Saint Sceallan of Armagh, September 1

We begin the month of September with a notice by Canon O'Hanlon of the intriguingly-named Saint Sceallan the Leper. I think that the term 'leprosy' was used in the Irish sources to cover a variety of skin diseases, as Joyce's Social History of Ancient Ireland explains:
Some cutaneous disease, very virulent and infectious, known by names--such as lobor, clam, and trosc--that indicate a belief that it was leprosy, existed in Ireland from a very early date: but experts of our day doubt if it was true leprosy. Whatever it was, it would seem to have been a well-recognised disease in the fifth century; and after that time our literature, especially the Lives of the Saints, abounds with notices of the disease.
Our saint was presumably one of its sufferers and as his name is not found in the earlier Martyrology of Tallaght, Canon O'Hanlon suggests he may have lived during the ninth or tenth century:

St. Sceallan, the Leper, of Armagh, County of Armagh.

On this day, the feast of St. Sceallan occurs in some of our native Martyrologies. His memory is recorded in the Calendar of Marianus O'Gorman. Also, we find entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, that veneration was given to Sceallan, the Leper, of Ard-Macha, or Armagh. The Irish Calendar, belonging to the Ordnance Survey Records, has a similar entry. By the Bollandists, his festival is noticed, at the 1st of September. This holy man seems to have borne patiently the loathsome disease, once so common in Ireland, and from which his appellation was derived. When he lived does not seem to be known, but it was probably in the ninth or tenth century. The name of Sceallan, the Leper, of Armagh, is not found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, contained in the Book of Leinster.

Saint Sessan of Ath-omna, August 31

We bring the month of August to a close with the feast of a saint who Canon O'Hanlon seeks to place in Portumna, County Galway. Actual details of the life of Saint Sessan are thin on the ground and the entry in the Lives of the Irish Saints instead concentrates on a later Dominican foundation at Portumna. I have omitted these details to concentrate on what Canon O'Hanlon can tell us of the saint:

St. Senan, Sessan, or Sessen, of Ath-omna, possibly Portumna, County of Galway.

A feast for St. Senan of Atha-omna occurs in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, on this day, as also in that copy to be found in the Book of Leinster. Ath-Omna means the "Ford of the Oak;" and it may have been the ancient denomination of Port-Omna, now Portumna, on the River Shannon, in the Barony of Longford and County of Galway. It is within the parish of Lickmolassy. The place is of great antiquity, and a town is said to have been there for many centuries before Ireland became subject to the control of the sister kingdom. It is probable there had been a religious establishment at Portumna previous to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland. It was a place of no small importance in former times, as being the principal pass whereby the people of Minister and Connaught communicated with each other...The present Saint probably lived at an early period of the Christian Church in Ireland. He is classed among the disciples of holy Patrick, the Irish Apostle. Although called Seseneus, his right name is Sessenus. His feast is set down, at this date, and he is called Sesan by Marianus O'Gorman. It is thought, by Colgan, that he may not have been a different person from St. Sezin, Bishop and Abbot, as also Patron of the Church and Parish of Guic Sezni, Leon, in Brittany. We fail, however, to find the evidence, which might warrant such a supposition. The name Sessan, of Ath-omna, is registered in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 31st of August. This is all known concerning him.

Saint Fiachra of Brieul, August 30

Saint Fiachra (Fiacre), whose feastday is commemorated on August 30, is one of those Irish saints who made his home in continental Europe, in this case France. As any number of websites will tell you, he is hailed as a patron saint of gardeners and forever linked to the horsedrawn carriages of Paris which bear his name. Roísín Ní Mheara, who has made a special study of the Irish missionaries of Europe, first tracks Fiachra in Brittany and goes on to follow the trail of the saint as he moves towards Paris:

Around the middle of the 7th century, Fiachra puts in an appearance in northern Gaul. In the Paris region of Ile-de-France and in the adjoining Brie district which claims him as its patron saint, we find him again, warmly welcomed by Bishop Faro of Meaux on the river Marne. Faro(n), of Burgundian nobility, was one of those who had received Columban's personal blessing as a child, and he greatly favoured Irish missionaries. His abbey, Sainte-Croix of Meaux, was stocked with monks from Luxeuil and Irish pilgrims found a welcome there on their way to and from Rome, for Meaux lay on the old Gallo-Roman route that led from the Channel coast eastward....

