a great crowd of people in deep distress because they had been deprived of a pastor's care. With one voice they implored that He who brought Israel up out of Egypt might protect them with His right hand, and might deign to preserve their church by some angelic visitation. While the people thus prayed aloud, Christ worked a new miracle for them, and brought Donatus and his friend Andrew to the church door.

"As they ascended the steep hill from the river's side, the bells of the city on the instant rang forth, and the lamps burst miraculously into light of themselves. The people of Fiesole, amazed at this miracle, ran hither and thither through the city in all directions and in great confusion, asking in terror what might this portent mean. Impelled by their trust in God, they hurried down the hill to the abbey ;' men, women, and children of all ages, knelt there in tremblings and sobs and tears, and piously raising their hands to heaven, made prayer to God that He would deign to show them the meaning of this miracle. Suddenly a silence fell upon the multitude, and a voice proclaimed, 'Receive the stranger who approaches, Donatus of Scotia ; take him for your shepherd. When the voice of the Lord had ceased, the people, not knowing what to do, remained in prayer. Then behold the men of God, Donatus and Andrew, having just entered the city, went to the abbey where the congregation were at prayer, and believing it to be a feast day, marvelled to see the dismayed people praying in alarm and suspense. Advancing slowly, they stood in silence awaiting the result.

"Then a certain poor man standing by, and happening to see the strangers, inquired of them whence they came and whither they were bound, and by what name they were called. Donatus, with his usual simplicity, answered humbly, 'We are both men of Scotia. He is named Andrew, I Donatus. We came on pilgrimage to Rome.' And the poor man, remembering the divine voice he had just heard, straightway cried aloud, 'Citizens, the man is here of whom the Lord has spoken.' Then, clasping Donatus in his arms, he led him up the steps, the people crowded around, and cried with one voice,Eia Donatus Pater Deodatus ! (Hail ! Donatus, O Father given of God!) Ascend the bishop's chair, that you may lead us to the stars, that with you for our shepherd we may reach to the pastures of Heaven, and that through your intercession we may find salvation.' Then the gentle Donatus, trembling, and on the very verge of tears, spake thus from his pure heart : —

'Spare ye me,
O brothers ! vain is your offering to me ;
You would learn to deplore my sins.
You who should not trust me to teach the people.'

When he had said these words, the multitude made answer : —

'As when the eastern sun doth visit us on high.
So hath Christ led him here out of the west ;
Here then let us meet this holy man ;
Here, in Fiesole, let us elect him.
For behold, Donatus is declared worthy
By Christ, Who is our Lord.
Let him then be led to the throne,
For Donatus is given us for a father.
If he still strives to resist,
Yet must he still be elected.'

Then Donatus tremblingly said, Men and brethren, why do ye vainly strive to turn from his vows the desire of one who hastens on his journey. Why compel one so unworthy to become your pastor? A stranger mean and abject, half barbarous, and almost ignorant of your manners. Let him toil on that journey on which he started. By these and like words, and with much modesty, he strove to avoid the burden, but as he resisted, so much the more vehemently did the multitude insist upon their choice. At length his resistance was overborne by the people, and he was enthroned in the chair of Fiesole."

After his consecration, writes the old biographer, " Donatus appeared so apt and devoted that it seemed as if he had always filled that office to which he had been lately appointed. For he was liberal in almsgiving, sedulous in watching, devout in prayer, excellent in doctrine, ready in speech, holy in life ; his countenance betrayed the serenity of his spirit, and the gentleness of his speech revealed the tenderness of his heart. He would weep bitter tears if any report were brought to him of sin committed by those under his rule, so that he could say with the prophet, My tears have been my meat day and night. In his aspect he was terrible to sinners, mild to penitents, feared in his severity, and revered in his mildness. Happy Scotia, which brought forth such a one ; let Hibernia rejoice, which sent forth such a teacher ; let Fiesole and the whole province of Tuscany be glad."

Public Life of Donatus.

Circa 840.

