O God, who hast not without reason mingled the birthday of the glorious high-priest, Thomas, with the joys of thy nativity, by the intervention of his merits, make these thy servants venerate thy majesty with the reverence of due honour. Amen. And as he, according to the rule of a good shepherd, gave his life for his sheep, so grant thou to thy faithful ones, to fear no tyrannical madness to the prejudice of Catholic truth. Amen. We ask that they, by his example, for obedience to the holy laws, may learn to despise persons, and by suffering manfully to triumph over tyrannical madness. Amen.
— Prayer for the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, listed under the heading “Proper Benedictions for the Circuit of the Year,” from a pontifical of Anianus, Bishop of Bangor (1268).
Now when Colomb Cille came to his ending, and when the bell for nocturn was struck on the night of Pentecost Sunday, he went before the rest to the church and made prostration and fervent prayer at the altar. Then an angelic radiance filled the church around him on every side, and there the venerable old man sent forth his spirit to heaven, into the delight and into the joyance of heaven’s household.
His body is here on earth with honour and with reverence from God and menfolk, with marvels and miracles every day; and though great be his honour at present, greater will it be at the assembly of Doom, when his body and his soul will shine like an unsullied sun. There in sooth shall he have that great glory and great elevation in union with the nine orders of heaven that have not transgressed, in union with the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ in union with the Godhead and Manhood of God’s Son, in the union that is nobler than any union, in the unity of the holy, noble, venerable Trinity, even Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The relics of Patrick were enshrined sixty years after his death by Columcille. Three precious reliquaries were found in the tomb, sc. the Cup, the Angel’s Gospel, and the Bell of the Will. The angel directed Columcille to divide the three reliquaries thus: the Cup to Down, the Bell of the Will to Armagh, the Gospel of the Angel to Columcille himself. And it is called the Gospel of the Angel, because Columcille received it at the Angel’s hand.
— Annals of Ulster, U553.3,
copied from a chronicle called the Book of Cuanu.
Bide a wee ye bonnie hours o’ sweet yestreen
Haud awa’ the thocht that e’er I will forget
Lang the wimplin wey unrowes afore my een?
And the mindin’ will be sweeter yet
Aye, the road was haudin’ frae the lass that I will aye remember
Braw burn the bridges far behind me in the rain
The leaves were changin’ tae the colours o’ the glowing embers
My heart lay waiting for the spring tae come again
Hae we rin the gless or daur we dream of mair
While as surely as the river meets the sea?
When the eastlin’s wind has blawn the forest bare
Will the pertin’ a’ the wider be?
Could I leeze me on your lousome face again
Gin the traivel’s turn should bring me tae your side
Fain would I nae langer steek my heart wi’ pain
Or lay curse upon the ocean wide
It appears that King Laoghaire had two daughters, named Ethne the fair, and Fedelm the ruddy. He had sent them, for what reason is not explained, to his relatives in Connaught, and placed them under the care of two Druids or magi, named Mael and Caplit. Patrick was at Crochan, or Cruachan, the royal cemetery of the kings of Ireland of the race of Herimon, and a very antient residence of the kings of Connaught, in the county of Roscommon. There was a well or fountain called Clebach, on the side of the fort, looking towards the east. There Patrick and his attendants assembled one morning at sunrise. He selected, perhaps, the place and hour with the hope of conciliating some Pagan superstitions. Tirechan says that the virgins found Patrick at the well with a synod of bishops, senodum sanctorum episcoporum; but it is probable that by this word our author means only an assembly or company, not a synod properly so called. It will be better, however, to tell the story in the exact words of that antient historian, translated as closely as possible : —
Then St. Patrick came to the well (ad fontem) which is called Clebach, on the sides of Crochan towards the east; and before sunrise they [i.e. Patrick and his followers] sat down near the well. And lo! the two daughters of King Laoghaire, Ethne the fair (alba), and Fedelm the ruddy (rufa), came early to the well, to wash, after the manner of women, and they found near the well a synod of holy Bishops with Patrick. And they knew not whence they were, or in what form, or from what people, or from what country; but they supposed them to be Duine Sidhe (viros Sidhe) or gods of the earth, or a phantasm.
And the virgins said unto them, “Where are ye? and whence come ye?”
And Patrick said unto them, “It were better for you to confess to our true God, than to enquire concerning our race.”
The first virgin said,
“Who is God?
“And where is God?
“And of what [nature] is God?
“And where is His dwelling-place?
“Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver?
“Is He everliving?
“Is He beautiful?
“Did many foster His Son?
“Are His daughters dear and beauteous to men of the world?
