THE BURIAL-PLACE OF ST. PATRICK
IT is well known that the birthplace of our national saint has been the subject of much controversy ; but up to the present we hardly thought that his burial-place was open to reasonable doubt. This, however, is an age not only of inquiry, but of scepticism; and hence we are not so much surprised that the ancient traditional claim of Downpatrick to possess the remains of St. Patrick, has been rather lightly set aside, and it is sought to bestow on Armagh the double honour of his tomb and of his "kingdom." It is worthwhile, therefore, in the first place, to examine the evidence in favour of the Ulidian claim; and then to weigh the newly-found arguments in favour of Armagh. The subject is surrounded by many difficulties, and even so capable and impartial a critic as the late lamented Bishop Reeves admitted that the evidence in favour of Downpatrick was "not altogether unexceptionable." We shall, therefore, briefly examine the evidence and the exceptions, such as they are ; and, at the same time, we shall touch on the wider question, whether the relics of Bridget and Columcille also repose in the sacred soil of Downpatrick.
In our opinion the oldest, though perhaps not the clearest, reference to St. Patrick's burial at Down, is contained in Fiacc's Hymn, which is older even than Muirchu's memoir contained in the Book of Armagh. The arguments hinted at by Todd and Stokes, against the authenticity of this hymn, will be found to disappear on close examination. Fiacc says :
" In Armagh there is a kingdom, it long ago deserted Emain
A great church in Dun-leth-glaisse ; that Tara is a waste, is not pleasant to me."
The Lives of St. Patrick generally declare that the angel told him his "kingdom," or spiritual sovereignty, was to remain in Armagh, but that his body was to rest in Downpatrick; that is, of course, Dun-leth-glaisse, or, as it has been written in later times, Dun-da-leth-glaisse ; that is, the Fort of the Two-Half-Chains alluding, it is said, to the broken fetters of the two sons of Dichu, who were kept in bondage by King Laeghaire, but whose bonds were broken miraculously by St. Patrick, and carried by them to their father's stronghold at Down. The only meaning of the reference to the great church of Down in this couplet, in connection with our apostle, must arise from the fact that he was buried there. Its church cannot be conceived as great for any other reason in connection with St. Patrick. His spiritual sovereignty continued in Armagh, but his body remained at Down.
Still more explicit is Muirchu's statement in the Book of Armagh, dating at least from the end of the eighth century.This author, writing in that very book which was always esteemed as the most cherished treasure of the Church of Armagh, declares expressly that, when Patrick felt the hour of his death approaching, he was anxious to return to Armagh so that he might die there, ''because he loved it before all other lands." ' But the angel Victor sent another angel to the saint to tell him to return to Saul, where he was then staying ; that his petitions to the Lord were granted ; and that at Saul his earliest foundation he was destined to die. As the end approached, Tassach of Rathcolp gave him the "sacrifice," and there the saint gave up his holy soul to God. But the same angel told them to harness, after the obsequies, two wild steers to a waggon, and let them go whither they would with the saint's body. This was done, and they came, by divine guidance, to Dun-lethglaisse, where Patrick was buried. Then we are told of the contest with the men of Oriel for his remains. It is impossible to have more explicit testimony than this of the burial in Down.
Then in the Tripartite we have the same testimony in a somewhat different form. " Go back," says Victor, "to the place from which thou hast come, namely, to Saul (the barn church) ; for it is there thou shalt die, and not in Armagh.""Let," he added, " two unbroken young oxen, of the cattle of Conall, be brought out of Findabair, that is from Clochar, and let thy body be put into a little car behind them, and be thou put a man's cubit into the grave, that thy remains and thy relics be not taken out of it." Thus was it done after his death. The oxen brought him as far as the stead, " wherein to-day standeth Dun-leth-glasi, and he was buried in that place with honour and veneration."
