Celtic and Old English Saints          24 January

* St. Guasacht of Granard
* St. Manach of Lemonaghan
* St. Cadoc of Wales

St. Guasacht of Granard,
Bishop in Ireland, Son of Saint Patrick's former master
4th century. Guasacht was the son of Maelchu (Miluic), the master under
whom Saint Patrick worked as a slave in Ireland. Maelchu set fire to his
home, locked the doors, and perished in the flames rather than meet
Patrick again. Guasacht, however, was converted by Patrick, whom he
helped in the evangelization of Ireland, both as a layman and later as
bishop of Granard (County Longford). His two sisters, known as the Emers
(f.d. December 11), also became Christians and lived as monastics
(Benedictines, D'Arcy, Montague).

St. Manach of Lemonaghan
St. Manchan lived in Leamonaghan, it is about two kilometres from
Pollagh. St. Kieran of Clonmacnoise gave him some land and he formed a
monastery in the year 645 AD. Nothing now remains but the ruins and the
surrounding graveyard. The foundations of the original buildings may still
be traced but the larger ruins are those of a church built at a later date.

About 500m from the monastery is a little stone house which Monchan built
for his mother Mella. This place is known locally as Kell and the ruins of
the house can still be visited today. It is said that one day the saint was
thirsty and there was no water at the monastery. He struck a rock and a
spring well bubbled up, it is now known as St. Manahan's well. It is visited
by people from all around especially on January 24 each year. It is claimed
that many people have been cured of diseases after visiting the well.

There are many stories about the saint. One of the most famous of them
explains why the people of Lemonaghan will not sell milk. St. Manchan had a
cow that used to give milk to the whole country side for which there was no
charge. The cow became famous and the neighbouring people of Kill-Managhan
got jealous and stole his cow. When St. Manchan eventually found his cow it
was dead, he struck it with a stick and the cow came back to life and
returned to supplying milk.

St. Manchan's shrine was made in 1130 AD in Clonmacnoise, it contains
some of his bones including the femur. On the shrine are placed brass
figures, in 1838 it was placed in Boher church. It is the largest shrine
of its kind in existence today. The guardians of the shrine through
the centuries are the Mooney family (my ancestors!)

St Manchan's Shrine is preserved in Boher church, near-by. This shrine is
the largest and most magnificent ancient reliquary in Ireland and was made
at Clonmacnois about AD 1130. It is a gabled box of yew wood with gilt,
bronze, and enamelled fittings. It still contains the relics of the saint.
There are ten remaining figures of a possible 50 or 52 on the cover.

Shrine of Saint Manchan

St. Manchan lived in Lemonaghan for 19 years. During this time he looked
after the spiritual needs of the locality. He waas known for his kindness
and generosity, his wisdom and his knowledge of sacred scripture.

In 664 AD he became ill and was struck down by the yellow plague a disease
which desolated Ireland at the time. He died and wad buried locally. After
his death the place became known as 'Liath Manchan', which means Manchan's
grey land.

How St. Manchan came to Lemonaghan

In 644, Diarmuid, High King of Ireland was on his way to fight a battle
against Guaire, the King of Connaught, when he stopped off at Clonmacnois to
ask the monks for their prayers for his success. Having won the battle, a
grateful Diarmuid granted Ciarбn, abbot of Clonmacnois, the "island in the
bog" which we now know as Lemonaghan, provided that he send one of his monks
there to Christianize it.

St. Ciarбn chose St. Manchan for the mission. The thriving community that
was already on the island were converted to Christianity by St. Manchan. He
then went on to establish a monastery there. He built a cell for his mother,
St. Mella, in an adjoining piece of high ground, and the intervening bog was
bridged by a togher or walkway made from sandstone laid on brushwood and
gravel. St. Manchan is alleged to have taken a vow never to look at a woman
as part of his orders, so he is supposed to have had to sit back to back
with his mother in order to communicate with her.

St. Manchan had many followers at Lemonaghan and ancient headstones still
survive from the era. St. Manchan's well was used for cures since pagan
times, and continues to be used for a variety of cures today, as is the holy
water font in the ruined church in the graveyard.

St. Manchan
a visit to a historic Offaly centre Monday, 24th January
Midland Tribune 27th April 1935
By Tomas O'Cleirigh, M.A., National Museum.

