Celtic and Old English Saints          7 July

* St. Maelruain of Tallaght
* St. Illtyd of Llantwit Abbey (see #2)
* St. Boisil of Melrose (see #2)
* St. Medran and St. Odran of Muskerry
* St. St. Merryn of Cornwall
* St. Ercongota of Faremoutiers
* St. Ethelburga of Faremoutiers
* St. Hedda (Haeddi) of Winchester

St. Maelruain of Tallaght, Abbot
Died 792.

"Labour in piety is the most excellent work of all. The kingdom of
heaven in granted to him who directs study, him who studies, and him who
supports the student."
--Saint Maelruain.

Saint Maelruain was the founder and abbot of the monastery of Tallaght
in County Wicklow, Ireland, on land donated by King Cellach mac Dunchada
of Leinster in 774. Tallaght Abbey became the mother house of the Culdee
movement, which Maelruain co-founded with Saint Oengus.

The name Tallaght (Irish Tamlachta), derived from tam, plague, and
lecht, stone monument, records the burial place of some of the earliest
inhabitants of Ireland, the Parthalonians, who were swept off by a
plague about 2600 BC. Tallaght is situated in the barony of Uppercross,
5 miles south of Dublin. The monastery the site was donated in honour of
God and St. Michael the Archangel by Cellach (d. 18 July, 771) of the Ui
Donnchada, grandson of a Leinster king, Donogh (d. 726).

The Culdee movement, intended to regularise the rules of Irish
monasticism according to traditional ascetical practices, was codified
in several of the saint's writings: The teaching of Mael-ruain, Rule of
the Celi-De, and the monastery of Tallaght, promoted both the ascetic
and the intellectual life, promoted community prayer with repetitions of
the Psalter and genuflections, insisted upon stability and enclosure,
and called for clerical and monastic celibacy.

In typical Irish fashion, the Culdee movement was marked by strong
asceticism. Women were discussed as "men's guardian devils." Ascetic
practices included total abstinence from alcohol. Sundays were observed
like the Jewish Sabbath. Vigils in cold water or with the arms extended
in cruciform and self-flagellation were recommended. The movement failed
because it
lacked all constitutional means of making the reform permanent, although
it called for tithes from the laity to support it.

Like other Irish reformers, Maelruain emphasised spiritual direction and
confession of sins by establishing rules for both. Tallaght's devotional
life was marked by special veneration of both its patrons: the Blessed
Virgin and Saint Michael the Archangel.

Intellectual and manual work were integral to life at Tallaght. There
are, Maelruain wrote, "three profitable things in the day: prayer,
labour, and study, or it may be teaching or writing or sewing clothes or
any profitable work that a monk may do, so that none may be idle."

Maelruain, with Oengus, was also the compiler of the martyrology named
after that place. The movement led to the production of the Stowe
Missal, formerly enshrined, which is a unique record of early Irish
liturgical practices.

See this at : http://www.geocities.com/Athens/3374/stowe.html
The full text in ASCII: http://www.alltel.net/~gacanon/celtic.txt
The Stowe-Lorrha Missal Shrine

A church was built in 1829 on the medieval remains of Maelruain's abbey.
The locals maintained a long-standing custom of processing
house-to-house, dancing jigs and drinking, on his feast, until it was
suppressed by the Dominicans in 1856 (Benedictines, Farmer, Montague).

The Rule of the Celi De:

William Reeve's "The Culdees of the British Isles"
has been made available on the Net by Peter Farrington
at his "Celtica" website

