Friday 2 September 2011

Saint Seanan of Laithrech-Briuin

September 2 is the feastday of a County Kildare saint, Seanan of Laithrech-Briuin. Canon O'Hanlon begins his account with a lament that he is one of the many Irish saints of whom we know little, but he must have been a figure of some standing as he is named as an attendee at the Synod of Dromceat in 580. For this re-post I have added the details of the entry for the day from the Martyrology of Aengus which appear in the footnotes in the original volume. I have also added the details and accompanying illustration of the church ruins as this may be of interest to people living in the local area.


WE have frequently to lament the loss of records, which might preserve the particular virtues and actions of individuals for the edification and emulation of all true Christians. As noticeable throughout all the previous volumes of this work, with the most earnest desire to render its several articles, more complete, documentary or traditional materials are not accessible, to rescue from obscurity the earthly career of so many among the children of light. Merely to learn their names—sometimes also those of their old places—and to know that they had lived, are all that can now be ascertained.

According to the Feilire-Aenguis, the Feast of St. Senan was celebrated in Lathrach Briuin, or Laraghbrine, in Ui-Foelain, on the 2nd of September. In conjunction with two other holy persons, Molotha and Theodota, the saint is praised for his noble qualities, and for their reward through Christ. In the Leabhar Breac copy of the Feilire of Oengus, is the following stanza, at this date thus rendered into English :—"

Molotha, Theodota (Theotimus?) with Senan
they are noble:
with fair Christ is their guerdon:
to his train they are dear."

The commentator identifies the present saint as connected with a well-known place. ..a gloss on the Feilire has " i. e. lathrach briuin inúib foelain." It is thus translated, "'with Senan,' i.e. of Lathrach Briuin in Ui-Foelain."

According to the Calendar of the O'Clerys, he belonged to the race of Eochaidh, son of Muireadh, who descended from the seed of Heremon. We are told, likewise, that Deidi, daughter to Trian, son of Dubhthach, was his mother. The pedigree of St. Senan of Laraghbrine is contained in the "Sanctilogic Genealogy." There he is called the son of Fintan, son to Strened, son of Glinder, son to Corc, son of Conned, son to Aengus, son of Fieg, son to Mail, son of Carthage, &c. His genealogy is then carried back to Heremon for fifty generations, or for about 1600 years. Marianus O'Gorman has noted this saint, in his Martyrology, at the present date. St. Senan must have flourished in the sixth century, and been a contemporary of the great St. Columbkille, for he is named as one of those ecclesiastics who attended the great Synod, held at Dromcreat in 580. On the 2nd of September, a festival is entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, to honour Seanan, of Laithrech Briuin, in the territory of Hy-Faelain. This place is also written Lathrach-Briuin. At present it is known as Laraghbrine, or Laraghbryan, where there is an old church and a cemetery, near Maynooth, in the Barony of North Salt, and County of Kildare.

The mediaeval church ruins of Laraghbrien are to be seen embowered with stately lime trees, and within a squarely-formed grave-yard, surrounded by a quadrangular wall. A gravel walk runs parallel with the walls on the interior. The church ruins measure 87 feet in length, exteriorly: they are 19 feet, 8 inches, in breadth. The walls are nearly 3 feet in thickness. There is a square tower, 13 feet by 15 feet, on the outside; and, it is entered by a low, arched door-way from the interior. Several square-headed opes are inside of it, and a ruined spiral stairway occupies one angle. This leads to a broken part of the wall, and showing that it ran much higher. There is a large breach in either side wall. Some ruined windows remain. Two of them have elegantly dressed heading and side stones, and in these formerly were iron bars. The building materials are of excellent limestone and mortar. There was a door in the north side-wall, parallel with the road from Maynooth to Kilcock. Circularly-arched door-ways and windows splayed are still to be seen in the walls. Traces of plaster are inside and outside the building, showing that it had been used for purposes of worship, and at no very remote date.

In his final footnote to the article Canon O'Hanlon comments: 'These observations and measurements were taken on the spot by the writer, in July, 1873. On that occasion, also, a sketch of the ruined church was obtained, which has been drawn, as here represented, on the wood and engraved by Gregor Grey.'


In Petto said...

I think that it is interesting to trace the footsteps of those who the records have forgotten. So many of our foreparents in faith have been unrecorded or had their records lost or forgotten. The feast of All Saints is something but not really given sufficient prominence in our minds.

Recusant said...

I am very touched by the earlier story of St. Aenguis and the poor man who recited the names of the saints he could remember. "to rescue from obscurity the earthly career of so many among the children of light" that is really to enter into the communion of the saints. We all know that the holy souls in purgatory are the greatest friends of those who pray for them. I feel sure that you are amassing friends among the unknown saints of heaven and those souls you inspire by your work.

Brigit said...

Whilst it is wonderful that so many of our Irish saints are well known, not only at home but also in other countries, I have a special interest in trying to recover the memories of those who are not so well-known. I think this may be because of a teacher who told us at primary school many years ago that heaven was filled with saints who were just waiting to intercede for us, but had no one to ask them! This made an impression on my young mind and I think is why on my blog I am interested in recovering the names of as many of our native holy men and women as I can. Often the publication of their names and the date of their feastdays is all that is possible. But, on the Feast of All Saints and on the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, we have an opportunity to remember all of them. Thanks too for reminding us of the lovely story of Saint Aengus.

Charlie said...

Brigit, that's about the loveliest idea I've ever heard of Heaven filled with Saints waiting to intercede for us with nobody to ask them! I'm going to take some time to go through your posts and make a special effort to remember them. Thank you for your work and may those Saints who owe you new devotion reward you with many blessings.