Monday 6 January 2014

Saint Tuililatha of Kildare, January 6

January 6 is the feast day of a group of three female saints, collectively known as the 'Daughters of Nadfrac'. Often with such groups of saints we do not have the names of the individuals who comprise it, but in this case the sources preserve the identities of  three distinct holy women- Muadhnat, Tuililatha and Osnat- albeit that that they are all commemorated on the same day. The three sisters are associated with monastic foundations in different parts of Ireland. Canon O'Hanlon starts with Saint Muadhnat, but as I have come across some further research on this saint at the last minute, I will start instead with the middle sister, Saint Tuililatha (also known as Tallula, Tuilach and more recently, Tuilclath), a successor to Saint Brigid as abbess of Kildare. At the end of his short piece Canon O'Hanlon follows the authority of the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, in telling us that she flourished about the year 590, having been somewhat less impressed by the eighteenth-century Anglican antiquary, Mervyn Archdall, author of the famous survey of Irish religious houses, Monasticon Hibernicum (1786):

St. Tallulla or Tulilach, Virgin, and Abbess of Kildare, County of Kildare. [Sixth Century.]

The spouse of Christ leaves her home with its comforts, its joys, and its happy associations, as the bird leaves earth beneath it, soaring upward towards the skies, where it feels exposed to less danger and enjoys truer liberty. A sister to the aforementioned holy Virgin [i.e. St. Muadhnat] was St. Tallulla or Tulilach. By Archdall she is incorrectly called Falulla, and apparently without authority he assigns her rule over a community to A.D. 580. Tallulla, Abbess of Cill-Dara, or Kildare, occurs in the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Donegal, on this day. The epithet, Virgin, is affixed to a nearly similar entry in the Martyrology of Tallagh at the 6th of January. Here she is called Tuililatha. It cannot be ascertained, whether she preceded or succeeded St. Comnat in the government of nuns at Kildare for we only learn that the present holy abbess flourished about the year 590.

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