Faro alloted Fiachra, a hermit by nature and as such not prone to the comforts of a monastic life inside the Gallo-Roman walls of the noble city of Meaux, a place of his own to settle in, on the abey lands of Brieul. This zone lay to the East, its vast forests considered uninhabitable, infested with 'sorcerers' and their barbaric adherents. That it is deemed appropriate for Fiachra's vocation is no invention of his biographers in order to stress the saint's courage. Centuries later unholy practices such as the 'Witches' Sabbath' are reported in the vicinity.

There in Brieul Fiachra manages to reconcile the impossible - the life of an anchorite with that of a busy prior and missionary. In the clearing he makes for himself he builds a hospice, set apart from his hermitage. This, as well as catering for pilgrims and wayfarers, acts as an asylum for the sick and needy. For their upkeep Fiachra makes the surrounding land arable, creating a huge garden where vegetables, fruit, flowers and medical herbs are grown. And he has, like Columban, his locus deserti, a covert beside a well in a secluded place since called 'Le bois de France'. Here in the forest of Brieul the modest abbot lives and labours, expiring around the year 670. People of all calling visit his grave in search of posthumous cures.

Briefly sketched, this is the story of Fiachra, a saint of France about whose Irish background nothing is reported, except that he was of gentle birth. To get a better grasp of his personality, which must have been outstanding, we need to climb through mountains of legends.

What does iconography tell us? It gives us a humble figure in monk's attire holding a book and a spade, often a basket of fruit at his sandaled feet. Fiachra, the patron of horticulturalists, has, however, an implement at his disposal that is more than a simple spade; considered so holy that it had to be buried with its master. In the oldest effigies of the saint it is not a spade at all, but an Irish cambutta he is holding - one with a 'Tau' head. Whatever the case, tradition affirms that it was through the power of this instrument that Fiachra consolidated his monastic settlement (one is reminded of angelic traditions concerning the foundations of Armagh). The legend of the foundation of Saint-Fiacre-en-Brie, as the abbey came to be known is as follows:

In Brieul the concourse of pilgrims reaches such dimensions that Fiachra is obliged to make a petition to bishop Faro in Meaux for a supplementary piece of land to cater for them. Faro informs Fiachra that he may take as much land as he is able to dig around in one day. Returning to the forest, Fiachra grasps his spade and starts to mark a line for the required extension by digging a trench. The spade barely touches the ground when beneath it a deep cleft appears. Fiachra proceeds with the round, the chasm advancing with him, trees falling to the right and to the left to carve out the spade's way. Soon a wide circle is drawn, with a trench to mark the precincts of a new monastery.

This uncanny performance does not go unobserved. A busybody called in tradition 'La Becnaude' hastens away to Meaux with the news. She denounces Fiachra as a fearful sorcerer to bishop Faro. Whereupon she returns to Breuil with the bishop's order to cease all operations immediately. The Becnaude heaps insults on Fiachra, who sinks abjectly down on a forest boulder to await the arrival of Faro. And there, beside the trench the bishop finds him, but lo! the jagged surface of the rock the saint is seated on has melted, out of sympathy, into a consolatory chair! Tendered proof is a rounded, indented stone, placed beside the tomb that once held Saint Fiachra's remains in the village church where his abbey once stood. Inhabitants of that village are also aware of the site of the famous trench in the forest, earthworks being visible for a long time.

Overwhelmed by such signs of Fiachra's divine calling, Faro promises every assistance. It is also ordained that, since it was a woman who villified the poor hermit, men alone should be allowed to cross the border trench. The Becnaude receives her due personally, for while Fiachra's stone turned smooth and soft as wax, her own countenance takes on the quality of a scarred, jagged rock.

A prohibition for women to set foot within the precincts of the abbey of Saint-Fiacre in Brieul existed down to its dissolution in 1760. We also note that a far stricter monastic rule was observed there, distinguishing it from the seventeen other abbeys subordinate to Sainte-Croix in Meaux which later became 'Saint-Faron' by name.

Up to the ninith century Fiachra's cult was limited to the locality, but by the thirteenth century it had become widely acclaimed and the legend glorified in many liturgical hymns. .. His [St. Fiachra's] relics were removed to the cathedral of Meaux for safety during the sixteenth century Calvinist disturbances... 

Twice an English king tried to steal the relics. Henry V was prevented from doing so by his fiery steed refusing to jump the trench. Edward the Black Prince got away with them as far as Normandy, it is said, where having deposited them overnight in a church, he found them next morning glued to the altar!