The first public event recorded in the life of Donatus, after he was raised to the episcopal chair, is that of his presence at the coronation of Louis II in Rome... Donatus returned to Fiesole after this exciting time in Rome, and seems to have continued to rule his diocese there in quiet for the next sixteen years, while Pope Sergius II. was succeeded by Leo IV. (847-855), who did much for the advancement of the arts, adding adornments of precious stones to the cross given by Charles the Emperor to the Basilica Constantiniana, finishing the decorations and mosaics of the churches of St. Martin and St. Silvester, and building the church of the Quattro Coronati in Rome. Also, having defeated in battle the Saracens who besieged Rome, he employed the prisoners in re-edifying those churches which the Saracens had heretofore ruined and burnt, and in building the wall about the Vatican, which from his own name he called Urbs Leonina. Then after the three years' pontificate of his successor, Benedict III., we come to Nicholas I., during whose reign as Pope, Donatus again visited Rome, when he was present at a Lateran Council that sat in the year 861 against John, Archbishop of Ravenna...

The Death and Burial of Donatus.

It remains to tell in what manner the saint laid aside the burden of the flesh and reached the green pastures, for all the days of his life he had given no rest to his soul, but was occupied with prayer or study, or the business of the church, or care for the widow and the orphan. But at last, when God willed that his labour should end, he was seized with a fatal illness. Feeling his end approaching, he called the brethren together ; having received the sacrament, he admonished them that they should live as holy and just men, and with lifted hands he poured forth prayers and vows to the Lord, and commended them to God and to the service of His word. Scarcely was his prayer ended, when behold ! a great multitude of the people came around him weeping and saying, "Oh, holy minister of God, have pity on our grief! Holy Father, have mercy upon us! hearken to the words of those who call upon Thee! Give warmth back to those, limbs that are now grown cold !"

Hearing these words, Donatus blessed the whole multitude with the benediction of the saints, and moved by their sorrow he poured forth this prayer in the presence of the crowd : —

" O Christ, the virtue and splendour of God, the wisdom of the Father,
Begotten without time and before all ages ;
Who, being born of a Virgin, didst take our form,
Nourished and suckled at the breast of a mother ;
Who dost cleanse our sins in holy baptism,
So that a new offspring descends from heaven ;'
Who destroyed the noxious power of the forbidden fruit,
Who healed our wounds with His blood,
Who by dying gave us life, and redeemed us from death.
And who when buried, changed the law of the grave,
By rising up from death and destroying its bitterness ;
Who formerly destroyed Tartarus, and the realms of gloomy Pluto ;
Who overcame the floods of greedy Acheron ;
Who hurled down the wicked enemy into the pit.
He arose, and led the captive captive to the right hand of the Father,
And thousand, thousand virtues praise His victor)'.
Thou also who hast deigned to suffer for our sins.
Thou who hast given the kingdom of heaven to the wretched.
Grant me power to climb the lofty stair of Paradise,
Open the gates of Life to me who duly knock,
Let no proud or greedy enemy overtake me.
Let no strange hand touch me or snatch away my prize ;
But do Thou, O Christ, receive Thy humble servant.
That I, though trembling, may deserve to see those glorious guests,
That I may behold the company of saints, rejoicing with Thee,
Thou who rulest with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages."

Having uttered these words, Donatus signed his brethren and his spiritual children with the cross, and the old man was gathered to the fathers, and full of days went on his way to heaven, and his disciples laid him in a stone coffin in the same place where the other holy bishops were laid, and carved upon his tomb the epitaph that Donatus himself had written : —

"Here I, Donatus, sprung from Scotish blood,
Alone in this tomb, among the worms and dust dissolve.
For many years I served the kings of Italy,
Lothair the Great and Louis the Good.'
For more than eight lustrums and seven years
I was ruler in the city of Fiesole;
I dictated exercises in grammar to my pupils,
Metrical schemes, and the lives of the blessed saints.
You traveller, whoever you are, for Christ's sake
Be not unwilling to behold my tomb.
And pray to God, who rules in highest heaven,
That He may grant to me His blessed kingdom."

