Celtic and Old English Saints          6 July

* St. Palladius of Ireland and Scotland
* St. Modwenna of Polesworth
* St. Moninna of Killeavy
* St. Moninne of Sliabh Cuillin
* St. Noyala of Brittany (see #2)
* St. Sexburga of Ely

St. Palladius of Ireland, Bishop
Died 432. The story of Palladius, recorded by Saint Prosper of
Aquitaine, is caught up with that of Pope Saint Celestine I. Palladius,
a deacon at Rome, was responsible for sending Saint Germanus of Auxerre
to Britain in 429 to combat Pelagianism and in 431 was himself
consecrated bishop of the Irish. He landed near Wicklow and worked in
Leinster, where he encountered much opposition, but made some converts
and built three churches. Acknowledging his lack of success in Ireland,
he migrated to Scotland to preach to the Picts, and died soon after he
arrived at Fordun, near Aberdeen (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

* * *

Another Life:

The chronicle of the contemporary St. Prosper of Aquitaine present two
important entries relating to Palladius. Under date of 429 it has,
"Agricola, a Pelagian, son of Severianus, a Pelagian bishop, corrupted
the churches of Britain by the insinuation of his doctrine; but at the
insistence of the Deacon Palladius (ad actionem Palladii Diaconi),
Celestine sent Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre as his representative to root
out heresy and direct the Britons to the Catholic Faith".

Again under the date of 431, in the consulship of Bassus and Antiocus:
"Palladius was consecrated by Pope Celestine and sent to the Scots
believing in Christ, as their first bishop" (Ad Scotum in Christum
credentes ordinatur a Papa Celestino Palladius et primus episcopus

In his work against Cassian, St. Prosper compendiates both entries:
"Wherefore the Pontiff Celestine of venerable memory, to whom the Lord
gave many gifts for safeguarding the Catholic Church, knowing that for
those who are already condemned, the remedy to be applied is not a
further judicial inquiry but only repentance, gave instructions for
Celestius, who asked for a further hearing in a matter already settled,
to be driven from the borders of all Italy . . . with no less jealous
care he delivered Britain from the same disease, when he drove even from
that hidden recess of the ocean some enemies of Grace who were settling
in their native soil; and by ordaining a bishop for the Irish (Scoti),
whilst he laboured to keep the Roman Island Catholic, he made also the
barbarous Island Christian." The words of the second entry to the
chronicle, "to the Scots believing in Christ" can only have the meaning
that when the chronicle was being written in 447, the Irish had become a
Christian people.

Some writers with Dr. Todd regard Palladius as deacon of St. Germanus,
but it appears more probable that he held the high rank of Deacon of
Rome; it can hardly be supposed that a deacon of Auxerre would exercise
such influence in Rome as that assigned to Palladius, and it is in
accordance with St. Prosper's usage to indicate the Roman deacon by the
simple title diaconus. Thus in the chronicle we have frequent entries
such as "Hilarius Diaconus", "Ioannes Diaconus", "Leo Diaconus", which
invariably refer to the deacons of Rome. The seventh century life of St.
Patrick by Muircu Maccumachthenus in the "Book of Armaugh" expressly
styles Palladius "Archidiaconus Pap? Coelestini urbis Rom? Episcopi",
repeated in several of the other lives of St. Patrick.

Ussher registers the tradition long current in England that Palladius
was born in Britain and that he had combatted the Pelagian heresy there.
The Bollandists are also of the opinion that he was "a Briton by birth".
The Palladii, however, were reckoned among the noblest families of
France and several of them held high rank about this time in the Church
of Gaul. These conflicting opinions may perhaps be reconciled. Under
Julius the Apostate there was a Palladius holding prominent rank in the
army of Gaul, who, for his fearless profession of the Faith, was exiled
into Britain. We may easily suppose that the scion of such a privileged
Gaulo-British family would attain the position of Deacon of Rome, would
take much interest in the British Church, and, would by his familiarity
with the Celtic language, be qualified to undertake the mission of the
first bishop to the Irish. Palladius is honoured by the Scottish
calendar on 6 July. The Aberdeen Breviary describes him as "pontificem
et fidei Catholic? apostolum pariter et doctorem". In some ancient
records he is styled a martyr, probably because of the hardships endured
during his missionary career in Ireland.

