seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of St. Ruadhán of Lorrha

St. Ruadhán mac Fergusa Birn, also known as Rowan and Rodan, Irish Christian abbot who founds the monastery of Lorrha near Terryglass in County Tipperary, dies at the monastery on April 5, 584. Known for his prophesies, he is venerated as a saint and as one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland” after his death.

Ruadhán is educated in Clonard, County Meath, by St. Finnian and is known as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He is said to replace St. Brendan the Navigator at Lorrha after Brendan precedes to cross the River Shannon and set up his monastery at Clonfert, County Galway.

Ruadhán founds a monastic settlement at Lorrha that consists of a monastery and various other buildings including cells for the many monks that live there. Also a ditch or large mound is built around the settlement to keep animals in and intruders out, the outlines of which remain visible today. Life for the monks is tough but simple, rising early from their beds which consist of rushes or straw placed on the bare ground. They then pray and fast between their domestic chores. The settlement is self-sufficient providing everything from food, clothing, to shelter. Villages and towns, such as the village of Lorrha, often pop up around monastic settlements as trade and refuge attracts the local people.

His embassy in 556 to King Diarmait mac Cerbaill at Tara, is worked into a legend known as the “Curse of Tara”, but the high-king continues to reside at Tara until his death in 564. Diarmuid Mac Cerbhaill violates the sanctity of the church by taking a hostage from its protection. The downfall of Tara from a once thriving royal residence is credited to Ruadhán.

Ruadhán gives the prophecy that Diarmait will be killed by the roof-beam of his hall at Tara. Diarmait has the beam cast into the sea. Diarmait then asks his druids to find the manner of his death, and they foretell that he will die of slaughter, drowning, and burning, and that the signs of his death will be a shirt grown from a single seed of flax and a mantle of wool from a single sheep, ale brewed from one seed of corn, and bacon from a sow which has never farrowed.

On a circuit of Ireland, Diarmait comes to the hall of Banbán at Ráith Bec, and there the fate of which he is warned comes to pass. The roof beam of Tara has been recovered from the sea by Banbán and set in his hall, the shirt, mantle, ale, and bacon are duly produced for Diarmait. Diarmait goes to leave Banbán’s hall, but Áed Dub mac Suibni, waiting at the door, strikes him down and sets fire to the hall. Diarmait crawls into an ale vat to escape the flames and is duly killed by the falling roof beam. Thus, all the prophecies are fulfilled.

The bell of St. Ruadhán is found in a well named after the Saint and is preserved in the British Museum. This well is situated across the road from the present day Church of Ireland.

(Pictured: Lorrha Priory of St. Ruadhán)

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Death of Saint Colmán of Cloyne

saint-colmanSaint Colmán of Cloyne, also known as Colmán mac Léníne, monk, founder, and patron of Cluain Uama, now Cloyne, County Cork, and one of the earliest known Irish poets to write in the vernacular, dies on November 24, 600.

Colmán is remembered as the founder of the monastery at Cluain Uama in Munster, which lay in the kingdom of the Uí Liatháin and the Uí Meic Caille, a sept of the former. The origin legend Conall Corc and the Corco Loígde claims that the land for the foundation is not given by the local king, but by Coirpre Cromm mac Crimthainn, who is king of Munster from the Eóganacht Glendamnach.

Cloyne appears to be his earliest settlement. The cathedral and round tower are situated on a limestone eminence in the midst of the valley, surrounded by rich meadows. In the rock is the cave extending in various branches underground to a great distance, from which the town derives its name. Here it is believed that Colmán took up his abode as a place of security. Colmán is also believed to have founded a monastery at what would become Killagha Abbey in County Kerry.

Colmán is credited with extraordinary poetic powers, being styled by his contemporaries “royal poet of Munster.” Several of his Irish poems are still extant, notably a metrical panegyric on Saint Brendan.

It is unclear whether Colmán is brought up as a Christian, but what is certain is that he is educated and becomes a bard or file, which requires a special education. As a member of the class of filí, he becomes attached to the court of Cashel where he remains until about the age of 48 years. In 570, he and Saint Brendan of Clonfert are said to have settled a dispute between rivals to the throne of Cashel and Aodh Caomh is acknowledged as king, the first Christian king of Cashel. The King is installed by Saint Brendan. During the time of the coronation Colmán and some others discover the lost shrine of Ailbhe of Emly. Brendan says that it is not right that the hands which have held this sacred relic should be defiled henceforth, thus it is that the son of Leinin offers himself to God. Brendan blesses him and gives him the name Colmán, which is a diminutive of Colm.