The old biographer of Donatus, at the conclusion of his history, adds these lines : —
" Let us therefore all unite and say.
Oh, saint of God and beloved confessor.
Father and pontiff.
Educator and nourisher, ruler and shepherd.
Help with thy prayers the destitute and fallen.
Have pity on the widow and the captive.
Help the orphan and the weak.
Help those who live to-day, and those who will come after,
Give aid to those who live and those who die ;
Refuse not, we beseech thee, to listen to our prayers,
Who though imprisoned in the bonds of iniquity,
Yet so far as their ignoble nature may permit.
Make offering of these things to their superiors.
Them we implore with all our might
To amend that which is faulty, and to be indulgent to
All that which is worthless, and to pity our presumption,
And since we cannot of ourselves mount to the pastures of Paradise,
Help us to pray that so we may entreat the aid of Jesus Christ,
To whom, with the Holy Trinity, are all things, world without end."

TOMB OF S. DONATUS,

According to the Roman martyrology the feast of S. Donatus, Bishop and Confessor, was annually kept at Fiesole, in the cathedral of which town he was buried. Also, in the British martyrologics, Donatus Scotus is honoured as the chief patron of Fiesole, and his feast was celebrated on the 22nd October, the day of his death. His feast is now celebrated throughout the whole of Ireland on the same day, in accordance with a decree of Benedict XIV., quoted by Thomas de Burgh, issued on the 1st July, 1747.

I have learned that the body of Donatus is no longer buried in the church here called the Badia, or abbey. His bones are now laid in the cathedral of Fiesole, where his relics were removed along with those of SS. Romolus and Alexander, and buried in the chapel of the sacrament.

It appears that, on the occasion of a great festa in honour of the final overthrow of Napoleon, held on the 14th, and 16th days of August, 1814, the vicar, wishing to give the thanksgiving service due impressiveness, proposed to the chapter that not only should they expose to the gaze of the faithful the crucifix to be brought from the neighbouring oratory of Fonte Lucente, but also all the remarkable relics in the old abbey were to be taken from their places and laid upon the altar in the sight of the congregation.' The bones of the patron of the church, who lived A.D. 60, S. Romolo, were then all taken, excepting his head, and laid in a marble tomb beneath the altar. This was opened, and the relics were removed for three days to a gilded coffer, along with the bones of S. Alessandro, S. Donato, and S, Andrea Corsini. At the end of the ceremony the holy relics were restored to their places, especially those of S. Romolo, which were carefully laid back again in the tomb beneath the altar. In 1827-28, works of restoration were carried on, and repairs were made in the choir and crypt ; again, in 1838, a government grant of 500 scudi toscani enabled them to carry on repairs and restorations. It was during the episcopate of Bishop Ranieri Mancini, A.D. 1787-1814, that the altar of S. Donato was erected in the cathedral. The head of the saint is enshrined in a silver bust in the church of S. Domenico (see fig. 86).

" It appears," writes P. Bargilli (p. 128), "that in 1795 Bishop Mancini sought permission to remove the remains of the body of S. Donatus from the abbey of Fiesole, where it had been originally buried. After some delay he succeeded, and wishing to revive the devotion of the people to their holy bishop, he resolved to make a solemn ceremony of the translation, and to have a public festival in honour of the Virgin Brigid. But the disturbed state of the country at the time so distracted the minds of the people of Tuscany, that he had to effect the translation of the relics of Donato in the most private possible manner. Therefore, in the evening of the 5th May, 1810, the bishop and a few of his canons went to the old abbey and took the relics out of the tomb. They laid them in a wooden coffin, and secretly transported them to Fiesole, hoping that in better days they might be able to give them the due honour then forbidden by the unhappy circumstances of the time. Pending the erection of the altar within the cathedral, the relics were consigned to the guardianship of the Curato Romolo Pelagi, to be kept in his private oratory. The design for the altar was finished and the materials were ready, when a letter arrived from Paris condemning the good bishop to exile.

" The canons, moved by inexpressible grief, met to consult together in this crisis. They wrote an affectionate letter of condolence to their prelate, and added prayers to their ritual for the return of their bishop to his diocese, and the restoration of peace to their country.