I was in the little two-horse train which labours west from Clara to
Banagher and the outlook was desolate. There was another chap in the
carriage. He sat hunched up in the corner with his nose to the window. One
glance convinced me that it was useless to say anything and there the two of
us kept on staring rather lovingly at a wilderness of bog stretching away to
the Slieve Bloom Mountains. It seemed to me that there was a kind of
promised land on the other side. On past a few scattered farm houses some
grey boulders and the ruins of a church. I found myself thinking dismally
enough of the tourists. After all what do they get? Just ruins, ruins and
more ruins- the saddest ruins in Europe. Then suddenly I heard my friend of
the opposite corner speak in a mournful kind of way with his nose still
glued to the window - "That's Leamanaghan, a quare kind of place, decent
people, too, the best in the world, people who'd give you all the milk you
could drink but wouldn't sell a drop of it for all the gold in Ireland and
it's all by raison of a cow, saint Manchan's cow."

The Grey Land

I went through a storm of real Irish rain to see Leamanaghan that very
evening. It is four miles from Ferbane in County Offaly and hidden away in a
vast bog region which is dotted with scattered boulders of magnesian
limestone. The general depression is summed up in the name - Liath Manchan -
the grey land of Manchan. Aye! The grey, lonely, chill land of Manchan. St.
Manchan lived here and died in A.D. 664. That might have been only
yesterday, however as far as the good neighbours are concerned because he is
the one subject over which every man, woman and child can get really

I was taken to see the ruins of his church and then down to his well and
heard how when you are sick should pray here, walk three times round it and
then, go back and leave a little present for the saint himself in the window
of the church. He had quite a good collection when I was there - a strangely
human and pathetic little collection among which I noticed a girl's brooch,
some small religious articles, a boy's penknife, a G.A.A. footballer's medal
and strangest gift of all for a saint of Manchan's calibre - a demure little
vanity box! After that I was told that on the 24th January when all the rest
of the world works, the people of Leamanaghan just take a holiday and make
merry because it would be the unpardonable sin to think of work on their
Saint's day.

The Saint's Cow

They have all kinds of stories about the good saint but the best one of them
all explains why Leamanaghan people don't sell milk. Here it is -
Saint Manchan had a cow - a wonderful cow that used to give milk to the
whole countryside - good, rich milk for which no charge was ever made by the
saint. Then, the people of the neighbouring Kill Managhan got jealous and
watched and there chance. One fine day when Manchan was absent they came and
stole the cow and started to drive her along the togher through the bog back
home to Kill Managhan. The good cow, suspecting something was wrong, went
backwards and most unwillingly, fighting, struggling and disputing every
inch of the way. Now she'd slip designedly on the stones: again she'd lie
down but every where she went, she managed to leave some trace of her rough
passage on the stones of the togher. The marks are there to this day, - hoof
marks, tail marks - every kind of marks and the chef-d'oeuvre of them all
has a place of honour at the entrance to the little school. Alas! In spite
of that very gallant resistance, the cow was finally driven to Kill
Managhan. There, horrible to say, she was killed and skinned.

In the meantime, the saint returned, missed his cow, and straightaway
started in pursuit. He succeeded in tracing the thieves by the marks on the
stones and arrived just at the moment when she was about to be boiled. He
carefully picked the portions out of the cauldron pieced them together,
struck at them with his stick and immediately the cow became alive again.
She was every bit as good as ever, too, except that she was a wee bit lame
on account of one small portion of a foot which was lost. She continued to
supply the milk as before, and, of course, no charge was made by the saint.
Ever since the famous custom still lives on, and good milk is given away but
never gold by the loyal people of Leamanaghan. Now, can any lover of the
grand faith of Medievaldom beat that?

The very old vellum books state that Manchan of Liath was like unto
Hieronomus in habits and learning. I can well believe it. Some distance away
from the church is the little rectangle cell which he built for his mother -
Saint Mella. Cold, austere and with no window, you get the shivers by even
looking at it. There is also a large flag-stone on the togher leading from
the well, and they say the saint and his mother used to meet here every day
and sit down back to back without speaking a word because the saint had
vowed never to speak to a woman!

A Famous Shrine

Leamanaghan people are, I gather, a tenacious class. Not only have they so
zealously guarded the cow tradition but they have succeeded, despite the
groans of sundry learned antiquarians, in still keeping in their midst the
saint's precious shrine. It has a special altar all to itself in the church
of Boher. But the first thing I noticed when I went along to see it was a
wonderful green in a Harry Clarke window. The shrine itself has been many
times described, notably so by the Rev James Graves in 1875.