Now here is practically the same statement given by our two most ancient and perfectly independent authorities one written in Latin, and the other in Gaelic ; and the substance of that statement is : first, that St. Patrick, feeling his end approaching, wished to return to Armagh, the city of his love, that he might die there; secondly, that, instead, he was commanded to return to Saul, which shows that he was already on the road for Armagh ; thirdly, that he died at Saul ; and, fourthly, that he was buried not there, but some two miles distant at Dun-da-leth-glaisse, or Downpatrick.
It is worth noting also that a command was given to bury him deep in the ground five cubits according to one account, or a man's cubit according to this Tripartite account ; which seems to mean the height or depth that a man standing up could reach with his arm, that is, between seven and eight feet in either case. And the reason is given : "that thy remains may not be taken out of the grave," either by the men of Oriel or by any other marauders : a very wise and necessary precaution, as subsequent events clearly proved.
The later Lives of St. Patrick, by Probus and Josceline the former writing in a German monastery in the ninth century, and the latter in an English monastery of the twelfth repeat the same statements, which at least go to prove that the tradition in favour of Downpatrick was universal and unquestioned in the time of those writers. Moreover, there is collateral evidence of a very early date. Usher quotes from an early Life of St. Brigid a paragraph which states that St. Patrick was buried in Dunleth-glaisse, and that his body will remain there until the day of judgment. And in the Testamentum Patricii, a work also of very ancient date, we have in Irish and Latin the couplet :
" Dun i mbia m-eseirgi a Kaith Celtair Mic Duach,"
" Dunum, ubi erit mea resurrectio in colle Celtaris filii Duach,"
" Dunum, ubi erit mea resurrectio in colle Celtaris filii Duach,"
in which the saint proclaims that it is in Down his resurrection will be.
The "hill" of Celtar, to which this verse refers, is the great rath a little to the north of the modern cathedral of Downpatrick, which still rises to a height of about sixty feet above the plain with a circumference of more than seven hundred yards, surrounded by a treble line of circumvallations. A right royal fort it was in size and strength, and fitly took its name from Celtar of the Battles, who was either its builder or its most renowned defender. This hero was one of the knights of the Red Branch, who flourished about the beginning of the Christian era. His fort was called Dun-Celtair, and sometimes Rath Celtair, and also Aras Celtair, or the habitation of Celtair. This "habitation," or civitas, as it is called in Latin, is described in the Life of St. Brigid, by Animosus, as situated in regione Ultorum prope mare, which explains the statement of Tirechan, who describes the church of St. Patrick's grave as juxta mare proximo, close by the sea, because at that time a small arm of the sea from Strangford Lough flowed almost quite up to the ancient Dun and the church beneath it. There are other considerations also which leave no reasonable doubt that St. Patrick was buried at Downpatrick.
The men of Orior and the Hy Niall around them, though very anxious to possess the body of St. Patrick, and quite ready to engage in a bloody conflict to order to secure it, never claimed to have succeeded in their purpose. On the contrary, the Book of Armagh, belonging to their own great church, whose prerogatives it would naturally exalt, expressly testifies that the saint was buried, not at Armagh, as he wished, but at Downpatrick ; and that too by the direction of an angel. If there was any doubt about the matter, if they had even a shadow of claim in their favour, is it likely that the scribes who wrote the Book of Armagh, and certainly make the most of its privileges and rights, would not also claim this great honour instead of yielding the glory to Downpatrick? They certainly never failed to exalt the prerogatives of their own church, as they had a right to do ; but, on the other hand, they never claimed to possess the body of their great apostle, which is of itself a conclusive argument that history and tradition always pointed to Down as the place of his burial. And the fact that the authors of the Book of Armagh so distinctly admit it, is a strong proof of their honesty as historians ; for we may well believe them in other things, when they are so truthful in what tells against the renown of their own royal city. In Armagh was his "kingdom," as Fiacc says, but in Down was the "great church " that contained his remains.