"Bishop Mancini had been Napoleon's constant and avowed opponent, condemning his actions as unjust and unrighteous; therefore it was in vain that the noblest citizens of Florence united with the clergy of Fiesole to entreat that this unjust sentence might be revoked. The good bishop died in exile on the l0th February, 1814, and when his will was opened, it was found to contain an injunction that the altar for the relics of S. Donatus should be built as soon as possible. The order was carried out by his relation, Lancilotto Mancini, when he had obtained the new bishop's consent. It was finished in June, 1817, and the coffin was prepared to receive the sacred bones, which were carried to it in solemn procession upon St. Peter's day. The sorrow for the death of their beloved bishop was soon alleviated by the news of the fall of the dreaded conqueror, who had overrun Italy and devastated the Church. The cathedral resounded with songs of thanksgiving."

In all this history of the translation of the bones of S. Donatus there is no mention made of the ancient sarcophagus, with the Latin epitaph written by the saint himself, and carved by his disciples on his tomb. It would be most interesting to discover at what time this monument disappeared.

The Bishop of Fiesole, Benozzo Federighi, in 1440 ordered a picture to be presented to the cathedral, representing Our Lady between St. Peter and St. Paul, S. Donato and S. Alessandro. It is not certain who the painter of this picture was, but this much is certain, that Federighi ordered the picture to be executed; his arms may be seen on a shield at the side of the step, which is divided into compartments, each illustrating scenes in the life of the saint painted above.

Margaret Stokes, Six Months in the Apennines or A Pilgrimage in Search of Vestiges of the Irish Saints in Italy (London and New York, 1892), 227-276.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Saint Siollan of Moville, October 21


In the calendar appended to his Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore, Bishop William Reeves notes on October 21:

' S. SIOLLAN, abbot of Magh Bile'.

The Martyrology of Gorman commemorates him as:

'Sillán, a prince who was not evil and cruel'

and the notes add:

'Sillán the Master, i.e. great-grandson of Garb, abbot of Mag bile.'

This latter information is also found in the entry for October 21 in the Martyrology of Donegal which records:

' SIOLLAN, the Master, Mac Ua Gairbh, abbot of Magh-bile.'

Saint Siollan is the second saint of the monastery of Moville to be commemorated this month, as another of its abbots, Sinell, has his feastday on October 1. Here's a reminder of the history of this foundation from Archbishop Healy:

Moville, or Movilla, is at present the name of a townland less than a mile to the north-east of Newrtownards, at the head of Strangford Lough, in the county Down. This district was in ancient times famous for its great religious establishments. Bangor, to which we shall refer presently, is not quite five miles due north of Moville...Further south, but on the western shore of the same Lough, anciently called Lough Cuan, were the Abbey of Inch, the famous Church of Saul, in which St. Patrick died, and the Church of Downpatrick, in which he was buried with SS. Brigid and Columcille. And in one of the islands in the same Strangford Lough, now called Island Mahee, quite close to the western shore, was that ancient monastery and school of Noendrum, of which we have already spoken. Religious men from the beginning loved to build their houses and churches in view of this beautiful sheet of water, with its myriad islands and fertile shores, bounded in the distance by swelling uplands, that lend a charming variety to this rich and populous and highly cultivated county.

...Finnian is said to have returned to Ireland and founded his school at Moville about the year a. d. 540, that is some twenty years after his namesake of Clonard had opened his own great school on the banks of the Boyne. The name Maghbile means the plain of the old tree, probably referring to some venerable oak reverenced by the Druids before the advent of St. Patrick. At present there is nothing of the ancient abbey-school except a few venerable yews to mark the city of the dead, and an old ruined church on the line of the high road from Newtownards to Donaghadee. This old church, which was one hundred and seven feet in length, in all probability did not date back to the original foundation of the place, although it undoubtedly stands on the site of St. Finnian's original church. The spot was aptly chosen, sheltered by an amphitheatre of hills from the winds of the north and east, and commanding far away to the south a noble prospect of Lough Cuan's verdant islets and glancing waters.

