20 January 2009

3 Saints of the British Isles

Today, besides the Synaxis of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist, John, we commemorate three Saints of the British Isles: St Cedd (Cedda) of Lastingham, St Brynach of Braunton, and St Kentigerna, Hermitess of Loch Lomond.

St Cedd figures prominently in Book III of St Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Judith McClure and Roger Collins [Oxford: Oxford U, 1994], pp. 108-67). He was an Englishman of Northumbria, born in the early 7th c., who was sent to the school at Lindisfarne to be taught by St Aidan with his three brothers, Cynebill, Cælin, and St Chad (Ceadda). Having been ordained a priest along with all three of his brothers, St Cedd was eventually sent as a missionary to Mercia (the Midlands), and later, after being consecrated a bishop at Lindisfarne, to Essex, where he made St Paul’s at London his main seat.

In 658, King Oethelwald of Deira, ‘seeing that Cedd was a wise, holy, and upright man’, offered him some land for a monastery ‘where he himself might frequently come to pray and hear the Word and where he might be buried’ (St Bede, p. 148). This was Lastingham, and after consecrating it himself all through Lent with fasting and prayer (except for the last 10 days, when urgent business required that his brother Cynebill should complete the task), St Cedd ‘built a monastery . . . and established in it the religious observancess according to the usage of Lindisfarne where he had been brought up’ (St Bede, pp. 148-9).

In 664, St Cedd served as an interpreter between the Celtic and Roman parties at the Synod of Whitby, and was among those who, in obedience to the Synod, reluctantly accepted the Roman dating of Pascha. According to St Bede, he was simultaneously bishop and abbot of the monastery for many years, until he contracted the plague and died, leaving the abbacy to his brother, St Chad. St Bede attributes to St Cedd at least one miracle (p. 149), and relates another, told by St Egbert of Rathmelsigi: ‘I know a man in this island [Ireland], still in the flesh, who saw the soul of Chad’s brother Cedd descend from the sky with a host of angels and return to the heavenly kingdom, taking Chad’s soul with him.’ The Venerable Bede then concludes—‘Whether he was speaking of himself or of another is uncertain, but what cannot be uncertain is that whatever such a man said must be true’ (p. 178). St Cedd was buried at Lastingham. Here is a website about the church that now stands there. Here are photographs of a church, one of the oldest in Britain, built by St Cedd. One can read about St Cedd here, here, and here.

Concerning St Kentigerna (Caintigernd), here is the entry on her in Butler’s Lives of Saints:

St Kentigerna, widow.

She is commemorated on the 7th of January, in the Aberdeen Breviary, from which we learn, that she was of royal blood, daughter of Kelly [Cellach Cualann (†715)], prince of Leinster in Ireland, as Colgan proves from ancient monuments. She was mother of the holy abbot St Fœlan, or Felan [Faelán, commonly known as St Fillan]. After the death of her husband, she left Ireland, and consecrated herself to God in a religious state, and lived in great austerity and humility, and died on the 7th of January, in the 728. Adam King informs us, that a famous parish church bears her name at Locloumont [Loch Lomond], in Inchelroch [Inchcailloch (Inis Chailligh, ‘Nun’s island’)], a small island into which she retired some time before her death, that she might with greater liberty give herself up to heavenly meditation. See Brev. Aberdon. et Colgan ad 7 Jan. p. 22.

The authoritative Celtic Culture: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. III, ed. John T. Koch (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005), p. 1052 (available on Google Books here), dates St Kentigerna to approximately 700-34, and notes that she, ‘is unusually well documented in reliable sources and thus provides solid evidence for aristocratic Irish influence on the Scottish Church in the 8th century.’

St Brynach, born c. 500, lived as a hermit at Nevern in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and was a good friend of St David, who presented him with a stone cross. He eventually relocated to Braunton in North Devon, which takes its name from the Saint. There he is said to have fallen asleep in the Lord on 7 January, though he is commemorated on 7 April in Wales, according to David Nash Ford, ‘perhaps because this was traditionally the day on which the first cuckoo in the country is said to sing every year from the top of St. Brynach's famous cross in Nevern churchyard’ (‘EBK: St Brynach’ on Early British Kingdoms [Wokingham, UK: Nash Ford, 2005]).


The Ochlophobist said...

This post warms my Welsh heart.

aaronandbrighid said...

Aw, I'm very glad to hear it! I thought about you a time or two as I was writing it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is of interest to anyone .... Caintigern (alt. Caintighearna, Caintigernd) her brother Congan, her son Faolan (little wolf; Fillan), et al. were exiled by a coalition of neighboring tribes after the family was defeated in battle. Thus it was Congan's cousin who became King of Leinster instead of Congan. Her husband most likely was killed in the battle. Royalty often became monastics after battles. (Note: there's no 'k' in Irish Gaelic or Scott Gaidhlig, and her father, Cellach - KELLahch - is often noted as Kelly; that spelling is Ceallaigh.)