Now this brings us to examine the objections or arguments on the other side, if we can call them such. First of all, there is Tirechan's statement in the Book of Armagh, where he says Patrick was in four things like to Moses; and the fourth is, that "where his bones are no one knows." Therefore it certainly follows that they were not in Tirechan's time known to be in Armagh ; in fact, Armagh, as we have seen, never claimed to possess them. Tirechan, however, explains what he means clearly enough in the following paragraph, which has not been faithfully rendered by Rev. Mr. Olden, in his paper read before the Royal Irish Academy, and which is meant to be explanatory of the statement that "no one knows where his bones are" :
"Two hostile bands [he says] contended during twelve days for the body of the blessed Patrick, and they saw no night intervene during these twelve days, but daylight always ; and on the twelfth day they came to actual conflict; but the two hosts, seeing the body on its bier with each party, gave up the conflict. Columcille, inspired by the Holy Ghost, pointed out the sepulchre of Patrick, and proves where it is ; namely, in Saul of Patrick ; that is, in the church nigh to the sea, where the gathering of the relics is that is, of the bones of Columcille from Britain, and the gathering of all the saints of Erin in the day of judgment."
As this is an important passage, we append the Latin text below, as given by Dr. Stokes in his edition of the Tripartite.
This passage gives rise to several very interesting questions. Its author at the outset declares that Bishop Tirechan wrote these things (in the Book of Armagh) from the oral information (ex ore) or from the Book (vel libro) of Bishop Ultan, whose alumnus or disciple he was. Bishop Ultan, of Ardbraccan, died in A.D. 655 or 676, according to Usher; and, therefore, Tirechan, who was certainly his disciple, and in all probability his successor, must have written the annotations afterwards copied into the Book of Armagh before or shortly after the death of the saint ; that is, at the latest, towards the close of the seventh century. As they are now found in the Book of Armagh, they appear to be in the handwriting of Ferdomnach, who wrote, it is generally said, in 807. What puzzles Reeves and Todd is how in that case there could be reference to the "conductio" of the bones of Columcille from Britain, which they assume to have taken place during the ninth century ; and, therefore, they think this transcript in the Book of Armagh is not earlier than the beginning of the tenth century. But Dr. Stokes says that all the Book of Armagh seems to be the work of the same scribe, ie., Ferdomnach ; and, therefore, Reeves' supposition can hardly be admitted. Were the bones of Columcille brought to Ireland before the death of Tirechan? We have no other evidence of the fact but the statement here ; and, what is more strange still, Adamnan makes no reference to it, although in all probability his Life of Columba was written about that period ; for he was only a novice in 650, and did not become abbot until 679 ; yet his relics, we are told, were carried to Ireland in 726 ; that is, about twenty-two years after his death ; and why might not the relics of Columba have been carried to Ireland before 655; that is, nearly sixty years after his death? We shall return to the question again.
The meaning of Tirechan, however, is clear enough, although the Latin is rather rude. No one knew the exact place where Patrick's bones were deposited until Columcille pointed out the spot ; and that spot is, in Saul, that is, in the church near to the sea, where the relics of Columcille were brought, and where all the saints of Ireland will be gathered, doubtless as assessors to Patrick, who is to judge the Irish on the day of judgment. " In Saul" here clearly means in the neighbourhood of Saul, for it is explained to mean the church very near the sea, whither the relics of Columcille were brought from Britain. Downpatrick is only two miles from Saul ; the church very near the sea is, as we have already shown, the church of Downpatrick. Saul had no church quite close to the sea, and it was to that church of Downpatrick the relics of Columcille and Bridget were afterwards brought to the very spot which Columcille himself had pointed out as the grave of Patrick.
Taking this account of Tirechan in connection with the other early accounts given in the Tripartite, and in the Book of Armagh, we can fairly judge what took place after the death of Patrick. He died at Saul, as all admit, and news of his illness first, and afterwards of his death, was quickly carried over all the north, and bishops, priests, and people came in crowds from all quarters to be present at the obsequies of their beloved father in God, to whom they owed their salvation. The obsequies were prolonged for twelve days, to give them all time to arrive, and the lights in the little church around his body and without the church, where " the elders of Ireland were watching him with hymns, and psalms, and canticles," were so many and so bright, that "there was nonight in Mag Inis ;" or, as it is elsewhere said, there was almost no darkness, but rather a bright angelic radiance, which is certainly not unlikely.