St. Finnian died in A.D. 589, according to the Annals of Ulster, at a very great age.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Saint Fintan Moeldubh, October 20

October 20 is the feastday of a Saint Fintan or 'Fintan Moeldubh', who may have been especially venerated as a patron of Ossory, a kingdom and diocese of south-central Ireland. Confusion arises, as we shall see, because some of the Irish calendars list 'Fintan Moeldubh' as a single individual, while others suggest that there is both a Fintan and a Moeldubh commemorated on this day as two separate individuals. Saint Fintan Moeldubh is traditionally held to have been the second abbot of the monastic school of Clonenagh. The evidence, and the difficulties it presents, has been examined by a 19th-century writer on the history of the Diocese of Ossory, Father Edward Carrigan:
St Fintan of Durrow, Co Laois

DURROW

In the Annals of the Four Masters, Durrow is referred to as Daurmhagh Ua nDuach; and, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as Dermhagh Ua nDuach. Both forms of the name signify the same thing, viz., the Oak Plain in [the territory of] Ui Duach.

St. Fintan was formerly the Patron of Durrow. His feast was celebrated here, according to Bishop Phelan's List, on the 16th Nov. It is impossible, however, to identify the Saint with any degree of certainty. The likelihood is, that he is identical with a St. Fintan, by some, surnamed Moeldubh. St. Fintan Moeldubh was the second Abbot of Clonenagh, having been appointed to that office by the founder of the monastery himself, St. Fintan macGaibhrene ui Echach, as he lay on his death-bed:

"When, therefore, his [i.e. St. Fintan macGaibhrene's] death was near at hand, knowing the day of his departure, he called his people around him, and, with the permission and blessing of the brethren and the saints who had come to visit him, their holy father, he himself appointed in his seat after him, a man noble by race and morals, and named by the same name, i.e. Fintan Moeldubh."

In 599 or 600. St. Fintan Moeldubh administered the last rites of the Church to St. Canice, when dying, at Aghaboe. At this time he may have been in charge of the monastery of Durrow for he cannot have succeeded to the abbacy of Clonenagh till some years later, if it be true, as recorded in the Three Fragments of Annals, that St. Fintan macGaibhrene ui Echach did not die till 610. St. Fintan Moeldubh died, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, in 626.

The difficulty of a satisfactory identification of the Patron of Durrow is rather increased than otherwise by our Irish Martyrologies, as will appear from the following:

(a) The text of the Calendar of Aengus, at Oct. 20th, has the quatrain:

"Fintan Moeldubh-great that shout!-
A fair sun at that mountain
Of those splendid Eoganacht."

On this passage, Aengus's scholiast, in the Leabhar Breac, comments as follows:

"Fintan Moeldubh, i.e. Fintan Moeldubh in Ui Duach in Ossory, and of the Eoganacht Chaisil is he, and at Dermag Hua nDuach in the north of Ossory he is. Or, Fintan and Maeldubh are two saints, and in Cluain Immorroiss in Offaly is Maeldubh, and, quod verius [est], he was also brother of St. Comhghan of Glenn Uissen.

"Now as to Maeldubh, some say that he was of the Eoganacht Chaisil. However, according to the truth of the history of the men of Ireland, he is of the seed of Brian, son of Echaid Muidmedon. ……………Maeldub, son of Amalgaid, son of Fothad, son of Conall glun, son of Brian, son of Echaid Muidmedon.
"And it is that Maeldub that took Fechin of Fore into fosterage with him, and sent him to learning."

(b) The Martyrology of Donegal, at the same day (Oct. 20), commemorates Fintan and Maeldubh, as two distinct saints, thus:

"Maeldubh, son of Amhalgaidh, of Cluain-Immorrois in Ui Failghe; or of Dermagh in Ui Duach in the north of Ossory. He was of the race of Brian, son of Eochaidh Muighmedhoin.
"Fionntain, of Derrnagh in Ui Duach."

(c) Similarly, at the same day, the Martyrology of Tallaght has the two separate entries:
"Fintani.
Maelduibh."

(d) Again, on the same day, the Calendar of Cashel has:

"St. Fintan Maeldubh of the territory of Eoghanacht Cassil, and the instructor of St. Fechin: that he is also sprung from the same territory of Munster, Marianus O'Gorman and Aengus Increased, testify at the cited day."

These extracts help to establish one point, at least, and that is, that the feast-day of the St. Fintan, venerated as patron at Durrow, was not the 16th Nov., as Bishop Phelan's List states, but the 20th of October.