Palladius landed in the territory of the Hy-Garchon, on the strand where
the town of Wicklow now stands, then occupied by the tribe of Cualann
who have left their name on the beautiful valley of Glencullen, seven
miles distant from the spot where Palladius landed. The chieftain of the
district had no welcome for the missionaries. However, some of the tribe
appear to have extended a better measure of kindness to them and at
least three churches were in after times assigned as a result of
Palladius's mission.

The Life of St. Patrick, already referred to, records the failure of the
mission: "Palladius was ordained and sent to covert this land lying
under wintry cold, but God hindered him, for no man can receive anything
from earth unless it be given to him from heaven; and neither did those
fierce and cruel men receive his doctrine readily, nor did he himself
wish to spend time in a strange land, but returned to him who sent him.
On his return hence, however, having crossed the first sea and commenced
his land journey, he died in the territory of the Britons."

In the Scholia on St. Fiace's Hymn in the ancient "Liber Hymnorum", it
is stated that in the country of the Hy-Garchon, Palladius "founded some
churches: Teach-na-Roman, or the House of the Romans, Kill-Fine, and
others. Nevertheless he was not well received, but was forced to go
round the coast of Ireland towards the north, until driven by a tempest
he reached the extreme part of Mohaidh towards the south, where he
founded the church of Fordun, and Pledi is his name there."

The Vita Secunda, Life of St. Patrick in Colgan's collection, adds
further interesting details: "The most blessed Pope Celestine ordained
Bishop the Archdeacon of the Roman Church, named Palladius, and sent him
to the Island of Hibernia, after having committed to him the relics of
Blessed Peter and Paul and other Saints, and having also given him the
volumes of the Old and New Testament. Palladius, entering the land of
the Irish, arrived at the territory of the men of Leinster where Nathi
Mac Garchon was chief, who was opposed to him. Others, however, whom the
Divine mercy had disposed toward the worship of God, having been
baptized in the name of the sacred Trinity, the blessed Palladius built
three churches in the same district; one, which is called Cellfine, in
which even to the present day, he left his books which he had received
from St. Celestine, and the box of relics of blessed Peter and Paul and
other Saints, and the tablets on which he used to write, which in the
Irish language are called from his name Pallere, that is, the burden of
Palladius, and are held in veneration. Another, Tech-na-Roman, and the
third, Domnach Arcdec, in which are buried the holy men of the
companions of Palladius, Sylvester and Sallonius, who are honoured
there. After a short time Palladius died in the plain of Girgin in a
place which is now called Fordun. but others say that he was crowned
with martyrdom there."

Another ancient document, known as the Vita Quinta in Colgan's work,
repeats the particulars given here relating to the foundation of three
churches, and adds: "But St. Palladius, seeing that he could not do much
good there, wishing to return to Rome, migrated to the Lord in the
region of the Picts. Others, however, say that he was crowned with
martyrdom in Ireland."

The three churches have been identified. Teach-na-Roman is Tigroney,
where are the ruins of an old church in the parish of Castle Mac Adam in
the county of Wicklow. Kill-Fine was supposed by Father Shearman to be
the same as Killeen Cormac, a remarkable old churchyard, three miles
south-west of Dunlavin, but more probably situated in the parish of
Glendalough, in the townland which the Ordnance Survey has named
Lara-West, but which is still called Killfinn by the people. The third
church Domnec Ardec is Donard which gives its name to a parish and
village in the west of the County Wicklow in the barony of Lower
Talbotstown. This parish, as Father Shearman writes, retains "some
vestiges of its ancient importance: the sites of primeval Christian
churches, large and well-preserved Raths and Timuli, Cromlechs, Ogham
Pillars, ancient ecclesiastical Cahels, pagan Cathairs on the
surrounding hills, with many other evidences of a civilized and numerous