Roísín Ní Mheara, Early Irish Saints in Europe - Their Sites and their Stories (Seanchas Ard Mhacha, 2001), 44-49.

Saint Winoc of Rath-Espuic-Innic, August 29

August 29 is the commemoration of an early bishop whom tradition associates with the mission of Saint Patrick. Saint Winoc (Winnoc, Uindic, Uinnic) appears to have been identified with two different locations, one in County Down and the other in County Armagh. Canon O'Hanlon struggles to reconcile the evidence for these locations, but believes that Colgan made an error in locating Bishop Winnoc's seat in County Antrim. I have omitted some of the topographical wrangling from his account below:


WHEN with indomitable zeal, St. Patrick preached the word of God throughout Ireland, he found there numerous disciples, who accepted his teaching and profited by his example. Their names are also recorded in the lists of our National Saints; although, indeed, their acts seem discoverable in many instances, only as episodes among those given in Lives of the great Apostle. An instance occurs in the case of the present holy man. By Colgan, he is styled St. Uindic, Bishop of Rath-Easpuic Innic. He is also called Winnoc. In O'Sullevan Beare's Catalogue, this Saint's name is likewise entered. However, very little is known regarding his early history, or the place where he was born, He flourished in the fifth century. This Saint is registered as one of St. Patrick's disciples; but, when he became attached to the Irish apostle is uncertain. The following anecdote has been preserved for us, in the Acts of St. Patrick, and, it serves to give us an idea, that while a confidential friend and esteemed highly by the great Patriarch of the Irish Church, Winnoc well deserved that trust, owing to his spirit of devotion and true humility. At one time, St. Patrick and St. Winnoc sat together, when engaged at a religious conference. While speaking of the Deity, and of things which especially concerned Him, these holy councillors referred to the Divine precept of charity, and they remarked that both by word and work were they bound to part with their garments, to clothe persons, who were in need of such comforts. At that moment, a cloak appeared to descend from Heaven, and it fell between them. This portent they regarded, both as an approval of their pronounced sentiments, on the part of the Most High, and as an earnest of those rewards, which they should not fail in obtaining, from the Father of lights, to recompense their future sacrifices. The saints felt greatly rejoiced and comforted; but their minds were filled with divergent opinions, regarding that miracle. Each one ascribed it to the other's merits. St. Patrick asserted, that this gift was intended for Winnoc who had perfectly renounced all his worldly possessions, for the sake of Christ. On the other hand, St. Winnoc alleged, that it had been sent to St. Patrick, who, although possessing everything yet kept nothing; for, he had left himself naked for God's sake, while clothing numbers, who were poor and naked. While such discussions, dictated by sincere humility on both sides, continued, the cloak was again elevated towards Heaven, and it suddenly disappeared. But, in its stead, two cloaks were next seen to descend from above. These were intended respectively for both Saints ; and thus, all reason for future discussion on that point was removed, owing to this celestial indication, that both were eminently deserving Divine approbation.

At this time, both were probably in the north-eastern part of Ireland, and, it is thought, in that district known as Hua Dercachein, said to have been in Dalaradia. However, this meeting possibly took place among the Oirghialla, a powerful tribe, descended from the three Collas,who conquered the ancient Ultonians. The country of this sept originally comprised the greater part of Ulster; and the three Collas, viz. Colla Uais, Colla Dachrich and Colla Meann, were the ancestors of distinguished northern clans. According to Marianus O'Gorman, the church of Teaghneatha—situated within that territory and in the Diocese of Armagh—was connected in an especial manner with St. Uindic or Winnoc. In mediaeval documents, this place has been written Twinha; and it is now represented by the modern townland and parish of Tynan, in the baronies of Tiranny and Armagh, County of Armagh... This place and the Saint in connection with it have been rendered "Winnic of Tynan," in the diocese of Armagh, by the Rev. William Reeves, and by Dr. John O'Donovan. The remains of an ancient stone cross, highly ornamented, and which originally stood within the grave-yard, have been built into the wall of the church-yard, for their greater preservation...