The traditions of Durrow throw no light on St. Fintan's history; neither do they preserve the memory of his festival day. His holy well, called "Fintan's Well," or rather " Fantan's Well," is within Lord Ashbrook's demesne, at the distance of about 100 yards from Durrow bridge. At its head, firmly embedded in the earth, is the rough limestone pedestal of a small cross; the socket is 5 in. long, and about the same in width and depth. The cross itself has been long missing. The small inch lying between the holy well and the river Erkina is called [St.] "Fantan's Island."

THE MONASTERY OF DURROW - The foundations of what was traditionally known as "Durrow Monastery," remained till 1835, about 60 yards north-west of the churchyard of Durrow, between the base of the "Castle Hill" and the small stone bridge crossing the Erkina at this point. The monastery was founded by St. Fintan; but nothing further appears to be known about it. If it survived the middle of the 12th century, it was probably destroyed soon after, in 1156 or 1157, when the army of Muircheartach O'Lochlainn, King of Ulster, burned Daurmhagh Ua nDuach and other monastic centres in its neigbourhood.
Rev. E. Carrigan "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory" Vol. 2 (1905)

Tradition also links Saint Fintan Moeldubh with the 'Apostle of Connemara', Saint Fechin of Fore. A biographer of Saint Fechin records this incident following the repose of Saint Fintan:
Saint Fintan Maeldubh, the second abbot of the famous monastery of Clonenagh, was a warm friend and admirer of Fechin, and seems to have wished his monks to take Fechin as their superior. When Fintan died in 626, Fechin went to Clonenagh, where the monks gave him Fintan's staff and chrism-vessel and vestments, willed probably to Fechin by his dear friend, but the monks declined to have a stranger over them, even though the stranger were a Saint Fechin.

Some think that it was on this occasion that Fechin parted from Clonenagh without giving the monks his blessing. What it really was which gave him offence is not known. Conscience however reproached him afterwards for giving way to anger, and, as the legend tells us, he was miraculously transported back to the monastery of Clonenagh where he gave a cordial blessing to all the religious.
Rev. J.B. Coyle, The Life of Saint Fechin of Fore - The Apostle of Connemara (Dublin, 1915), 47.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Saint Cronan of Tomgraney, October 19

October 19 is the commemoration of a County Clare saint, Cronan of Tomgraney. The Martyrology of Donegal records:
19. E. QUARTO DECIMO KAL. OCTOBRIS. 19. 
CRONAN, of Tuaim Greine.
The website of the Clare County Library has a page which explains the origins of the place name associated with our saint and which mentions him as the founder of its monastery. Sadly by the nineteenth century, the Ordnance Survey scholar, John O'Donovan, was dismayed to find that little local knowledge of the saint had survived, not even the memory of when his feast day was commemorated. Another nineteenth-century source, the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literaturealluded to some of the difficulties in disentangling the founder of Tomgraney from others of the same name:
Cronan (Croman, or Chronan) is a very frequent name in Irish hagiologies, and has several synonyms, as Cuaran, Mochuaroc, and frequently Mochua, Cron and Cua having in Irish the same meaning.
13. Of Tuaim-greine (now Tomgraney, in the barony of Upper Tulla, County Clare), commemorated October 19. This saint appears twice in the Mart. Doneg., first in the original hand at October 19; and next in the second hand, on the authority of Mar. O'Gorman, at November 1. Among the saints of the family of St. Colman of Kilmacduach (Feb. 3), or house of the Hy-Fiachrach, Colgan gives "St. Cronan, son of Aengus, son of Corbmac, etc., February 20 or October 19;" and Mart. Doneg. at February 20 also mentions that there is a Cronan with this pedigree (Todd and Reeves, Mart. Doneg. pages 55, 279,293; Colgan, Acta Sanctorum, page 248, c. 2).
James Strong and John McClintock, eds., The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Haper and Brothers; NY; 1880). [extract from online edition here.]

Modern scholar, Pádraig Ó Riain in his dictionary entry for the saint explores the evidence from literary sources and place names and confirms the difficulties of the earlier hagiologists in establishing a single identity and feast day for this saint.