But meantime the men of Orior from Slieve Gullion to the Bann, and the fierce Hy Niall of Lough Neagh, had resolved, when the obsequies were over, to carry home, at any cost, the body of their beloved Patrick to his own cathedral of Armagh ; and, on the other hand, the proud Ulidians were as sternly resolved to prevent them. With themselves he founded his first church in Erin, that very Barn, where his remains now lay ; with them he came to die by direction of God's angel ; and with them he would be buried in spite of all the warriors of Orior. The two parties were watching each other all the time that the priests were praying ; but as soon as the body was moved, the strongest party would try to carry it off. The men of Orior and O'Neilland were gathered on the northern shore of the estuary running up to Downpatrick from Strangford Lough, now called the Quoile river; the Ulidians stood watching them on its southern shore between Saul and Down. When all was ready, the body was placed by divine direction, it is said, on a wain drawn by two unbroken steers, and it was to be buried at the spot where the steers would stop of their own accord. And now a battle was imminent, but the Ulidians wisely took the opportunity of setting out, when there was a high tide in the estuary, and Providence divinely interposed and raised still higher the swelling waves, so that the men of Armagh could not cross the ford at the Quoile bridge, as it is now called, or Drumbo, as it seems to have been called at that time. So the Ulidians utilized the favourable time ; probably they had the grave already made nigh to their own royal fort, and before the tide receded they had the saint's body buried seven feet deep with a huge flag over it, and the earth and the green sward over all, so as to leave no visible trace of the exact spot, for they feared that the men of Orior might come and remove it either by stealth or by the strong hand.
Still, however, the men of Armagh were resolved to cross the ford, and fight for the sacred treasure, which the Ulidians were guarding ; when suddenly, to their great joy, there appeared amongst the men of Orior that very identical waggon drawn by two steers and bearing the saint's body, which they had seen coming from Saul to Drumbo. It was the saint himself, as they thought, gave his body to Armagh, so they set out with great joy to return home ; but, alas ! when they came near to Armagh, to the river called Cabcenne, the steers and waggon and body suddenly disappeared from their eyes, and were seen no more. Then the men of Orior and the Hy Niall knew that it was God's will that the saint's body should not be in his own city on Macha's height, so they made no further attempt to recover it. Whether the appearance of the second waggon was a real miracle, or a pious ruse to prevent bloodshed, or a later invention to gratify the disappointed vanity of the Hy Niall, it is now impossible to ascertain. The story, however, is quite consistent and natural, and clearly shows why for greater security the saint was buried at Down near the royal fortress rather than at Saul, and why in a few years no man knew the exact spot where his bones were laid, until Columcille revealed it sixty years later, in A.D. 552. In that year we are informed by the scribe of the Ulster Annals a high authority who quotes from the Book of Cuanu, that :
" The relics (minna) of Patrick were placed in a shrine at the end of threescore years after Patrick's death by Columcille. Three splendid minna were found in his tomb ; to wit, his Goblet, and the Angel's Gospel, and the Bell of the Testament. Columcille, at the bidding of the angel, gave the Goblet to Down, the Bell of the Testament to Armagh, and kept the Angel's Gospel for himself; and the reason it is called the Angel's Gospel is, because it was from the angel's hand that Columcille received it."
The first scribe of the Book of Cuanu was probably as ancient as Tirechan himself. This entry is very interesting, because it not only explains and confirms Tirechan's statement regarding the burial of the saint, but also goes to prove that the date of his death was 493, since his relics were enshrined threescore years after his death. The word coach, which has been translated "goblet," means a cup, and usually a wooden cup. The cup found by Columcille in the grave of St. Patrick was probably a chalice, and perhaps a wooden chalice, although the word cailech, obviously a loan word from the Latin, is that which is used for "chalice" in the Irish Tripartite. Chalices, both of glass and wood, were certainly used, although, of course not exclusively in the early ages of the Church. St. Boniface is reported to have said that in old times they had wooden chalices but golden priests ; now, however, there were golden chalices but wooden priests. It was the custom too in the earlier ages of the Church, and to some extent the custom is still preserved, to bury with the deceased the insignia of his office. It would be more pagan than Christian-like to bury an ordinary drinking goblet with the saint, and the clergy who stood round his bier would never permit it. But to bury a chalice with him perhaps the very one he first used in the Barn-church at Saul would be appropriate, if not usual. The three splendid minna found by Columcille in Patrick's grave would thus be the appropriate insignia of his high office the chalice would typify the sacrificing priest, the Gospel the preacher, and the bell was always taken in the early Irish Church to signify the jurisdiction of the saint, which extended at least as far as its sound could be heard.