An Essay on The Culdees

A word so frequently met with in histories of the medieval Churches of
Ireland and Scotland, and so variously understood and applied, that a
well-informed writer (Reeves) describes it as the best-abused word in
Scotic church-history. The etymology of the term, the persons designated
by it, their origin, their doctrines, the rule or rules under which they
lived, the limits of their authority and privileges have all been
matters of controversy; and on these questions much learning and ability
has been shown, and not a little partisan zeal. In the Irish language
the word was written Ceile-De, meaning companion, or even spouse, of
God, with the Latin equivalent in the plural, Colidei, anglicised into
Culdees; in Scotland it was often written Kelidei. All admit that, in
the beginning at all events, the Culdees were separated from the mass of
the faithful, that their lives were devoted to religion, and that they
lived in community. But the Scotch writers, unwilling to trace the name
to an Irish source, prefer to derive it from "cultores Dei", worshippers
of God, or from cuil, a shelter, or from kil, a church. The Irish
derivation, however, is the easiest and the most natural, and the one
now generally accepted. From Ceile-De the transition is easy to Colideus
and Culdee; and in the Irish annals the epithet Ceile-De is
appropriately given to St. John, one of the twelve Apostles, to a
missioner from abroad whose coming to Ireland is recorded in the Four
Masters at the year 806, and to Aengus, the well-known monk and author
of Tallaght, whose penances and mortifications, whose humility, piety,
and religious zeal, would specially mark him out as the companion of

Taking him as an example of the class to which he belonged, probably the
highest example which could be given, when we remember the character of
his life, we find that the Culdees were holy men who loved solitude and
lived by the labour of their hands. Gradually they came together in
community, still occupying separate cells, still much alone and in
communion with God, but meeting in the refectory and in the church, and
giving obedience to a common superior. St. Maelruan, under whom Aengus
lived, and who died as early as 792, drew up a rule for the Culdees of
Tallaght which prescribed the time and manner of their prayers, fasts,
and devotions, the frequency with which they ought to go to confession,
the penances to be imposed for faults committed. But we have no evidence
that this rule was widely accepted even in the other Culdean
establishments. Nor could the Culdees at any time be said to have
attained to the position of a religious order, composed of many houses,
scattered over many lands, bound by a common rule, revering the memory
and imitating the virtues of their founder, and looking to the parent
house from which they sprang, as the children of Columbanus looked to
Luxeuil or Bobbio, or the Columban monks looked to Iona. After the death
of Maelruan Tallaght is forgotten, and the name Ceile-De disappears from
the Irish annals until 919, when
the Four Masters record that Armagh was plundered by the Danes, but that
the houses of prayer, "with the people of God, that is Ceile-De", were
spared. Subsequent entries in the annals show that there were Culdees at
Clonmacnoise, Clondalken, and Clones, at Monahincha in Tipperary, and at
Scattery Island.

To those of the eighth century, such as were represented by Aengus, were
soon added secular priests who assumed the name of Culdees, lived in
community, subjected themselves to monastic discipline, but were not
bound by monastic vows. Such an order of priests had, in the middle of
the eighth century, been founded at Metz. As they lived according to
rules and canons of councils, they came to be called secular canons and
were usually attached to collegiate or cathedral churches. They became
popular and quickly extended even to Ireland, and it is significant that
in the accounts given of the Culdee establishments at Clones, Devenish,
and Scattery Island, Culdee and canon are taken as convertible terms.
The Danish wars, which brought ruin on so many proud monastic
establishments, easily effected the destruction of the Culdee houses
with their feebler resisting powers. Some such as Clondalken and Clones,
disappeared altogether, or dragged out a miserable existence which
differed little from death. At Clonmacnoise, as early as the eleventh
century, the Culdees were laymen and married, while those at Monahincha
and Scattery Island being utterly corrupt and unable, or unwilling, to
reform, gave way to the regular canons, with
their purer morals and stricter discipline.

