I Do Not Compare the Disciple with the Master

Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).
Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).

Baithen was a man of tender soul, of whom we would fain speak at greater length, if it were not needful to circumscribe the wide and confused records of Celtic hagiography. Columba compared him to St John the Evangelist; he said that his beloved disciple resembled him who was the beloved disciple of Christ, by his exquisite purity, his penetrating simplicity, and his love of perfection. And Columba was not alone in doing justice to the man who, after having been his chief lieutenant in his work, was to become his first successor. One day, in an assembly of learned monks, probably held in Ireland, Fintan, a very learned and very wise man, and also one of the twelve companions of Columba’s exile, was questioned upon the qualities of Baithen. “Know,” he answered, “that there is no one on this side of the Alps who is equal to him in knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the greatness of his learning.” “What!” said his questioners — “not even his master, Columba?” “I do not compare the disciple with the master,” answered Fintan. “Columba is not to be compared with philosophers and learned men, but with patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. The Holy Ghost reigns in him; he has been chosen by God for the good of all. He is a sage among all sages, a king among kings, an anchorite with anchorites, a monk of monks; and in order to bring himself to the level even of laymen, he knows how to be poor of heart among the poor; thanks to the apostolic charity which inspires him, he can rejoice with the joyful, and weep with the unfortunate. And amid all the gifts which God’s generosity has lavished on him, the true humility of Christ is so royally rooted in his soul, that it seems to have been born with him.” It is added that all the learned hearers assented unanimously to this enthusiastic eulogium. Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).

MacMillan’s Cross at Kilmory

MacMillan's Cross, Plate XXXIII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
MacMillan’s Cross, Plate XXXIII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

 

Detail of inscription on the rear face of MacMillan's Cross.
Detail of inscription on the rear face of MacMillan’s Cross.

The chapel of Kilmorie, in South Knapdale, has been already referred to as having traditionally been erected by St. Charmaig (Cormac). Its walls are still almost complete, and it is surrounded by a burying-ground. In both the chapel and graveyard are many slabs ornamented with the sword and shears. The cross figured in this Plate is in the churchyard. On one side is represented the crucifixion of our Lord, with figures which may be meant for the Blessed Virgin and St. John. Beneath is a two-handed sword. On the other side of the shaft is a stag-hunt, the dogs being represented with collars, as on some of the early east cross slabs, and lower down is an armed man holding in his hand a battle-axe, with a large horn suspended from his shoulder. Beneath his feet is the inscription — HEC EST CRVX ALEXANDRI MACMVLEN. The Macmillans, according to their traditions, were connected with the clan Chattan, and a branch of them possessed the greater part of Southern Knapdale, where their chief was known under the title of Macmillan of Knap; but although they were at a very early period in Knapdale, they probably obtained the greater part of their possessions there by marriage with the heiress of the chief of the Macneils in the sixteenth century. To an early part of this century the cross is probably to be ascribed. A drawing and notice of this monument occurs in Archæologia Scotica, vol. iv. p. 377.

Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.