There seems to have been no church in Down when Patrick was buried there; but the church was afterwards built around his grave, although the exact spot where his body lay seems to have been doubtful. For we are told that the workmen, when digging the foundations of the church, suddenly beheld flames issuing from the grave, and thereupon withdrew fearing the burning fire. The grave was, doubtless, then closed in again, and no one dared to disturb it until Columcille was inspired to enshrine the holy relics.
Another reference to the alleged burial of the saint at Saul occurs in Colgan's Fourth Life, where:
"It is related [says Rev. Mr. Olden] that a boy playing in the churchyard there lost his hoop in a chink in St. Patrick's grave, and having put down his hand to recover his plaything was unable to withdraw it. Upon this Bishop Loarn of Bright, a place near at hand, was sent for, and on his arrival addressed the saint in the following words : ' Why, Elder, dost thou hold the child's hand ?'"
This entire passage is founded on a mis-translation of an incident, which is correctly recorded in the Tripartite :
" Then Patrick went from Saul southwards, that he might preach to Boss, son of Trichem (the brother of Dichu of Saul). He it is that dwelt in Derlus, to the south of Downpatriok there stands a small town there to-day, namely, Bright ubi est episcopus Loairn, qui ausus est increpare Patricium tenentem manum pueri ludentis ecclesiam juxta suam."
The incident occurred during the lifetime of St. Patrick, for Loarn was of his familia, and probably died before him ; and, as Dr. Stokes observes, the phrase tenentem manum in the Latin seems to be a translation of the Irish gabail lama, which is constantly used in the Tripartite to signify expelling or driving away showing one off the premises. Loarn was Bishop of Bright, three miles south-east of Down, and the south of Saul. We are told that St. Patrick often resided at Saul during the intervals of his missionary labours ; the boy doubtless disturbed him, and the saint drove him away, perhaps with too much severity ; and, therefore, his disciple "rebuked " him for his harshness to the child. This story is intelligible, and even probable, for Patrick, if we can believe the Tripartite, was not always meek and patient. But the incident, as recorded in Colgan's Fourth Life, is evidently due to the imagination of a scribe who did not understand the record from which he was copying. The author of the Tripartite was apparently so much afraid of scandalizing anybody by the story, that he narrates the incident in Latin, and not in the vernacular. When Loarn was in Bright and Patrick in Saul there was, as we have said, neither church nor bishop in Downpatrick. That church became famous because it was Patrick's burial-place ; and hence the first prelate of Down of whom we know anything is "Fergus, Bishop of Drumlethglas," who died in 583 ; that is, thirty years after Columcille had revealed St. Patrick's 'grave.
In Colgan's Latin Tripartite, as quoted by Bishop Reeves, there is a passage which might be easily misunderstood. The angel Victor is described as saying to Patrick : "Revertere ad monasterium Sabhallense, unde veneras, ibi et non Ardmachae migrabis ad Deum, tuumque sepelietur corpus." But the last clause is not in the Irish Tripartite, as we have it ; and if it were it could only mean in the neighbourhood of Saul ; for on the same page it distinctly states that the oxen carried his body from Saul to Dun-lethglaisse, and that he was buried there with honour and veneration.