Those at Armagh were more tenacious of existence. Like their brethren
throughout Ireland, they had felt the corrupting influence of the Danish
wars; and while lay abbots ruled at Armagh the Culdees had so far
departed from their primitive piety that in the twelfth century regular
canons were introduced in to the cathedral church and henceforth took
precedence of the Culdees. But the latter, six in number, a prior and
five vicars, still continued a corporate existence at Armagh. They were
specially charged with the celebration of the Divine offices and the
care of the church building, had separate lands, and sometimes had
charge of parishes. When a chapter was formed, about 1160, the prior
usually filled the office of precentor,
his brethren being vicars choral, and himself ranking in the chapter
next to the chancellor. He was elected by his brother Culdees and
confirmed by the primate, and had a voice in the election of the
archbishop by virtue of his position in the chapter. As Ulster was the
last of the Irish provinces to be brought effectually under English
rule, the Armagh Culdees long outlived their brethren throughout
Ireland. By the end of Elizabeth's reign, however, they had died out,
and in 1628, a new body was incorporated by Charles I - the "Prior and
Vicars Choral" of the cathedral church of Armagh - to which were
transferred the lands formerly held by the Culdees. Five years later,
the Catholic primate, O'Reilly, announced to Rome that he had been
elected "Prior of the College of the Culdees", and he wanted to know if
in assuming the title he had acted in accordance with canon law. We do
not know what was the nature of the answer he received, but this is the
last mention made of the Irish Culdees.

At York was their only English establishment, where they performed in
the tenth century the double duty of officiating in the cathedral church
and of relieving the sick and poor. When a new cathedral arose under a
Norman archbishop, they ceased their connection with the cathedral, but,
with resources augmented by many donations, they continued to relieve
the destitute. The date at which they finally disappeared is unknown.
Nor do we know the fate of the single Culdean house in Wales, which
existed at Bardsey in the days of Giraldus Cambrensis. In Scotland they
were more numerous even than in Ireland. No less than thirteen monastic
establishments were peopled by them, eight of which were in connection
with cathedral churches. National pride induced some of the Scotch
writers to assert that the Culdees were Scotch and not Irish. But the
influence of Ireland on the primitive Christian Church of Scotland was
so overwhelming, and facts to show this are so many, that the ablest
among the Scotch historians, such as Pinkerton, Innes, and Hill- Burton,
are compelled to admit that the first Culdees were Irish, and that from
Ireland they spread to Scotland. They were not, however, Columban monks,
for there is no mention of any Culdees at any Columban monastery, either
in Ireland or in Scotland, until long after Columba was in his grave;
nor was it until 1164 that Culdees are mentioned as being in Iona, and
then only in a subordinate position. Appearing, then, first in Ireland,
they subsequently appeared in Scotland, and in both countries their
history and fate are almost identical. Attached to cathedral or
collegiate churches, living in monastic fashion, though not taking
monastic vows, the Scotch, like the Irish Culdees, were originally men
of piety and zeal. The turbulence of the times and the acquisition of
wealth sowed the seeds of decay, zeal gave way to indolence and neglect,
a celibate community to married men, church property was squandered or
alienated, even the altar offering, grasped by avarice, were diverted to
personal uses, and by the end of he thirteenth century the Scotch Culdee
houses had in almost every case disappeared. Some, like Dunkeld and
Abernethy, were superseded by regular canons; others, like Brechin and
Dunblane, were extinguished with the introduction of cathedral chapters;
and one at least, Monifieth, had passed into the hands of laymen. At St.
Andrews they lived on, side by side with the regular canons, and still
clung to their ancient privilege of electing the archbishop. But their
claim was disallowed at Rome, and in 1273 they were debarred even from
voting. Before the Reformation they had finally disappeared, and in 1616
the lands they once held were annexed to the
See of St. Andrews.

Ss. Medran and Odran of Muskerry, Ireland
6th century. The brothers Saints Medran and Odran were disciples of
Saint Kieran of Saighir. One of the brothers remained with Kieran until
the end; the other founded a monastery at Muskerry and became its abbot

St. Merryn
Date unknown. Saint Merryn is the titular patron of a place in Cornwall.
He may be identical with the Breton saint honoured at Lanmerin and
Plomelin. During the medieval period, the legendary Saint Marina was
believed to have been its patron. For this reason, the Cornish St.
Merryn observed the feast on July 7, whereas the Breton feast was on
April 4 (Farmer).