Besides the large district of the Oirghialla, there were two other great divisions in Ulster, and known as Dalriada and Dalaradia... The country of the Hua Dercachein likewise formed a sub-division of the ancient territory of Uladh...we are informed, that at Rath-Easpuic-Innic, St. Patrick built a church, and this is said to have been situated in the territory of Hua-Derca-Chein. According to one account, this districts lay in the present barony of Castlereagh, County of Down, and adjacent to Strangford Lough. The Genealogies of the Hy-Earca-Chein are to be found in the Book of Lecan. The more ancient line of chiefs in the territory of Leath Chathail or Lecale belonged to the Ullta or Clanna Rudhraidhe. Over Rath-Easpuic-Innic, however, and in the district of Dalaradia, the Apostle of Ireland is said to have appointed Vinnoc, as Bishop.... It seems sufficiently probable, that while St. Vinnoc had been connected with Teaghnetha or Tynan, he had charge, moreover, of Rath-Easpuic-Innic, which gave him claim to be regarded as one of our primitive Irish bishops. In identifying Hua Dercachein with the valley of the Braid, in the County of Antrim, Colgan has fallen into an error. It seems rather to have been a tract in the northern part of the County Down, or on the confines of Down and Antrim...

However, notwithstanding the foregoing false conjectures as to locality, St. Vinnoc was venerated on the 29th of August, at a church belonging to the Diocese of Armagh, commonly called Tuighnean, but more correctly Teagh-neatha. Such is the identification of Marianus O'Gorman, in connection with his entry of St. Uinnic in the Calendar. The published Martyrology of Donegal registers a festival in honor of Uindic, of Tuighnetha, at this same date. Moreover, Uindic, Bishop of Rath-Easpuic-Innic, has been placed, by Rev. William Reeves, among the Saints of Down, Connor and Dromore, in that Calendar which he has compiled for these Dioceses. The day for his festival, is the 29th of August.

Saint Feidhlimidh of Munster, August 28

The saint commemorated by Canon O'Hanlon in his lead article for 28 August is one who is far removed from any conventional idea of sanctity. For Feidhlimidh, a prince of the royal house of Munster, appears to have distinguished himself more for the destruction of churches than for their maintenance. Eventually, he burns one church too many at Clonmacnoise, whose patron, Saint Ciaran, administers some rough justice, after which the royal rogue spends the rest of his days in repentance for his former misdeeds. It's an intriguing story and one which I would be interested to explore further. Canon O'Hanlon sees a message for us all in the strange story of Feidhlimidh, son of Cremthann, and his account is reproduced below in full with some of the original footnotes incorporated into the main body of the text:


ALTHOUGH we find various allusions to the subject of our present memoir, in the Annals of Ireland; yet, those accounts are brief and disconnected, so that it is a difficult matter from such notices, to form an exact judgment regarding this King's career and character. That his life and actions can be generally approved must be a subject for discussion among modern historians, since we find many conflicting opinions brought down to us by tradition. At this date, Colgan had promised to treat at some length on this prince, who is said to have descended from a high worldly rank, that he might be exalted in the court of Heaven. This change of purpose seems to have occurred, only towards the close of his life. His reign was marked by broils and contentions; but, he usually came off victorious, as we find recorded in the Irish Annals. The national and social state of Ireland, and the position he filled, may have rendered some of those intestine wars evils that could not well be avoided; but ambition and greed are likely to have influenced his conduct, before penitence and contrition enabled this prince, to repair in a great measure the bloodshed and wrongs he had inflicted on others. Notwithstanding such a record, he is praised by several of the Munster bards and chroniclers, while his name has been inscribed among those, whose festivals are commemorated in our Calendars.

Veneration was given, as we are told, to Feidhilmidh MacCrimthain, at the 28th of August. Thus is he noticed in the Martyrology of Tallagh. In the Book of Leinster copy, his name is found contracted, at this date. He descended from the race of Aenghus, son to Naetfraech, son of Lughaidh, as stated by the O'Clerys. His father's name was Crimhthann, and he is said to have been of Claire. His son, who afterwards ascended the throne of Munster, was born probably towards the close of the eighth century. The young prince appears to have received a liberal education; for it is related, that he was an excellent scribe—which means according to Irish acceptance— a writer, although none of his compositions have come down to us. Nor is the school in which he studied known. It is stated, also, that Feidhlimidh entered into Holy Orders, and that afterwards he presided as Archbishop over Leath Mogha, otherwise in the See of Cashel. However, there is no sufficient warrant for such a statement. Moreover, in his enumeration of the Archbishops of Cashel, Sir James Ware does not record any earlier bishop than Cormac MacCullinan, who flourished towards the close of the ninth and beginning of the tenth century.

