Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

examination they appeared to be stone staples for holding bolts. There are no windows on the north wall; the door is placed there; and there is also on the same side, and near the east gable, a fairly designed altartomb. Of the date of the erection of the church or its history nothing is known. It affords clear evidence of various structural alterations; and there can be but little doubt that some portions ofy the structure date from a remote antiquity. The old name was Kilattaracht. Probably the church was dedicated to St. Attracta, the patroness of Coolavin, and of other parishes in Sligo."

KILMACDUAGH AND ITS ECCLESIASTICAL MONUMENTS. BY THE VERY REV. J. FAHEY, D.D., P.P., V.G. Thi ecclesiastical monuments at Kilmacduagh attract us by their

antiquity and historical interest. Time, "the beautifier of the dead, the adorner of the ruin," has given them a charm of a special kind, They are relics of a very remote past. They bridge over the vast period which separates the twentieth century from the seventh. They bring the advanced civilization of our time face to face with the simple wants, customs, and religious feelings of our fathers, thirteen centuries ago. Situated in a district territorially remote, and comparatively insignificant in the twentieth century, they recall the period when it was the seat of royalty, and peopled by one of the noblest tribes of ancient Erin.

The name of this group of ruins, which is also long accepted as the name of the district, preserves for us the founder's name. Kilmacduagh means the ' church of St. Colman, son of Duagh.' In the sixth and seventh centuries Colman was a very usual name amongst the ecclesiastics of the time. In some of our Martyrologies we find probably a hundred saints of the name mentioned, which creates an obvious difficulty in identifying particular individuals amongst them. But in the case of St. Colman, of Kilmacduagh, the mention of his father's name removes all difficulty as to his identity. The compilers of the Martyrology of Donegal refer to him as " Colman, Bishop, i.e. MacDuagh, of Cill MicDuach, in Conachta. He was of the race of Fiachra, son of Eochaid Muidhmhoin; great were his virtues and miracles." The genealogy of "Colman, son of Duach, from whom Cill Mhic Duagh," from Dathy, is given fully in the Book of Hy Fiachrach. And O'Donovan states expressly that the Cill Mhic Duagh referred to "is the Church of the son of Duagh, now Kilmacduagh, in the Barony of Kiltartan, in the south-west of the County of Galway."

A reference in the same volume 1 to Rhinagh, the saint's mother, makes the question of his identity still more certain, if possible. I quote the exact words: "The issue of Cormac became extiDct, except one daughter, Rhinach, the mother of St. Colman Mac Duagh, .i. a quo Ceal Mic Duach." These extracts not merely enable us to place his identity beyond doubt, but they make us familiar with several prominent persons in the period in which he lived, and the royal race of which he was a distinguished member. The future bishop and founder of Kilmacduagh was of the princely race of Dathy, and a near relative of King Guaire;

[graphic]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

known as the "hospitable,." the generous patron of holy and learned men of his time.

Of St. Colman MacDuagh's early life we know but little with certainty. If, however, legends and traditions may reflect, even vaguely, the history of that period, we may assume that it was a troubled one. Prophetic forecasts spoke of him as one destined to surpass all others of his distinguished lineage. So much were the jealous apprehensions of the King, Colman, father of Guaire, excited by those forecasts, that he decided to destroy the lives of infant and mother alike. Hence his birth at Corker under the shelter of the hawthorn-trees, and the marvels of his baptism there; and hence, also, the need of veiling the incidents of his early life and education in the strictest secrecy. But, considering the European fame of Aranmore at the period, we are not surprised to find unmistakable traces of the saint in that island sanctuary. "We may assume that he found there the safety he needed, and that he perfected there that spirit of prayer, mortification, and retirement of which he gave such striking evidence afterwards in his barren hermitage and as Bishop of Kilmacduagh. Amongst the existing monuments in Araumore, of that remote period, there are two churches, both attributed to St. Colman of Kilmacduagh. To these Dr. Kelly refers in his Dissertations on Irish History; and he states that both are referred to St. Colman both by "history and tradition." Dr. Petrie, referring to certain architectural features which those churches possess in common with the Cathedral Church of Kilmacduagh, says: "Of this description of doorway I shall only here insert another example from a church which was erected by the same St. Colman Mac Duagh within the great cyclopean fort or cashel at Kilmurvey, on the great island of Aranmore, and which is still in good preservation."