St. Ercongota of Faremoutiers, Virgin
(also known as Ercongotha, Erkengota)
Died 660; feast day at Ely and Faremoutier is February 21 and at Meaux,
February 26.

Ercongota was the daughter of King Erconbert of Kent and Saint Sexburga,
who became abbess of Ely. Together with her aunt, Saint Sethrida, she
was a nun at the double monastery of Faremoutier under her aunt, Saint
Ethelburga. Ercongota died while still young, but Saint Bede relates
traditions of her visions and prophecies. She visited the older nuns to
say farewell and ask their prayers before her death. Angelic visitors
arrived at the monastery at the moment of her death. The fragrant scent
of balsam emanating from her grave at St. Stephen's Church testified to
her sanctity (Benedictines, Farmer).

St. Ethelburga of Faremoutiers, Abbess
(also known as Aubierge, Adilburh)
Died c. 664. The daughter of King Anna of the East Angles, Ethelburga
longed to live the life of a nun. It seems that she lived in a family of
saints that included her sister Saint Etheldreda.

Her eldest sister, Saint Sexburga, married King Erconbert of Kent.
Sexburga influenced her husband a great deal. The Venerable Bede says
that Erconbert was "the first English king to order the complete
abandonment and destruction of idols throughout the kingdom." He also
ordered everyone to observe the Lenten fasts. Their daughter, Saint
Ercongota, entered a convent in Gaul with her aunts Ethelburga and
Sethrida because, according to Bede, "as yet there were few monasteries
in England."

About 660, Ethelburga succeeded her convent's founder, Saint Fara and
her half-sister Sethrida, as abbess of the monastery of Faremoutier in
the forest of Brie. She began to build a church there dedicated to all
twelve Apostles, but she died before completing it and was buried in the
half-finished building in 665. Later the nuns decided they could not
afford to complete the church and Ethelburga's relics were reinterred in
the nearby church of Saint Stephen the Martyr. At that time, her body
found to be incorrupt.

Ethelburga is mentioned in the Roman, French, and several English
martyrologies (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopaedia,

In art, Saint Ethelburga is depicted as an abbess carrying the
instruments of the Passion. She is invoked to cure rheumatism (Roeder).

St. Hedda (Haeddi) of Winchester, Bishop
Died 705. In 676, Saint Hedda, an Anglo-Saxon monk and abbot, probably
of Whitby where he had been educated, was consecrated bishop of the
divided diocese of Wessex by Saint Theodore. He moved his see from
Dorchester, near Oxford, to Winchester, corresponding to the emergence
of Southampton-based Saxons as more powerful than the settlers of the
Thames Valley. He was a great benefactor of Malmesbury and King Ina's
chief advisor, who acknowledged Hedda's help in framing his laws.

Hedda ruled the diocese for about 30 years, spanning the reigns of King
Centwine, Saint Caedwalla, and Ina. Little, however, is known of his
episcopate except that he translated the relics of his predecessor,
Saint Birinus, and was highly esteemed by his contemporaries. Saint Bede
said that he was "a good and just man, who in carrying out his duties
was guided rather by an inborn love of virtue than by what he had read
in books."

There were many cures at his tomb; others occurred when dust taken from
it was mixed with water. Hedda's relics can still be found in Winchester
Cathedral. His name was added to the Roman Martyrology by Baronius in
the 16th century, although his feast was already kept at Crowland Abbey
and in the monasteries of Wessex (Attwater, Benedictines, Farmer).

He may be shown in art ordaining Saint Guthlac of Croyland (Crowland)

St. Sethrida (Saethryth), Abbess Virgin
Died c. 660; feast day formerly on January 10. Saint Sethrida was the
stepdaughter of King Anna of the East Angles (or Saxons?). She entered
religious life at the abbey of Faremoutiers-en-Brie under it foundress
Saint Burgunofara, whom she succeeded as abbess. She is half-sister to
SS. Etheldreda, Sexburga, Ethelburga, and Withburga (Benedictines,

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