From what has been stated in the Irish Annals regarding Feidhlimidh, we are led to infer, that he must have succeeded in the principality of Munster, in or about the year 820. He was remarkable for personal courage and force of character— qualities which were sufficient to excite the admiration of his followers, and to cause his interested and over-partial panegyrists in prose and verse to overlook or conceal his many deficiencies. Having been recognised as a King over Ireland, by some authorities, without defining the term or the number of years; his reign has been synchronized with the period when Gaithen, the son of Cionaedhe, was chief over Laeighis or Leix, a territory contained within the present Queen's County. He is also noticed, as having lived about that period, when the death of the Ostman tyrant Turgesius took place. Moreover, he is supposed by Giraldus Cambrensis to have been a King over Ireland, and the seventeenth predecessor of Roderick O'Conor, the latest recognised monarch, who died towards the close of the twelfth century.

Our native Annalists, for the most part, do not class Feidhlimidh among the supreme monarchs of Ireland; although some of the Munster chroniclers and bards, who state that he ruled twenty-seven years over that province, reserve seven of these for jurisdiction over all the otlier provincial kings and chiefs of the nation. This claim nevertheless can hardly be allowed; but, having been a highly successful raider in his time, provincial tradition probably assigned that elevation to him, and caused it to be circulated for belief in other districts of the country. However, it cannot be doubted, that he not only exercised the power and privileges of a King throughout the province of Munster for a long period; but, his influence and fame as a warrior caused him to be feared and respected, even by the recognised sovereign of Ireland, and by all the subordinate kings and chiefs. Our Annals contain many brief records of his acts. Thus, in the year 823, it is related, that the Law of Patrick was established over Mumhan by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann. He is said to have immediately succeeded Fiacha Airtre, who ruled for fourteen or fifteen years over that province, but, the date for whose death we have not been able to ascertain. The Law of Patrick to which allusion has been made seems referable to some tribute or contribution allowed by the other provinces of Ireland, and as an acknowledgment of primacy over the Irish Church, in the See of Armagh. We find frequent allusion in the Annals, to visits made by the Archbishops and Abbots, to different places and at various times, in order to renew or establish that Law. Moreover, the kings and chiefs of those territories and districts were ready to enforce the obligations it involved, so far as their power extended. It is less pleasing for us to recount the many destructive raids or expeditions noted in our Annals.

In the year 823, we read that Galinne of the Britons was burned by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, with its whole dwelling-place and the oratory. Other authorities place that incident at earlier periods. It would seem, that the King of Munster had planned another expedition for the invasion of Connaught. That very same year 823, we find a victory was gained by Cathal, son of Ailill, over Feidhlimidhin Magh-Ai, where many fell. However, this reverse of his career is stated to have occurred in 834, by the O'Clerys, and it is related by an Irish poet, to have been at a place named Loch-na-Calla, or Lake of the Shouting, owing to the rejoicing of the Ui-Maine, on account of their victory over Feidhlimidh. The name of that place seems now to have become obsolete. Moreover, the Annals of Clonmacnoise relate, that Delvin Beathra was burned by King Felym or Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhtann, in 823; while those of the Four Masters place this event in 824; and those of Ulster have it at A.D. 826. Although undoubtedly remarkable for his prowess in arms and for personal valour, yet the King of Munster is not noticed in our Annals, for exercising either against the Danes or Norwegians, whose inroads upon various parts of Ireland are recorded during his career. He wanted the spirit of patriotism to render his deeds heroic; nor can it be said, that the reigning monarch Conchobhar was energetic or capable in suppressing such raids. Rather were internecine contests, among the Irish kings and princes, events most prominent during this period. In 824, there was a royal meeting at Biorra or Birr, between Conchobhar, son of Donnchadh, King of Ireland, and Feidhlimidh, King of Munster, according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise; this event is noticed in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the following year; while the Annals of Ulster have it at A.D. 826. The objects had in view for holding this meeting, nor the subjects there discussed by the monarch and by his nominally subordinate prince, have not been disclosed in any account with which we are familiar; but, it seems probable enough, that the King of Ireland suspected and feared the aspiring and ambitious aims of the Munster potentate, and sought explanations or some sort of understanding to restrain his acts, or to divert them into a more desirable course of policy. Weighed in the scale of subsequent events, there are just grounds for supposing, that Feidhlimidh was anxious to employ means, and to seek aid beyond his own province, for acquiring sway over the rest of Ireland. If we are to receive the account of the Rev. Dr. Keating, Feidhlime received provocations from the northern half of the Island, which was known under the designation of Leath Cuin. Carrying his arms into that part of the country, he sorely distressed its inhabitants, and he plundered without distinction from Birr to Teamhair Breag. We are told, moreover, that he met with opposition at Tara, and which he overcame with some difficulty. In a conflict, his forces engaged Jonrachtach, the son of Moalduin. This seems to have been intended for what is related, at the year 828, when the Annals of Clonmacnoise record the coming of the forces of Munster and of Leinster to Fynore —also called Finnabhair-Breagh—to destroy, prey and spoil Moybrey. This account is set down at A.D. 829, in the Annals of the Four Masters; while the Annals of Ulster place it at A.D. 830. Again, the burning of Fore by Feidhlimid is recorded as having occurred at a.d. 830. The Annals of the Four Masters,  at A.D. 831, have an account of the burning of Tearmann-Chiarain by this king and also of the plundering of Dealbhna-Beathra three times. The Annals of Clonmacnoise, however, place these events at A.D. 829.

