Celtic and Old English Saints          31 October

* St. Erth of Cornwall
* St. Foillan of Fosses
* St. Bega

St. Erth of Cornwall (of Slane)
(Erc, Ercus, Herygh, Urith)
Died c. 512; feast in Ireland is November 2. Saint Erth, the brother of
Saint Uny and Saint Ia (Ives) (f.d. February 3), was the only person to
give homage to Saint Patrick during the latter's confrontation with the
druids on the Hill of Slane. Patrick later ordained him a priest and
bishop. A distich ascribed to Saint Patrick relates:

"Bishop Erc,
Whatever he judged was rightly judged:
Whosoever gives a just judgement
Shall receive the blessing of bishop Erc."

Erth is said to have trained the young Saint Brendan the Navigator (f.d.
May 16) at his church in Tralee. Saint Erth is also
responsible for establishing the famous school at Slane, where King
Dagobert II is said to have received his early education. The
12th-century martyrology of Gorman calls him 'Erc of Slane, bishop of
Lilcach and from Ferta Fer Feic beside Sid Truim from the West.' He
apparently crossed from Ireland to Cornwall, where a church and the
village of Saint Erth are dedicated under his patronage (Benedictines,
Farmer, Montague).

Troparion of St Herygh tone 8
For four score years and ten thou didst grace the Cornish land with thy
godly presence, O Father Herygh./ Therefore pray to God for us,/ that we
may devote every year of our lives to His service,/ that at the end we
may be found worthy of eternal salvation.

St. Foillan (Faillan) of Fosses, Abbot
Born in Ireland; died in Belgium, c. 655. Among the brothers of Saint
Fursey (f.d. January 16) were Foillan and Saint Ultan (f.d. May 1), who
went to England with Fursey about 630. There they built a monastery at
Burgh Castle in Suffolk near Yarmouth, and were missionary monks under
him among the East Angles.

When Fursey departed for Gaul, Foillan succeeded him as abbot, but the
destruction of their monastery and the depredations of the Mercians
under Penda, drove Foillan and Ultan to follow their brother across the

They were welcomed to Neustria by King Clovis II. Abbess Blessed Ida of
Nivelles (f.d. May 8) gave Foillan land at Fosses, Belgium, where he set
up a monastery and did missionary work among the Brabanters of the
surrounding country, on whom he made a lasting impression.

He kept up close relations with Saint Gertrude's establishment at
Nivelles, and this was the occasion of his untimely end: It was when
returning from saying Mass at Nivelles that he was set upon by robbers
in the forest of Seneffe and murdered with three companions. Their
bodies were not found until nearly three months later.

Ultan succeeded Foillan as abbot of Fosses, and he too was revered as a

In September every seventh year at Fosses, there is a spectacular
procession, called the March of Foillan, to honour the saint. Foillan's
relics are honoured by an official mounted guard and salutes are fired
seven times along the route of the procession. (Attwater, Delaney,
Encyclopaedia, Montague).

Foillan is depicted as a bishop with two armed men under his feet.
Sometimes he is shown (1) refusing the cup at the table of Pepin; (2)
carrying hot coals in his vestment for incense; (3) praying before the
church while the city burns; (4) kneeling, pierced by a spear; (5)
beaten with a club; or (6) with sword and palm (Roeder).

Foillan is the patron of children's nurses, dentists, surgeons, and
truss-makers (Roeder). He is widely honoured in both Ireland and
northern France (Montague).

Troparion of St Foillan tone 8
Pagan robbers bestowed upon thee the crown of martyrdom, O righteous
Foillan,/ for thy life was a reproach to the impious and cruel men./
Having laboured with thy holy brother, our Father Fursey,/ in East
Anglia and later in the Netherlands,/ pray to God for us, we beseech
thee, that both in word and deed/ our lives may be a missionary witness,
that we may be found worthy of His great mercy.