“Is He in heaven or in earth?
“In the sea?
“In mountainous places?
“Declare unto us the knowledge of Him.
“How shall He be seen?
“How is He to be loved?
“How is He to be found?
“Is it in youth?
“Is it in old age, that He is to be found?”
But St. Patrick, full of the Holy Ghost, answered and said,
“Our God is the God of all men.
“The God of heaven and earth, of the sea and rivers.
“The God of the sun, the moon, and all stars.
“The God of the high mountains, and of the lowly valleys.
“The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.
“He hath a habitation in the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that are therein.
“He inspireth all things.
“He quickeneth all things.
“He is over all things.
“He sustaineth all things.
“He giveth light to the light of the sun.
“Lumen noctis et notitias valat.
“And He hath made springs in a dry ground,
“And dry islands in the sea,
“And hath appointed the stars to serve the greater lights.
“He hath a Son co-eternal and co-equal (consimilem) with Himself.
“The Son is not younger than the Father,
“Nor is the Father older than the Son,
“And the Holy Ghost breatheth in them (inflat in eis).
“The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not divided (non separantur).
“But I desire to unite you to the Heavenly King, inasmuch as you are the daughters of an earthly King — to believe.”
And the virgins said, as with one mouth and one heart —
“Teach us most diligently how we may believe in the Heavenly King. Show us how we may see Him face to face, and whatsoever thou shalt say unto us, we will do.”
And Patrick said, “Believe ye that by baptism ye put off the sin of your father and your mother?” — They answered, “We believe.”
“Believe ye in repentance after sin?” — “We believe.”
“Believe ye in life after death? Believe ye the resurrection at the Day of Judgment?” — “We believe.”
“Believe ye the Unity of the Church?” — “We believe.”
And they were baptised; and a white garment put upon their heads.
And they asked to see the face of Christ. And the Saint said unto them, “Ye cannot see the face of Christ, except ye taste of death, and except ye receive the Sacrifice.”
And they answered, “Give us the Sacrifice, that we may behold the Son our Spouse.”
And they received the Eucharist of God, and they slept in death (dormierunt in morte).
And they were laid out on one bed, covered with garments: and [their friends] made great lamentation and weeping for them.
And the Magus Caplit, who had fostered one of them, came and wept, and Patrick preached unto him, and he believed, and the hairs of his head were taken off.
And his brother Mael came and said, “My brother hath believed in Patrick, but it shall not be so [with me]; yea, I shall bring him back to Paganism, and to Milthous.”
And he spake harsh words to Patrick, and Patrick spake to him and preached to him, and converted him to the repentance of God: and the hairs of his head were taken off — that is, the magical rule [which] was seen on his head, as is said, air bacc giunnæ†.
It was of him was spoken that most celebrated of all Scotic proverbs, “Calvus is become like Caplit.”
And they believed in God. And the days of mourning (ululationis) for the king’s daughters were accomplished, and they buried them near the well Clebach; and they made a circular ditch, like to a Ferta‡; because so the Scotic people and gentiles were used to do; but with us it is called Reliquiæ, that is, the remains of the virgins. And this Ferta was granted (immolata est) with the bones of the holy virgins to Patrick and to his heirs (heredibus) after him for ever. And he made a Church of earth in that place.
— An account from the Book of Armagh, as recounted in Dr. James Henthorn Todd’s St. Patrick Apostle of Ireland: A Memoir of His Life and Mission (1864).
† Irish, “as a band (bond) of Gehenna (Hell)”
‡ a sepulchral mound of clay covered with grass
Delightful would it be to me to be in Uchd Ailiun
On the pinnacle of a rock,
That I might often see
The face of the ocean;
That I might see its heaving waves
Over the wide ocean,
When they chant music to their Father
Upon the world’s course;
That I might see its level sparkling strand,
It would be no cause of sorrow;
That I might hear the song of the wonderful birds,
Source of happiness;
That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves
Upon the rocks;
That I might hear the roar by the side of the church
Of the surrounding sea;
That I might see its noble flocks
Over the watery ocean;
That I might see the sea monsters,
The greatest of all wonders;
That I might see its ebb and flood
In their career;
That my mystical name might be, I say,
‘Cul ri Erin‘;
That contrition might come upon my heart
Upon looking at her;
That I might bewail my evils all,
Though it were difficult to compute them;
That I might bless the Lord
Who conserves all,
Heaven with its countless bright orders,
Land, strand and flood;
That I might search the books all,
That would be good for any soul;
At times kneeling to Beloved Heaven;
At times at psalm-singing;
At times contemplating the King of Heaven,
Holy the Chief;
At times work without compulsion;
This would be delightful.