It would appear, that similar devastations were continued by him the year following, 832, when a great number of the family of Cluain-mac-Nois were slain, and all their termon was burned by Feidhlimidh, to the very door of their church. It is stated, that while this king was brave in action, generous in success, anct unbroken in adverse fortune, he secured the co-operation and retained the fidelity of the two great provinces of Minister over which he reigned; and being munificent, insinuating, amiable, religious, but not pious, he for a considerable time gained friends, in all the other provinces of Ireland. He is said to have occasionally made the clergy instruments of his ambition, and to have harassed them in turn when they would not go all his lengths. Moreover, as we read, he treated the family of Dearmach, or Durrow. in like fashion, as he did that of Clonmacnoise, and also to the door of its church. The Annals of Ulster place such outrages, at this same year, while those of Clonmacnois refer them, to A.D. 830. In the meantime, during the reigns of Aedh Ornidhe and of Concobhar, monarchs of Ireland, the Northmen, while making inroads on the country, received no opposition from the King of Munster, who covered the south, and who was powerful enough to have prevented their incursions. It is even stated, that through interested motives, he basely enjoyed the miseries of his countrymen.

The Annals of Ulster place the death of Concobhar mac Donncha, King of Ireland, at A.D. 832. The same year is stated to have been the first for his successor, Niall Caile, son to Aedh Oirdnaidhe; but, the true year, as we are told, is A.D. 833. In the "Chronicum Scotorum," at the year 836, is an entry regarding the taking of the oratory at Cill-dara, against Forannan, Abbot of Ard-Macha, with the congregation of Patrick besides, by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, by battle and arms; and, as stated, they were taken prisoners with their submission. This is related to have happened, A.D. 835, in the "Annals of the Four Masters." The "Annals of Ulster" agree with this latter date; while those of Clonmacnoise have A.D. 833, for such transaction. In 836 occurred the plundering of the race of Cairbre Crom by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann.

In the year 837, a great royal meeting between Niall Caille and Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, took place at Cluain-Conaire-Tomain, now Cloncurry, in the County of Kildare. The " Annals of Ulster" agree with this date; while those of Clonmacnois have A.D. 835. It is stated, that the Monarch of Ireland had invited the King of Munster to that interview, in hopes of compounding their mutual differences, in order that they might act in concert against their common enemy the Northmen. Instead of effecting such a salutary measure, as appears by what follows, ambition urged the latter treacherous potentate, to take advantage of the difficulties besetting the Monarch, and to supplant him, if possible, in the government of the whole kingdom. In the year 840, an army was led by Feidhlimidh to Carman; while another army was led to meet him by Niall to Magh-ochtair, a plain in the barony of Ikeathy and Uachtarfhine or Oughteranny, in the north of the present County of Kildare. A mysterious allusion by some Irish poet to this encounter states, that the crozier of the devout Feidhlimidh was left in the shrubbery, which by right of the battle of swords, Niall by force bore away from them.

It is stated in the old Annals of Innisfallen, that Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, received homage from Neill, son of Aedh, King of Tara, in the year 824—but more correctly in 840—and that Feidhlimidh then became sole Monarch of Ireland, and sat in the seat of the Abbot of Cluain-fearta. However, although the King of Munster aspired to such a position, it is a mistake of writers on Irish historical matters to suppose he ever attained it. At the year 843, the Annals of Clonmacnoise relate the burning of the Termon lands belonging to St. Kieran, without respect of place, saint, or shrine; on which account, Feidhlimidh incurred a merited punishment, inflicted by the patron saint of Clonmacnoise. After his return to Munster the following year, he was overtaken by a flux, which brought him to the grave.