There is also a strange entry in the Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1293. " It was revealed to Nicholas MacMaelisa (Coarb of Patrick), that the relics of Patrick, Columcille, and Bridget were at Sabhall ; they were taken up by him, and great virtues and miracles were wrought by them, and after having been honourably covered were deposited in a shrine." The Dublin copy of the Ulster Annals have a similar entry. These entries seem to ignore the celebrated invention and translation of the same relics, which took place in the Cathedral of Down, in 1185, in presence of the Papal Legate, the Bishop of Down and John de Courcy. Could the shrine have been lost or stolen in the meantime? Or was it, as some writers suggest, an Irish Invention of the relics got up from Armagh, as a set-off against the Anglo-Norman Invention by John de Courcy in Down? Or, what is much more probable, was the Saul, of which there is question, the church of that name which undoubtedly existed at Armagh, and which contained relics of the three saints originally brought from Down, but forgotten or hidden there during the wars of the Danes, and the subsequent disturbances in the primatial city ?
There are several other arguments put forward by Rev. Mr. Olden in favour of the saint's burial at Armagh. One of them, but not his main argument, is based on the assumed identity of our national apostle with Sen Patrick, who is said to have died at Armagh. This is not a question into which we can now enter ; but, inasmuch as no attempt is made to prove this identity, and the epithet itself implies distinction from the great St. Patrick, we may dismiss this argument without further discussion.
Then we are treated to another line of reasoning in favour of Armagh. Both Muirchu and Tirechan, it is said, agree in stating that "at the time of his (Patrick's) death, Armagh claimed to possess his remains." We could not find the least foundation for this extraordinary statement. On the contrary, both writers state that at or after the obsequies the men of Orior tried, but tried in vain, to secure the precious treasure. And hence Bishop Reeves, who was so well acquainted with the contents of the Book of Armagh, says that the claim of Down was in the early ages conceded by Armagh ; that the Book of Armagh would scarcely introduce a fiction in favour of Down or Saul; and that the church of Armagh would never have acquiesced in a mock translation at Down in the twelfth century, if the general belief had not given sentence in favour of Down. Besides neither Muirchu nor Tirechan anywhere state that "Armagh claimed to possess bis remains at the time of his death." Muirchu distinctly states that he was buried in Down ; and then adds that, through the mercy of God and the merits of Patrick, the sea swelled up between the opposing hosts of Orior and Ulad, so that bloodshed was prevented. "Seduced," he adds," by a lucky deception, they fancied they had secured the waggon and oxen that bore the saint's blessed body, but when they came to the River Cabcenne the body disappeared."We have already explained Tirechan's statement at length, in which he declares that the burial-place of Patrick was shown by Columcille to be near Saul, in the church close to the sea, whither the relics of Columcille were also brought from Britain.
But it is urged that frequent reference is made to the shrine of Patrick, which was in the custody of his successors at Armagh during the ninth century. Yes ; but it is beyond all reasonable doubt that the shrine in question contained not any part of the saint's body, but the celebrated "Bell of the Will," which, as we have already seen, was given to Armagh by Columcille. That bell was the symbol of the primatial jurisdiction ; and it was deemed so sacred and so precious, that it had a hereditary custodian assigned for its preservation. A new shrine was made to contain it, about the close of the eleventh century, and the inscription thereon records that it was made for Domiiall M'Loughlin, King of Erin, i.e., at his expense, and for Domnall M'Auley, the Comarb of Patrick, and for Cathalan O'Mailchallan, the custodian of the bell. We know also from other sources that these ancient bells were deemed very sacred, and that the violation of an oath, if taken on the bell, was deemed a most terrible crime, which was sure to bring the vengeance of the outraged saint on the head of the perjurer. There can be no reasonable doubt, therefore, that the shrine of Patrick which Artri, Abbot of Armagh, carried into Connaught in 818, and which Forannen the Primate brought to Munster in 841, when driven by the Danes from his primatial city, was the enshrined Bell of the Will, the possession of which was the symbol and the pledge of the jurisdiction which he derived from St. Patrick.
