Celtic and Old English Saints          12 June

* St. Ternan of Culross
* St. Cunera

St. Ternan, Bishop of Culross
5th century. Saint Palladius consecrated Ternan as an early missionary
bishop among the Picts of Scotland. He is said to have lived at
Abernathy and is the reputed founder of the abbey of Culross in
Fifeshire (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Husenbeth).

St Ternan is commemorated at Banchory-Ternan in the lower Dee valley and
at Arbuthnott, among other places in Scotland. He is also commemorated
in the Irish martyrologies as Torannan where he is said to have been a
sixth-century saint from Scotland. The Martyrology of Donegal states
that he was abbot of Bennchor and of Tulach Foirtceirn in Leinster. It
is also suggested that he was an older contemporary of Colum-Cille (St

Another set of sources gives St Ternan as one St Ninian's successors and
third abbot of Candida Cassa (Whithorn). Ternan is said to have followed
the short abbacy of St Caranoc the Great; Ternan himself being succeeded
by Nennio, the little monk. This story must be a serious contender for
the truth since it would explain why Ternan travelled to the north-east
... in the steps of his master St Ninian. It would, however, suggest a
much earlier date for him, i.e. mid to late fifth-century. What is, of
course possible, is that we are dealing here with two separate people -
one who lived in the fifth century (Tervanus or Ternan) and one who
lived and worked in the sixth century (Torannan or Ternan). However, one
writer (Scott), somewhat less charitably has the following to say about
the Roman fabulists' work in which they tried to gloss over the true
history of St Ternan in order to show a Roman genesis for the
Brito-Pictish Church. He says, "they began their perversions by
bestowing on him (Ternan) the unwarranted and anachronistic title
Archbishop of the Picts." At least one Roman hand, however, held more
closely to the truth. In the Martyrology of Aberdeen, which bears
evidence of a Moray scribe's hand, St Ternan is titled "Archipraesul"
which, in this instance, means president of the chief and parent
community (Candida Casa).

The truth ... ? Well, this is what I would humbly suggest as being
Ternan's true history, as drawn from the original sources. There was but
one Ternan. He was a Pict of the Mearns in Alba who was converted during
St Ninian's Pictish mission, he was educated at Candida Cassa, he was
baptized in early manhood by that disciple of St Ninian whom the Roman
writers confused with Palladius, whose native name is Pawl Hen or Paul
the Aged. Paul was a missionary, a Briton, and worked with St Ninian. He
survived into the early years of the sixth century and thus lived long
enough to meet St David, but he could not see him because he was blind
with old age.

Ternan, having been third abbot of Candida Cassa, founded a banchor
(place of Christian learning) where is today the town of Banchory and,
indeed, there are remains of a celtic foundation to be seen in a number
of carved stones close by the old grave-yard.

It was here that St Ternan is said to have taught his convert, the Pict
St Erchard. If the reader ever wishes to understand how culture in
Pictland suffered from the invasions of the Danes and Vikings, simply
visualise Banchory and other like places in the fifth century with their
schools, their manuscripts, and active missionary teachers, spreading
the Gospel and Christian civilisation; and then think of the state of
these places five hundred years later!

What was thought to be Ternan's skull, and his copy of St Matthew's
Gospel in a case richly adorned with gilt and silver, are said to have
been preserved at Banchory until the 16th Century. So also was his bell
called Ronecht, said by tradition to have been given to him at Rome by
the pope, and to have miraculously followed him to Alba. It was under
the care on an hereditary keeper, as in the case of similar relics
associated with Celtic saints. Its dewar or keeper, in virtue of his
office, had a piece of land known as the Deray Croft of Banquhori-terne.
During the construction of the old Deeside Railway a small square
cast-iron bell was dug up by the workmen, but, sadly it was eventually
lost sight of. This may have been Ternan's Ronecht, so carefully
preserved in medieval times.

An image of Ternan, (dressed in archepiscopal robes no less!), is
preserved in one of the great treasures of Alba - the fifteenth-century
Arbuthnott Missal.

Besides the churches at Banchory-Ternan and Arbuthnott, that at Fordoun
was dedicated to St Ternan and there was also a chapel bearing his name
at Findon in Banchory-Devenick parish. The latter was built upon a rock
and had near it a spring known as St Tarnan's Well. A chapel to St
Ternan once stood in Belhelvie parish, to the north of Aberdeen,
standing close to a piece of land called St Ternan's land. The parish of
Slains in Aberdeenshire had the saint as patron with another St Ternan's
Well lying in the garden of the manse.

"The Pictish Nation, its Prople and its Church", Archibald B. Scott,
T.N. Foulis of London, 1918. To the enthusiast, this must be one of the
soundest sources of information regarding the early church in Pictland
of Alba.

A photograph of St. Ternan's handbell:

Troparion of St Ternan, tone 5:
At Candida Casa/ among the throng of saints/ the flame of faith
enkindled thee, O holy father Ternan./ Thy missionary labours/ among the
Picts have shone with glory/ as did thy monastery of Culross in Fife./
Pray to Christ our God to save our souls.

St. Cunera, Virgin
Date unknown. Cunera is particularly venerated in Germany, but is said
to have been of British birth. No trustworthy records of her life
survive (Benedictines).

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