The church here referred to by Dr. Petrie and Dr. Kelly is usually known as Teampuil M6r Mhic Duach. It consists of nave and chancel; the style is cyclopean, and similar to the St. Colman's churches at Oughtmama, in Burren, and to the most ancient portions of the cathedral at Kilmacduagh. Such memorials of the saint at Aranmore would justify the opinion that his stay there was a protracted one. But the seclusion which even this famous island sanctuary afforded did not satisfy his aspirations. Like many other Irish saints of that period, he wished to follow in Ireland the austere and penitential isolation which' in Egypt and the East led Anthony and the eastern hermits into the deserts. And we are assured that Irish hermits "dwelt in deserts, and lived on herbs," and there in solitude devoted their penitential lives to prayer and contemplation.

There were few districts in Ireland more calculated to satisfy the aspirations of the hermit than were the wilds of Burren. To-day it is a solitude amongst the mountain crags. At that time the solitude was rendered, if possible, more palpable by the forests which clothed the valleys and hill-sides in the mystery of their deep shades. And here in Burren Colman found a cave on the face of one of its boldest cliffs. The cave became his cherished home for a period of seven years. His little oratory was near, and its ruins may still be seen; and at a little distance is the pure fountain -which supplied him, and still beare his name.

The circumstances under which his presence there was made known to the king and his kinsmen of Hy Fiachrach are set forth in our mediaeval legends with an interesting minuteness, and with all the attractiveness of a poetic narrative. It would seem clear that King Guaire wished to make generous amends for the hostility of his father. The king's joy at the discovery of his holy kinsman reflected the joy of the tribes of Hy Fiachrach; and it is not to be wondered at if, at their united request, Colman consented, though reluctantly, to become their bishop. It is well known that in the early Irish Church the diocese was coextensive with the tribal territory. "We find, therefore, that the boundaries of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh were exactly coextensive with the territory of Hy Fiachrach Aidhne, the sphere of his episcopal labours. Having satisfied himself that the request of the king and hi6 clansmen was in conformity with the will of Heaven, he abandoned his beloved hermitage, and proceeded to erect his church and monastery. It was the opening of the seventh century. As the date definitely given by such writers as Lanigan, Colgan, Petrie is A.d. 610, I cannot hesitate to accept it. It may seem strange that he did not select a more central site; but it should be remembered that there were at the time several flourishing religious houses in the central portions of the district. The needs of the southern districts, hitherto seemingly unprovided for, seemed to have influenced the saint in his choice. Indeed, the old writers tell us that he had also special supernatural guidance in the selection of the site of his church and monastery. The king, with characteristic generosity, offered such endowments as the saint might consider desirable. He sent teams of oxen and a numerous supply of labourers to procure the necessary materials, and skilled artisans who were to complete the great undertaking with the least possible delay. And, though our chronicles are silent on the subject, we have it on the authority of an old and widely accepted tradition that he secured the services of the eminent architect, Gobban, to guide the workmen in their labours. "Walsh, in his History, regards this tradition as important; and Dr. Petrie refers to it at considerable length. He also emphasises the opinion that this tradition exists only in reference to such towers as Kilmacduagh and Killala, the masonry of which harmonises with the architecture of the churches of the seventh century; and he continues: " It is remarkable that the age assigned to the first buildings at Kilmacduagh is exactly that in which this celebrated Irish architect flourished." His coming to aid St. Colman in his great work could be easily accounted for by the ties of friendship which existed between King Guaire and St. Madoc of Ferns, of whose monastery Gobban was a distinguished member.

I refer to those circumstances chiefly with a view to ascertain, as far as possible, how many of the extant monuments at Kilmacduagh, if any, may be referred to the age of St. Colman. Our monuments speak to us in a language which our learned antiquaries are quick to interpret; and their mute yet eloquent testimony often affords the truest interpretation of history.

[graphic]

Round Toweb And Cathedral, Kilmacduagh.
(From a Water-colour Drawing by G. V. Du Noyer, i860.)

The similarity in the architecture of portions of the tower and of the western end of the cathedral is striking; and we may conclude with Petrie that this fact proves conclusively that they are "contemporaneous structures." In both, we have striking specimens of cyclopean Irish work: the doorway in the western gable of the church with its massive lintel and inclining jambs; the masonry formed of massive stones fixed without regard to coursing, and yet with joints as perfect as in a Roman wall.

All this is equally striking in the basement of the tower; while its elevated doorway stands out conspicuously, with its inclining jambs and its primitive arch scooped out of one vast lintel. Such features are

« AnteriorContinuar »