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CHAPTER VIII.

Early Christianity.

(Continued.)

COLUMBA'S DISCIPLES AND SUCCESSORS-ADAMNAN, HIS BIO

GRAPHER-THE NUMEROUS SAINTS-CONSTITUTION OF EARLY NORTHERN SAINTSHIP-PREVALENCE IN THE CELTIC RACE

ST TERNAN-ST SERF AND OTHER MINOR SAINTS-ST CORMAC

AND HIS ADVENTURES ST MAELRUBHA AND HIS NORTHERN ESTABLISHMENT_THE GREAT QUESTION OF EASTERCOMMUNICATIONS AND CONTEST WITH THE NORTHERN ENGLISH CHURCHPAULINUS-AIDAN—FINNIAN—THE QUESTION OF THE TONSURE

-THE CATHOLIC SHAPE AND THE SCOTS SHAPE- PRESSURE OF CATHOLIC UNITY ON THE SCOTS CHURCH-SPREAD OF COLUMBITE CHURCHES CALAMITIES OF THE CENTRAL ESTABLISHMENT AT IONA.

History has largely profited from the devotion with which the disciples of Columba commemorated his acts and virtues. Among other memorialists who were his contemporaries, or nearly so, Cummenus Albus, the seventh abbot of Iona, wrote a book on the virtues of Columba. His death was sixty years after that of Columba, whom he may have seen and known in his youth. The matter of this, as well as of other eulogistic and biographical notices, mingled, doubtless, with a considerable quantity of verbal tradition, was incorporated in the great work dedicated by the piety

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of St Adamnan, the ninth abbot, to the memory of the founder of his house. It is important to remember that this author was born so early as the year 624, just a quarter of a century after the death of Columba. He was more than a mere recluse, whose thoughts are limited to the established routine and the devotional exercises of a convent. Like all the other Celtic ecclesiastical dignitaries of the day, he was highly connected-ortus regibus. He spent a great portion of his days in Ireland, where he had every opportunity of acquiring the scholarship which the incursions the Northmen and intestine wars had not yet blotted out. He had opportunities at the same time of enlarging his mind by contact with the infant efforts of a new and powerful civilisation struggling into existence and shape among the Saxons ; for he made frequent visits in England, and was well received at the court of the Northumbrian Alfrid, to whom, on one occasion, his countrymen commissioned him as a sort of ambassador, to negotiate for the restoration of certain Dalriads taken prisoners in battle. The inquisitive and discursive character of his mind is shown by this, that having once fallen in with a foreign wanderer who had sojourned among the holy places in Palestine, Adamnan took from his mouth a description of them, which, hundreds of years afterwards, was found and published as the earliest account, coming from modern Christian Europe, of the condition of the cradle of Christianity. His wide acquaintance with the practice of the Church prompted him, as we shall presently see, to be the first to urge upon the Irish Church and its colony in Scotland conformity with the rest of the Church on certain points where his brethren had a practice of their own. He wrote in Latin, in a peculiar style, which will not stand criticism on the standard of the Roman classical Latin, but is yet a serviceable language, in which he expresses what he has to say distinctly. No doubt the great bulk of his Life of Columba is occupied by vaticinations and miraculous fables. But there are small facts to be found in the telling of the large fictions ; and if we disbelieve all narratives because they have the supernatural in them, it is difficult to say at what period true ecclesiastical history commenced, or, speaking strictly, is to commence. We can believe that Columba went over the Grampians to visit Brud, king of the Picts, on the borders of the Ness, and that his royal blood and saintly character gave him power to adjust the succession to the kingship of Dalriada, without the necessity of believing that he miraculously saved the life of the heathen priest at the Pictish court, or that he prophesied the fate of the sons of the Dalriadic king. All that is to be regretted in Adamnau's book is, that the notices of the men and the customs of the time should be so scant in comparison with that portion of his work which doubtless, to himself and those for whom it was intended, was its only element of value; the scattered incidents of practical life which are now greedily caught up by the historical inquirer having been to the writer the mere references to time, places, and persons, by which he identified and rendered practically emphatic the heavenly teaching and the miraculous actions of an accepted saint. The value of the few incidents of history and social life in Adamnan's book may be estimated by remembering that it was written in the seventh century, and that we have to pass through seven hundred years to the four

We may

in

teenth ere we reach the period of Fordun and the other chroniclers who have hitherto been the fathers of Scottish history. This is a wide gap. attribute it, with many

other

gaps in European history, to the invasions of the Northmen, a second breaking upon

the feeble resuscitation of Roman civilisation. The recluses of Iona, as we shall see, had to seek refuge from these marauders, and resumed their seat with faded lustre.

Not only do we find St Columba's own name obtaining an influence so prevalent in Scotland as to outlive the Reformation and all other ecclesiastical revolutions, but many other Irishmen, who were either followers or fellow-labourers of his, have obtained a permanent hold on Scottish local nomenclature and tradition. Preserving, as they do, a faint but enduring commemoration in the ecclesiastical divisions, and the names of places in Scotland, it is interesting to find them identified and traced back to their homes and schools in Ireland by the scholarly labours of the Irish antiquaries. They are nearly all spoken of as saints; and in fact the missionary and the saint mean, in the ecclesiastical history of that time and place, much the same thing. There was no regulation for canonisation, and no purging of the list of saints. Collections of their lives were like biographical dictionaries of eminent men in later times. The names of the less important men, or of those who had not the fortune to be commemorated by lively biographers, would drop by degrees from each successive compilation ; but all who had the fortune to be retained in biography were to be counted eminent, and so all those early churchmen whose lives and deeds continued to be recorded were to be counted saints. Many of them at the same time had the holy attribute assigned to them in a more distinct and permanent form by a place in the Scottish commemoration-book or Breviary. Here, down to the Reformation, the deaths and miracles of these Irish saints who served in Scotland were continued, not only as the knowledge, but as the worship of the people.

It would be a tedious task to enumerate these fathers of Christianity; and yet, though all that can be said about any of them is very meagre, their names should not be altogether overlooked, were it only for the sake of giving some idea of the extent to which their memory is preserved in local history and nomenclature.

Among the most illustrious of these was Donnan, called, in the collect to his service in the Breviary of Aberdeen, confessor and abbot. There were, it seems, three saints of this name in Ireland, and the Donnan who followed Columba is identified, through the diligence of the Irish antiquaries, by the day of his martyrdom, which was Sunday the 17th of April 617— his day also, of course, in the calendar. He was a few years younger than Columba. The great event of his life was his martyrdom in the island of Eigg, a small island of the Hebrides north of Iona, conspicuous for the lofty quartz peak called the Scuir of Eigg. According to the most ancient martyrologies, Donnan landed there with fifty disciples. He was told by Columba to expect martyrdom, and the doom was inflicted by a fierce woman, the queen or female chief of the island. Whether before or through his death, he succeeded in planting the cross in Eigg, for a successor serving there is recorded to have died about a century 1 Breviarium Aberdonense.

? Reeves's Adamnan, 304-309,

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