Notwithstanding his irregularity and great desire of spoil, the Annals of Clonmacnoise state, that Feidhlimidh was by some numbered among the scribes and anchorites of Ireland. It is generally believed, that Feidhlimidh governed the province of Munster for twenty-seven years. After such a term of rule, he voluntarily abdicated his temporal state, for a more spiritual life; and, to atone for his former excesses, he resolved to spend the remainder of his days in works of penance. He therefore embraced the austere life of an anchoret—but in what place we are not informed—and he thus prepared for his last end, distinguished by virtues and merits, so that he deserved to be classed among the saints. In Dr. O' Donovan's " Annals of the Four Masters," it is said he died on the 18th (? 28th) of August, A.D. 845, and of his internal wound, inflicted through the miracle of God and of St. Ciaran. The popular tradition was, that while taking rest in his bed, St. Kieran appeared to him in his habit, and with a pastoral staff. With the latter he gave King Fedlim a thrust, which caused an internal wound, and from this stroke he never afterwards recovered.

Moreover, some lines from an Irish poem are quoted, which are in a strain both of lamentation and of eulogy. Thus rendered into English :—

"Alas! O God, for Feidhlimidh; the wave of death has drowned him!
It is a cause of grief to the Irish that the son of Crimhthann of Claire lives not.
It was portentous to the Gaeidhil when his last end arrived;
Slaughter spread through sacred Ireland from the hour that Feidhlimidh died.
There never went on regal bier a corpse so noble;
A prince so generous under the King of Ailbin never shall be born."

Notwithstanding that the career of Feidhlimidh mac Crimthainn appears to have been one of turbulence and depredation, and that his death is said to have been brought about, as a punishment for his sacrileges; it seems strange, that when recording his death, at A.D. 846, the Annals of Ulster describe this Munster potentate as an excellent scribe and anchorite. With the high eulogy of being the best of the Scoti, a scribe and an anchorite, the "Chronicon Scotorum" enters the demise of this prince, at A.D. 847 ; while the author quotes some lines of an Irish poet, in lamentation for his death. The Martyrology of Donegal also records him at the 28th of August, as Feidhlimidh son of Cremthan, King of Munster.

From all we can learn, this King was distinguished by intellectual gifts, and by energy of natural disposition; yet neither of such qualifications could entitle him to our respect, did he not feel remorse for various misdeeds, and repent for a long catalogue of crimes, which were perpetrated during the time he was invested with temporal dominion. Like another royal penitent, before he had been called out of this world, Feidhlimidh in the trouble of his soul and body recognised his own weakness and dependence, having recourse to humble supplication, that the Lord should not rebuke him in indignation, nor chastise him in wrath, while he had renounced the works of iniquity, and had shed tears of remorse for his many transgressions. Thus it happened in the case of Mary Magdalen, who from being a great sinner, afterwards became a great saint; and with St. Paul, who from being a bitter persecutor of Christians afterwards became a glorious Apostle in the Church. To the last moment of life, God is merciful to even the greatest sinners, and accepts their sincere repentance with forgiveness, while if they persevere in justice to the end, He has promised also to them the rewards of Heaven.

Blessed Maelbrigid of Armagh, August 27

Canon O'Hanlon records the commemoration of an eleventh-century Irish priest of Armagh at August 27. Maelbrigid, the 'servant of Brigid' was born just two years before the Great Schism of 1054, and seems to have enjoyed a reputation as a priest of great holiness:

The Blessed Maelbrigid, Priest, at Armagh. [Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.]

There is an account of a holy man,named Maelbrighde MacDoilgen, or the son of Dolgen, in the Irish Annals. He was born in the year 1052, as may be inferred from the statements given. He became a priest a.d. 1080, and he appears to have been attached to the Church at Armagh. He is mentioned, as having been a noble priest, and as having been the senior of the priests of Ireland. Towards the close of his life occurred those disagreeable and factious proceedings, whereby a dominant faction resisted St. Malachy O'Morgair in his efforts to take possession of the See of Armagh, to which he had been elected as the chosen successor of Celsus, both by the clergy and people. In his industriously compiled Chronicle of the Primate Archbishops, illustrious men and incidents relating to the ancient Church of Armagh, Colgan has recorded the present distinguished Priest. He died in the fifty-second year of his priesthood, and in the eightieth of his age, on the 27th of August, 1132. Although desiring to know on what grounds Maelbrigidus is called beatus by Colgan, the Bollandists have noticed him at the 27th day of August, that assigned for his death.

