The Latin & Irish Lives of Ciaran eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 201 pages of information about The Latin & Irish Lives of Ciaran.

The story of Oenna is told rather differently in the glosses to the Martyrology of Oengus (Bradshaw edn., pp. 48 ff.).  Oenna with two companions was going for military service to the King of Connacht.  They came to the embarking-place, not of Inis Aingin, but the larger Inis Clothrann (now sometimes called Quaker Island), where there are extensive ancient monastic remains.  Ciaran was at the time in Inis Clothrann.  He summoned Oenna to him, and asked him whither he was faring.  “To the King of Connacht,” answered Oenna.  “Were it not better rather to contract with the King of Heaven and earth?” asked Ciaran.  “It were better,” said Oenna, “if it be right to do so.”  “It is right,” answered Ciaran.  Then Oenna was tonsured and began his studies.  Here the miraculous insight which recognised in the warrior youth the future abbot is ignored.  The tract De Arreis[23] tells us of the penance which Ciaran imposed upon Oenna:  briefly stated it was as follows.  He was to remain three days and three nights in a darkened room, not breaking his fast save with three sips of water each day.  Every day he was to sing the whole Psalter, standing, without a staff to support him, making a genuflexion at the end of each Psalm, reciting Beati after each fifty, and Hymnum dicat after every Beati in cross-vigil (i.e., standing upright with his arms stretched out sideways horizontally).  He was not to lie down but only to sit, was to observe the canonical hours, and was to meditate on the Passion of Christ and upon his own sins.

The author of LA betrays his Irish personality by a phrase which he uses of Oenna.  Ciaran bids his followers to fetch materiam abbatis uestri—­“the makings of your abbot.”  This is a regular idiom for an heir-apparent, and it shows that if the writer be not actually translating from an Irish document, he is at least thinking in Irish as he writes in Latin.


There is another story of a gospel recovered from a lake, but without any mention of a cow as the agent for its rescue (CS, 556).  The tale may be founded on fact.  The “Port of the Gospel” is now forgotten.

Books preserved as relics (e.g. the gospels belonging to a sainted founder) were kept in metal shrines, and valuable books which were in use were hung in satchels of leather on the walls of the library or scriptorium.  Two specimens of such satchels still remain.


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The Latin & Irish Lives of Ciaran from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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