St. Manchan is credited with writing a poem in Irish that describes the
desire of the green martyrs:

Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find-
Son of the living God!-
A small hut in a lonesome spot
To make it my abode.
A little pool but very clear
To stand beside the place
Where all men's sins are washed away
By sanctifying grace.
A pleasant woodland all about
To shield it (the hut) from the wind,
And make a home for singing birds
Before it and behind.
A southern aspect for the heat
A stream along its foot,
A smooth green lawn with rich top soil
Propitious to all fruit.
My choice of men to live with me
And pray to God as well;
Quiet men of humble mind --
Their number I shall tell.
Four files of three or three of four
To give the Psalter forth;
Six to pray by the south church wall
And six along the north.
Two by two my dozen friends --
To tell the number right --
Praying with me to move the King
Who gives the sun its light.

St Manach's Shrine

St. Cadoc, Cadoc, Bishop and Martyr of Llancarvan, Wales
(Docus, Cathmael, Cadvael, Codocus)
Died c. 580.
Cadoc was the son of a robber, one of the lesser kings of Wales, who
with an armed band of 300 men had stolen the daughter of a neighbouring
chieftain for his wife. In this ugly episode 200 of his followers
perished, and out of this unpromising union was born Cadoc, the Welsh
saint, founder of the monastery of Llancarvan.

It is hardly credible that form so wild and barbarous a background
should have come such a gentle and enlightened prince, but fortunately
his erratic and impulsive father placed him in the care of an Irish monk
whose cow he had stolen and who had been bold enough to demand its
return. From this good man Cadoc learned the rudiments of Latin, and
after pursuing his studies in Ireland, preferred the life of a priest to
that of a prince.

Stories are told of how one day in his poverty, during a famine, when he
sat with his books in his cell, a white mouse ran suddenly on to the
table from a hole in the wall and put down a grain of corn. Cadoc
followed it and found in the cellar beneath him an old Celtic
subterranean granary stacked with grain. It is also said that once he
hid himself in a wood from an armed swineherd of an enemy tribe, and
there came a wild boar, white with age, who, disturbed by his presence,
made three fierce bounds in his direction and then disappeared. Cadoc
marked the spot with three tree branches, and it became the site of his
great church and abbey of Llancarvan. He himself took an active part in
its building, and it became a busy centre of industry, "The best of
patriots," he said, "is he who tills the soil."

When, on one occasion, a band of robbers came to pillage the monastery,
Cadoc and his monks went out to meet them with their harps, chanting as
they went, and the marauders were so surprised by their attitude and so
enchanted by the music that they withdrew.

But the best story is that of his parents' conversion. It was a happy
day when by the river they made public profession of their faith. The
robber king had found his Saviour, and father and son together recited
the Psalm: "The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble."

Cadoc later took refuge from the Anglo-Saxons in the Isle of Flatholmes,
and then in Brittany, where he established another monastery upon a
small island to which he built a stone bridge so that the children could
cross to his school. Finally he returned to Britain and, obeying his own
maxim: "Would you find glory? March to the grave," deliberately cut
himself off from the shelter of his own monastery of Llancarvan, and
lived among the Saxon settlements to console the native Christians who
had survived the massacres of the pagan invaders. This was at Weedon in
Northamptonshire, and there he met with a martyr's death. While
celebrating the Eucharist one day, the service was rudely disturbed by
Saxon horsemen, and Cadoc was slain as he served at the altar (Gill).

Troparion of St Cadoc Tone 5
Having been raised to piety, O Hierarch Cadoc,/ thou didst dedicate thy
life to God,/ serving Him in the monastic state./ As with joyful heart
thou didst fulfil thy daily obedience,/ caring for the earthly needs of
countless paupers,/ look now upon our spiritual poverty/ and beseech
Christ our God,/ that He will grant us great mercy.

Kontakion of St Cadoc Tone 5
We honour thee with hymns, O righteous Hierarch Cadoc,/ for the
pilgrimage of thy life was found pleasing to God,/ Who in His goodness
adorned thee with authority,/ and as thou didst receive the crown of
martyrdom,/ whilst serving the Holy Mysteries,/ pray for us that we also
may be blessed to die in Christ.


Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
(1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

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.}

Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great Christians
for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press.

Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
Guildford: Billing & Sons.

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