- Feb 7, 2014Celtic and Old English Saints 6 February
* St. Mel of Ardagh
* Ss. Melchu and Munis of Lough Lee
* St. Ina and St. Ethelburga
* St. Jacut and St. Guethenoc
* St. Mun of Lough Ree
St. Mel (Mael, Melchno) of Ardagh and St. Melchu,
Bishops and Martyrs
Died c. 488-490. Mel and his brother Melchu (plus Munis and Rioch) were
sons among the 17 sons and two daughters of Saint Patrick's sister,
Darerca (f.d. March 22) and her husband Conis. While all of the children
are reputed to have entered religious life, Mel and Melchu,together with
their brothers Muinis and Rioch, accompanied Patrick to Ireland and
joined him in his missionary work.
Patrick ordained Mel and Melchu bishops. Patrick is reputed to have
appointed Mel bishop of Ardagh, and Melchu to the see of Armagh (or vice
versa). There is some evidence that Melchu may have been a bishop with
no fixed see, who may have succeeded his brother. Some scandal was
circulated about Mel, who lived with his Aunt Lipait but both cleared
themselves by miraculous means to Patrick, who ordered them to live
According to an ancient tradition, Mel professed Saint Brigid as a nun.
During the rite, he inadvertently read over her the episcopal
consecration, and Saint Macaille (f.d. April 25) protested. The ever
serene Mel, however, was convinced that it happened according to the
will of God and insisted that the consecration should stand.
From the Life of Saint Brigid, 1 February
Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from
Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility
Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be
given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the
church. Then said Bishop Mel: "Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be
sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then,
through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the form of ordaining a
bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille said that a bishop's order
should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel "No power have I in
this matter. That dignity hath been given by God unto Brigid, beyond
every (other) woman." Wherefore the men of Ireland
from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid's successor.
Most likely this story relates to the fact that Roman diocesan system
was unknown in Ireland. Monasteries formed the centre of Christian life
in the early Church of Ireland. Therefore, abbots and abbesses could
hold held some of the dignity and functions that a bishop would on the
Continent. Evidence of this can be seen also at synods and councils,
such as that of Whitby, which was convened by Saint Hilda. Women
sometimes ruled double monasteries; thus, governing both men and women.
Bridget, as a pre-eminent abbess, might have fulfilled some
semi-episcopal functions, such as preaching, hearing confessions
(without absolution), and leading the neighbouring Christians.
Nothing is definitely known about these saints; however, Mel has a
strong cultus at Longford, where he was the first abbot-bishop of a
richly endowed monastery that flourished for centuries. The cathedral of
Longford is dedicated to Mel, as is a college.
The crozier believed to have belonged to Saint Mel is now kept at Saint
Mel's College in a darkened bronze reliquary that was once decorated
with gilt and coloured stones. It was found in the 19th century at
Ardagh near the old cathedral of Saint Mel.
The various sources are rather confusing. It is possible that Mel was
bishop of Armagh and/or that Melchu and Mel are the same
person(Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Curtayne2, D'Arcy, Delaney,
Farmer, Healy, Henry2, Montague, Ryan).
Troparion of Ss Mel and Mun tone 5
Accompanying Ireland's Enlightener, your illustrious uncle,/ on his
missionary journeyings,/ O blessed Hierarchs Mel and Mun,/ and being
blessed with the gift of oratory,/ you inspired many to reject the
darkness of paganism and to believe in Christ./ Pray for us, O holy
ones,/ that the darkness of our sins may be blotted out by the mercy of
Kontakion of Ss Mel and Mun tone 2
As streams of pure doctrine flowed from your blessed lips,/ O righteous
Mel and Mun,/ pray to Christ our God that the streams of His compassion
and forgiveness/ will be poured out on us worthless sinners.
St. Ina and St. Ethelburga
Ina, a descendant of Cerdic, was born at Somerton and was to rule the
enlarged Kingdom of the West Saxons for thirty eight years. This Kingdom
included quite a number of the old British inhabitants, now to be called
Welsh, and Ina was the first of the Saxons to make provision for them in
his code of laws for which he is most renowned. In fact his is the
oldest collection of Saxon laws, apart from those of the Jutish King
Ethelbert of Kent. Ina and his wife Ethelburga were devout Christians,
and the foundation of St. Andrew's at Wells, later to become a
Cathedral, and the creation of the new diocese of Sherborne, to which he
appointed his Kinsman Aldhelm as bishop, are evidence of his Christian
zeal. However, it is his love for Glastonbury that made that holy place
his chief concern.
Ina recognised Glastonbury as a most holy place and set about restoring
the British buildings and extending them. S. Paulinus of York is
credited with enclosing and protecting the original church with wooden
panels and lead roofing, and King Ina added to this a "Wooden basilica
dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary", and a new
church dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. This church was in memory of his
brother Mul, who had died in battle against the King of Kent and is
buried in the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul at Canterbury. Ina gave over
the church at Glastonbury to Rome and in return received the Privilege
under the Apostolic Seal, which was to be the boast of the Abbey until
There is a curious story told by William of Malmsbury. The King and
Queen had been holding court in one of the royal residences, and on the
night before they moved on, had held a great banquet. The following
morning the royal party had gone only a few miles when the Queen begged
her husband to return to the hall. There she showed him what she had
done: she had ordered the servants to throw rubbish and cow dung in the
hall, and had put a sow and her litter into the royal bed. Thus,
Ethelburga pointed out to the King, the pomp of this world passes and
the splendour of the world is as a breath that disappears.
In 720 Ina resigned his kingdom and went to spend the last years of his
life with his wife in Rome praying at the tombs of the Apostles. He was
graciously received by Pope Gregory II who gave him a parcel of land
near St. Peters, where he founded a hospice for English pilgrims with a
church adjoining it known as St. Maria in Saxia. This is now covered by
the large hospital of San Spirito, but the district is still known as
"In Sassia". Ina and his wife Ethelburga died in Rome and are buried
there, probably by the altar of St. Maria, but some say in the narthex
of the old Basilica of St. Peter.
St. Jacut and St. Guethenoc
5th century. Sons of Saints Fragan and Gwen (f.d. July 5) and brothers
of the more celebrated Saint Gwenaloe (Winwaloee; f.d. March 3--twin of
Jacut), Jacut and Guethenoc became disciples of Saint Budoc (f.d.
December 9), and like him were driven from their native Britain by the
invading Saxons (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia).
St. Mun of Lough Ree, Bishop
5th century. Described as another nephew of Saint Patrick, who
consecrated him bishop of what is now County Longford. He ended his days
as a hermit on an island in Lough Ree (Benedictines).
Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints,
2nd edition, revised and updated by Catherine Rachel John.
New York: Penguin Books.
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.
Bentley, J. (1986). A Calendar of Saints: The Lives of the
Principal Saints of the Christian Year. NY: Facts on File.
Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
Saints of the British Isles Complied
from Ancient Calendars.
Chandlery, P.J. Pilgrim Walks in Rome.
Coulson, J. (ed.). (1960). The Saints: A Concise Biographical
Dictionary. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Curtayne, A. (1955). Twenty tales of Irish Saints. New York:
Sheed and Ward.
D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
lives of the saints.]
Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Healy, J. (1902). Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars.
Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker.
Henry, F. (1967). Irish Art During the Viking Invasions (800-1020).
Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.
Ryan, J. (1931). Irish Monasticism. Dublin: Talbot Press.
For All the Saints: - new active link
An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West - new active link
These Lives are archived at:
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>