Colmán then goes to the school of Saint Iarlaithe of Tuam and after his studies he is next mentioned as preaching to the heathen population in the east of County Cork. He is described as a “religious and holy presbyter, who afterwards became a famous bishop.” The Prince of Déise, in the present county of Waterford, presents his child to Colmán for baptism. Colmán baptizes him Declán and urges his parents to educate him well in his faith. This child becomes Saint Declán of Ardmore.

Colmán is given churches in Erry and Killenaule by Coirpre Cromm mac Crimthainn, King of Munster (Cashel), as well as lands in Cloyne, County Cork. It may well be that the lands in Cloyne are conquered lands and to prevent the possibility of reconquest are given to the church. The Cloyne estate is large and contains some of the best land in the area.

After the king’s death (c. 580) Colmán somehow becomes involved in factional strife between Coirpre’s descendants in which some of them persecute him while others, the ancestors of the later dominant line, protect him.

His surviving verses date from the period 565 and 604, and are among the earliest examples of Irish writing in the Latin alphabet. He is commonly thought to have composed Luin oc laib, a poem in praise of Domnall mac Muirchertaig, king of Tara, and another poem on the death of Áed Sláine, king of the UÍ Néill. The latter poem has not survived complete.

Colmán dies on November 24, 600, and is likely buried is Cloyne, where he may have left a school of poetry in existence. The calendars are unanimous in dating his death on November 24, now his feast day.


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Death of Brendan the Navigator

brendan-the-navigatorSaint Brendan of Clonfert, called “the Navigator” and one of the early Irish monastic saints, dies on May 16, 577 in Annaghdown, County Galway.

In 484, Brendan is born in Tralee, County Kerry, in the province of Munster. He is born among the Altraige, a tribe originally centred around Tralee Bay, to parents called Finnlug and Cara. He is baptised at Tubrid, near Ardfert by Saint Erc, and is originally to be called “Mobhí” but signs and portents attending his birth and baptism lead to him being christened “Broen-finn” or “fair-drop.” For five years he is educated under Saint Ita, “the Brigid of Munster.” When he is six, he is sent to Saint Jarlath‘s monastery school at Tuam to further his education. Brendan is one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland,” one of those said to have been tutored by the great teacher, Finnian of Clonard.

At the age of twenty-six, Brendan is ordained a priest by Saint Erc. Afterwards, he founds a number of monasteries. Brendan’s first voyage takes him to the Aran Islands, where he founds a monastery. He also visits Hinba, an island off Scotland where he is said to meet Columcille. On the same voyage he travels to Wales, and finally to Brittany, on the northern coast of France. Between the years 512 and 530 Brendan builds monastic cells at Ardfert and, at the foot of Mount Brandon, Shanakeel— Seana Cill, usually translated as “the old church.” From here he supposedly sets out on his famous seven-year voyage for Paradise.

St. Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to the Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator. Many versions exist that tell of how he sets out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixteen pilgrims searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to be Saint Malo, the namesake of Saint-Malo. This occurs sometime between 512 and 530 AD, before his travel to the island of Great Britain. On the trip, Brendan supposedly sees Saint Brendan’s Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encounters a sea monster, an adventure he shares with his contemporary, Saint Columba. The most commonly illustrated adventure is his landing on an island which turns out to be a giant sea monster called Jasconius or Jascon. This too, has its parallels in other stories, not only in Irish mythology but in other traditions, from Sinbad the Sailor to Pinocchio.

Brendan travels to Wales and the holy island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Returning to Ireland, he founds a monastery at Annaghdown, where he spends the rest of his days. He also founds a convent at Annaghdown for his sister Briga. Having established the bishopric of Ardfert, St. Brendan proceeds to Thomond, and founds a monastery at Inis-da-druim, in the present parish of Killadysert, County Clare, about the year 550. He then journeys to Wales and studies under Saint Gildas at Llancarfan, and then to Iona, for it is said that he leaves traces of his apostolic zeal at Kil-brandon and Kil-brennan Sound. After a three years’ mission in Britain he returns to Ireland, and does more proselytising in various parts of Leinster, especially at Dysart, Killiney, and Brandon Hill. He establishes churches at Inchiquin, County Clare and at Inishglora, County Mayo, and founds Clonfert in County Galway around 557 AD.

Brendan dies on May 16, 577 at Annaghdown, while visiting his sister Briga. Fearing that after his death his devotees might take his remains as relics, Brendan arranges before his death to have his body secretly carried back to the monastery he founded at Clonfert concealed in a luggage cart. He is buried in Clonfert Cathedral.