In Four Things Like Unto Moses

St. Patrick kindles the Paschal Fire on the Hill of Slane, mosaic by Boris Anrep, Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland.
St. Patrick kindles the Paschal Fire on the Hill of Slane, mosaic by Boris Anrep, Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland.

In quatuor rebus similis fuit Moysi Patricius:

I. Primo, anguelum de rubo audivit:
II. quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus ieiunavit:
III. quia annos centum viginti peregit in vita praesenti:
IIII. ubi sunt ossa eius nemo novit.

Duo hostes duodecim diebus corpus Sancti Patricii contenderunt et noctem inter se duodecim diebus non viderunt, sed diem semper et in duodecima die ad praelium venierunt, et corpus in grabato duo hostes viderunt apud se, et non pugnaverunt. Colombcille, Spiritu Sancto instigante, ostendit sepulturam Patricii, [et] ubi est confirmat, id est in Sabul Patricii, id est in aecclesia juxta mare proxima, ubi est conductio martirum, id est ossuum, Coluimb Cille de Britannia et conductio omnium sanctorum Hiberniae in die judicii.

(Two hostile hands contended during twelve days for the body of the blessed Patrick, and they saw no night intervene during these twelve days, but daylight always; and on the twelfth day they came to actual conflict; but the two hosts seeing the body on its bier with each party, gave up the conflict. Columcille, inspired by the Holy Ghost, pointed out the sepulchre of Patrick, and proves where it is; namely, in Saul of Patrick; that is, in the church nigh to the sea, where the gathering of the relics is — that is, of the bones of Coluincille from Britain, and the gathering of all the saints of Erin in the day of judgment.)

Book of Armagh, fo. 15, b. 2. from Whitley Stokes, Tripartite Life of Patrick, London, 1887.

Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Like An Unsullied Sun

Replica of St. John's Cross, by the door of Iona Abbey.
Replica of St. John’s Cross, by the door of Iona Abbey.

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.

Old Irish Life of St. Columba.

Brecbennoch of St. Columba

The Monymusk Reliquary is an VIII century Scottish reliquary made of wood and metal characterised by an Insular fusion of Gaelic and Pictish design and Anglo-Saxon metalworking, probably by Ionan monks. It has been said to be the Brecbennoch of St. Columba (modern Gaelic Breac Bannoch or “embossed peaked-thing”), a sacred battle ensign of the Scottish army, used for saintly intercession.