At times plucking duilisc† from the rocks;
At times fishing;
At times giving food to the poor;
At times in a carcair‡.
The best advice in the presence of God
To me has been vouchsafed.
The King whose servant I am will not let
Anything deceive me.
— Columcille fecit, attributed to St. Columba; translated by Michael O’Curry from an Irish MS. in the Burgundian Library of Brussels.
198. Then Columcille and his household departed from Erin, and this is the number they were: twenty bishops, two score priests, thirty deacons, and two score sons of learning that had not yet the rank of priest or deacon, as the poet, even Dallan Forgaill, hath said in this quatrain:
Forty priests their number.
Twenty bishops, lofty their virtue,
For psalmody, without doubting.
Thirty deacons, fifty boys.
199. And these folk were full of wisdom and knowledge and the graces of the Holy Ghost. And the years of Columcille at that time were two and two score. And other fourteen and twenty years of his life he spent in Alba in pilgrimage and exile.
200. Then went Columcille and his household into their ship. And there he made his quatrain:
My foot in my tuneful coracle;
My sad heart tearful
A man without guidance is weak;
Blind all those without knowledge.
201. And he bade farewell to Erin then, and they put out into the ocean and the great deep. And Columcille kept gazing backward on Erin till the sea hid it from him. And heavy and sorrowful was he in that hour. And it was thus he made this quatrain below:
I stretch my eye across the brine,
From the firm oaken planks;
Many the tears of my soft grey eye
As I look back upon Erin.
There is a grey eye
That will look back upon Erin;
Never again will it see
The men of Erin or women.
At dawn and at eve I lament;
Alas for the journey I go
This is my name–I tell a secret–
‘Back to Erin’.
– Betha Colaim Chille (Life of Columcille),
XIV. Of the Exile of Columcille from Erin, 198-201; compiled by Manus O’Donnell in 1532; edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Nothing so agile that it can match wisdom for agility; nothing can penetrate this way and that, etherial as she. Steam that ascends from the fervour of divine activity, pure effluence of his glory who is God all-powerful, she feels no passing taint; she, the glow that radiates from eternal light, she, the untarnished mirror of God’s majesty, she, the faithful image of his goodness. Alone, with none to aid her, she is all-powerful; herself ever unchanged, she makes all things new; age after age she finds her way into holy men’s hearts, turning them into friends and spokesmen of God.
46 Agus thuhhairt Muire, A ta m’anam ag àrd-mholadh an Tighearna, 47 Agus a ta mo spiorad a’ deanamh gairdeachais ann an Dia mo Shlanuighear: 48 Do bhrìgh gu’n d’amhairc e air staid ìosail a bhan-oglaich: oir feuch, o so suas goiridh gach linn beannaichte dhiom. 49 Do bhrìgh gu’n d’rinn an Ti a ta cumhachdach nithe mòra dhomh, agus is naomh ‘ainm. 50 Agus a ta a thròcair-san o linn gu linn, do’n droing d’an eagal e. 51 Nochd e neart le ‘ghairdean, sgap e na h-uaibhrich ann an smuaintibh an cridhe féin. 52 Thug e nuas na daoine cumhachdach o’n caithrichibh rìoghail, agus dh’àrdaich e iadsan a bha ìosal. 53 Lìon e ‘n droing a bha ocrach le nithibh maithe, agus chuir e uaith na daoine saoibhir falamh. 54 Rinn e còmhnadh ri Israel ‘òglach féin, ann an cuimhneachadh a thròcair. 55 Mar a labhair e r’ar n-aith-richibh, do Abraham agus d’a shliochd gu bràth.
Detail of brooch terminals in Pictish form, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Silver chape (metal tip of sword scabbard), from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Collection of penannular brooches, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Silver bowl inscribed with cross, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Silver “thimbles” or mounts, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Collection of silver bowls, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Penannular brooch, from St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
The St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, dating from approximately A.D. 800, is the finest surviving collection of Scottish silver from the period. The hoard was discovered in July 1958, in the ruins of a twelfth century chapel on St. Ninian’s isle, a land-tied island connected to the southwestern coast of the Mainland, Shetland. The metalwork hoard (mainly silver, some gilt) consists of both secular pieces — penannular brooches and sword scabbard chapes, for example — and ritual objects such a bowls and spoons. The brooches show a variety of typical Pictish forms, with both zoomorphic and lobed geometric terminals, and two of the scabbard chapes and a sword pommel appear to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, probably made in Mercia in the late 8th century; one has an inscription with a prayer in Old English.