The modern critical Scottish historians, Bishop Forbes, Skein, and
others, confess that in regard to the connection of St. Palladius with
Scotland, the Irish documents are the only reliable sources. The
traditions set forth in Fordun's chronicle and later writings are
regarded as purely mythical. One assigns to Palladius an apostolate in
Scotland of twenty-three years; another makes him the tutor of St.
Sevanus, contemporary of St. Adamnan, and Brude, king of the Picts (A.D.
697-706), all of which is irreconcilable with the Irish narratives and
with the date of the saint's mission from St. Celestine. A German theory
has found favour with some writers in recent times, to the effect that
the Bishop Palladius referred to in the second entry by Prosper as sent
to Ireland by Celestine was none other than St. Patrick. This theory
viewed independently of the ancient historical narratives would have
much to commend it. It would merely imply that the Bishop Palladius of
the second entry in the chronicle was distinct from the Deacon Palladius
of the first entry, and that the scanty records connected with
Palladius's mission to Ireland were to be referred to St. Patrick. But
this theory is inconsistent with the unbroken series of testimonies in
the ancient lives of St. Patrick and cannot easily be reconciled with
the traditions of the Scottish Church (Moran, Shearman, Stikes, Forbes,
Skein, Bellesheim).

[ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11424a.htm ]

St. Modwenna of Polesworth, Virgin
(also known as Edana, Medana, Monyna, Merryn, Modivene)
Died c. 900. Modwenna is associated with Saint Edith of Polesworth. She
was formerly venerated at Burton-on-Trent. Modwenna is a fairly obscure
character who has been confused with the Irish saint Moninne, abbess of
Killeavy (Attwater, Benedictines). In art, Modwenna is portrayed as an
abbess with a red cow by her side (Roeder).

St. Moninna, Abbess
Died 518. Abbess of Killeavy and Wonderworker in Ireland, veiled by
Saint Patrick himself.

St. Moninne, Virgin
(Darerca, Monnina)
Died 518. An Irish hermitess at Sliabh Cuillin, where she died
(Attwater, Benedictines). There is confusion between the Abbess and the
hermitess of the same name.

Troparion of St Monenna tone 8
O Monenna, who strove for perfection alone on a mountainside,/ thou wast
found worthy to be called 'daughter of Elijah' and didst live like the
desert fathers./ Pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

St. Sexburga of Ely, Widow Abbess
Died c. 699. Sexburga was the daughter of King Anna of the East Angles;
sister of SS. Etheldreda, Ethelburga, Erconwald, and Withburga; and
half-sister of Saint Sethrida. Sexburga married King Erconbert of Kent
in 640 and bore him two daughters, SS. Ermenilda and Ercongotha. Upon
Erconbert's death in 664, Sexburga finished Minster Monastery, which she
had founded on Sheppey Island, and joined the nuns there. She appointed
her daughter Saint Ermenilda abbess and then went to Ely Abbey, where
she succeeded her sister Etheldreda as abbess and where Sexburga died
(Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

In art, Saint Sexburga is a crowned abbess with a palm branch (Roeder).


Attwater, D. (1958). A Dictionary of Saints. New York:
P. J. Kenedy & Sons.

Bellesheim. History of the Celtic Church in Scotland,
tr. Hunter-Blair, I (Edinburgh and London, 1887).

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

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

Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints. (1966).
Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

Forbes.Kalendars of Scottish MSS. (Edinburgh, 1872).

Moran, P. (1879). Irish Saints in Great Britain.
Dublin: Brown and Nolan.

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

Shearman, Loca Patriciana (Dublin, 1879).

Skein. Celtic Scotland II (Edinburgh, 1886).

Stokes, Vita tripartita in Rolls Series (London, 1888).

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