The Entry and Notes from the Annals of the Four Masters:

The Age of Christ, 1132.

Maelbrighde Mac Doilgen, noble priest of Ard-Macha, and senior of the priests of Ireland, died in the fifty-second year of his priesthood, and in the eightieth year of his age, on the 27th of August.

"Maelbrighde Mac Doilgen "A. D. 1132. 1600; and Colgan's Acta Sanctorum, p. 350.

Beatus Maelbrigidus, Dolgenii filius, nobilis prsesbyter Ardmachanus, ac omnium praesbyterorum totius Hibernise senior praecipuus, sacerdotii anno quinquagesimo secundo, et aetatis octuagesimo, die 27 Augusti migravit ad Dominum -Trias Thaum., p.303

Saint Aireid of Ardrinnigh, August 26

August 26 is the commemoration of a Saint Aireid of Ardrinnigh, and Canon O'Hanlon summarizes what little is known of him:


As in so many other cases, much uncertainty prevails, in the effort to discover particulars relating to the present saint. The name of Aread or Eread, a Priest, occurs, as Colgan tells us, in the Martyrologies of Tallagh, and of Marianus O'Gorman, at the 26th of August. However, it must be observed, that in Dr. Kelly's edition of the Tallagh Martyrology, no mention of St. Aireid or Eread is found at this day. Nor is there such an entry, in that copy contained in the Book of Leinster. In a Life of St. Maidoc, Bishop of Ferns, contained in the collection of British Saints by John Capgrave and John of Tinmouth, allusion is made to a St. Aired. He is said to have lived at a place called Ardrinnigh, some distance from the mountain Beatha or Betha, on the confines of Cavan and Monaghan counties. Nevertheless, in the Life of St. Maidoc, published by Colgan, although that place is named, there is no mention made of Aired, in connection with it. He is thought to have been miraculously visited there by St. Maidoc, Bishop of Ferns, with whom he is presumed to have lived contemporaneously. Still, this is by no means certain, from any evidence we have been able to procure... The feast of Aireid, Priest, is met with in the Donegal Martyrology, but, further light is wanting to establish his period and even identity.

Saint Sillan of Moville, August 25

August 25 is the commemoration of a saintly abbot of Moville, although whether this was the County Down monastery founded by Saint Finnian or another foundation in the County Donegal location of the same name is open to debate. Although not a great deal is known of Saint Sillan as an individual, his feast is well-attested on the Irish Calendars, as Canon O'Hanlon records:

St. Sillan, Bishop and Abbot of Magh-bile, or Moville. [Sixth and Seventh Centuries.]

In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, a notice of this holy prelate's parentage and place of residence will be found. At the viii. of the Kalends of September, or the 25th of August, his name is likewise to be met in the Tallagh Martyrology contained in the Book of Leinster; and there, besides his being called Bishop and Abbot of Magh-Bile, he is said to have been son to Findchain... The present holy man must have been born about the middle of the sixth century. Where his birth took place does not seem to be known, but probably it was in the northern part of Ireland, and most likely he was trained in a school established in Moville, County of Donegal, at a very early date. However, others consider him to have been connected with Magh-bile, or Moville, in the County of Down.

...It would seem that St. Sillan flourished towards the close of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century. About this time, he lived in or presided over the ancient monastery founded at Moville. Tighernach and the Annals of Ulster simply style him abbot. The Annals of the Four Masters and of Inisfallen, at 613, call him both bishop and abbot; but the territory in which he actually lived has not been indicated. In our Calendars, Martyrologies, and Annals, Maghbile is often mentioned, and in a general and an absolute manner, without any allusion to a second monastery of that name.

...At the year 613, the Annals of Innisfallen call this saint, a bishop and an abbot, when recording his death. This event is placed at 618, by the O'Clerys, both in the Martyrology of Donegal, and in the Annals of the Four Masters. According to the statements of Tigernach, the Chronicon Scotorum, and the Annals of Ulster, his demise is recorded at 619. Under the head of Magh-Bile, at this date, Duald Mac Firbis enters Siollan, who is called the son of Fionchan. He is, likewise, styled bishop and abbot of Magh, or Maigh-Bile. Without particularizing his locality, at this same date, the Martyrology of Donegal designates him, Siollan, Bishop and Abbot of Magh-bile. The Irish Calendar, belonging to the Irish Ordnance Survey Records and that at present preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, has a notice of this saint, at the 25th of August.