As to the obiter dictum of St. Bernard, where he speaks of the primatial see of Patrick, "in which he presided when alive, and rests now that he is dead," it is obvious that it is a loose rhetorical expression designed rather to round the sentence than to make any definite assertion regarding the place of St. Patrick's burial, of which he probably knew nothing. And the same may be said of the statement of another foreign writer, William of Newbridge, who informs us that the primacy was bestowed on Armagh in honour of St. Patrick, and the other indigenous saints whose remains rest there. Such a statement from a foreign source is too vague to weigh for a moment against the explicit testimony of our native annalists.
Lastly, Mr. Olden finds a reference to the tomb of St. Patrick as existing at Armagh, in the Book of Armagh, although he admits that it has hitherto escaped notice even the great learning and critical acumen both of Todd and Reeves were unable to detect it. In that portion of the Book of Armagh called the "Angel's Book," the following passage occurs :-
' The foundation of the prayer on every Sunday at Armagh on going to and returning from the Sarcophagus of the relics is ' Domine clamavi ad Te' to the end ; Ut quid ' Deus repulisti' to the end; and 'Beati immaculati ' to the end of the blessing, and with the twelve Gradual Psalms it finishes"-
It is surprising what a superstructure it is sought to build up on this passage of bad Latin in the original.
The words "sargifagum martyrum," are glossed in the margin by the Irish du ferti matur that is, to the " Grave of the Relics." Now it is argued, this "Grave of the Relics" must have been a place of pilgrimage, for the prayers of the "Station" are here prescribed. The place which bore the name of the Ferta at Armagh was so called from this grave, and it was the place where St. Patrick established his first church at Armagh. He lived there a long time before he removed to the greater church on the hill; and when he died he must have been buried there, for there seems no other adequate reason for calling it the Grave of the Relics, and for making it a place of pilgrimage, than the fact that it possessed his relics.
It is surprising that the people who argue in this fashion did not first read the Tripartite, where they would find a very clear and simple explanation of the name and of the pilgrimage. Ferta means a grave, but as a proper name it means here the cemetery ; in fact, both church and churchyard, as the following passage with reference to this very Ferta clearly shows : " In this wise then Patrick measured the Ferta, namely, sevenscore feet in the enclosure, and seven and twenty feet in the Great-House, seventeen feet in the kitchen, and seven feet in the oratory."
The writer then proceeds to tell us that an angel told Patrick "this day the relics of the Apostles are divided in Rome for the four quarters of the Globe;" and thereupon he carried Patrick through the air, and afterwards with the help of a ship of Bordeaux, brought the saint to Rome, whence Patrick carried away as much as he wanted of the relics.
" Afterwards these relics were taken to Armagh by the counsel of God, and the counsel of the men of Ireland. Three hundred and threescore and five relics, together with the relics of Paul, and Peter, and Laurence, and Stephen, and many others. And a sheet was there with Christ's Blood, and with the hair of Mary the Virgin. And Patrick left the whole of that collection in Armagh according to the will of God, and of the Angel, and of the men of Ireland".
Furthermore a letter was brought to him from the Abbot of Rome, directing that there should be "watching of the relics with lamps and lights in the night always, and mass and psalm singing by day, and prayer in the night, and that they should be exposed every year for the multitudes (to venerate them). These relics were, of course, kept in the only church then to be had at Armagh ; that is, the church afterwards called the Ferta, and which on that account came to be called Ferta Martyr, or the Fertae Martyrum, as Muirchu has it, or the Sarcophagus Martyrum, as the Book of the Angel has it. Thus the simple narrative of the Tripartite overthrows all the ingenious speculations put before the Royal Irish Academy as to the origin of the name.
St. Patrick had numbers of churches and altars to consecrate, for which purpose he needed relics ; he either sent for them or brought them from Rome ; they were kept in his church at Armagh in a Ferta, or sarcophagus, or sepulchre made for the purpose, hence called Ferta Martyrum, which name afterwards passed to the church itself as it became a place of public pilgrimage for the faithful to venerate the relics. In our next paper we shall discuss the alleged preservation of the remains of St. Columkille and St. Bridget, together with those of St. Patrick in the Cathedral of Down.
+JOHN HEALY, D.D.
THE IRISH ECCLESIASTICAL RECORD VOL. XV. JANUARY, 1894, 1-17.
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