St. Bega, Anchoress of St Bee's Head Cumberland,
Founder of a Monastery Near Whitehaven
(Bee, Begh, Begha, Begu), Virgin
Main day of commemoration is 6th September

Died in Cumberland, 681. This is another of those problematic saints,
mixing fact and fiction and, perhaps, the stories of more than one
person of the same name. One Bega is Irish; the other Anglo-Saxon. As
always, there appears to be some basis for the stories, but it is
impossible to sort or determine to whom each element of the story
relates. So, I give you what each of the sources has said.

The Irish maiden Saint Bega, in legend a princess, fled on the eve of
her marriage to a son of the king of Norway with a miraculous bracelet
presented by an angel as a token of her betrothal to the Lord Jesus
Christ. She was miraculously transported across the Irish Sea to
Cumberland, England.

She lived as a hermit for a while but on the advice of King Saint Oswald
(f.d. August 9), she received the veil from Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
(f.d. August 31). Thereafter she founded a convent on the promontory of
Saint Bee's Head (Copeland), in Cumberland, which flourished for 900
years with grants from Kings Saint Oswald, Saint Oswin (f.d. August 20),
and others. As an abbess, she was venerated for her aid to the poor and
the oppressed. The abbey still perpetuates her memory, as does also the
name of the village, Kilbees, in Scotland.

Two other saints of the same name are mentioned by hagiographers in
Yorkshire and an abbess at Kilbees. An Anglo-Saxon nun, called Heiu or
Begu, was also professed by Saint Aidan. According to Saint Bede (f.d.
May 25), she abdicated her abbacy of Hartlepool Abbey in favour of the
royal princess Saint Hilda (f.d. November 17). He also notes that while
Begu was novice mistress in another convent, she saw a vision of her
beloved Hilda, surrounded by heavenly light, ascend to heaven as the
bells tolled to call the sisters to prayer. The community was
immediately gathered in the chapel to pray for the repose of Hilda's
soul. The following morning messengers arrived was the news of the
death of the abbess of Whitby.

About 1125, the monks of Whitby sought relics to replace those of Hilda,
who had been translated to Glastonbury (they possessed those of Saint
Caedmon (f.d. February 11), but few were interested in him). Through a
revelation, a sarcophagus was found at Harkness with the inscription
"Hoc est sepulchrum Begu" and its contents transferred to Whitby, where
miracles were reported.

The origin of the name of the village of Kilbees and headland on the
coast of Cumberland is a matter of uncertainty. It seems more likely
that they are named after the Irish Bega than after either of the two
7th century Northumbrian nuns, Begu and Heiu, mentioned by Bede. There
is a medieval legend that oaths sworn on her bracelet were accepted
without further question (Attwater, Benedictines, D'Arcy, Encyclopaedia,
Farmer, Montague, Moran).

Through the intercessions of St Bee and of all the Saints of Britain,
Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

The village of Saint Bees

A book to read about Saint Bee:--
"CREDO" by Melvyn Bragg

Two reviews:
alan.dav...@... , August 14, 1997
Big, sweeping historical epic by a superior, literate writer

This is a huge book (780 pages in paperback) which sprawls across
England and Ireland circa 650AD. It is a highly literate (Bragg is a
prominent UK arts broadcaster) fictional exploration of Saint Bega and
other real life characters set against the religion and politics of the
time [and the key players at the Synod of Whitby.] It is very readable
with plenty of action,
believable characters and fascinating historical observation. It is
however a big novel so strengthen those wrist muscles first!.

simonfunn...@... from London, England , July 11, 1999
7th century Britain's way of life is under attack...

Melvyn Bragg's Credo is astonishing. It is so well researched and so
well written that the characters live in your head long after you have
closed the pages for the last time.

It's a classical battle; between the Pagans and the Christians, and
between the Christian Celts and the Christian Catholics, set in a
violent and turbulent period of history.

This book has been reprinted as "The Sword and The Miracle", but is also
available as "Credo."

Suppliers of Icons of Celtic Saints for the church
or the prayer corner at home.


Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Penguin Books.

Benedictine Monks of Saint 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.

Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
Doubleday Image.

Encyclopaedia of Catholic saints, October. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Roeder, H. (1956). Saints and Their Attributes, Chicago: Henry

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

White, K. E. (1992). Guide to the Saints, NY: Ivy Books.

For All the Saints:

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