Monday, 21 March 2016

Extending Saint Patrick's Family

The Life of Saint Patrick by Jocelin of Furness added to the stock of stories surrounding our patron saint. This included the development of an extended family for Saint Patrick, who in his own writings had mentioned only the names of his father and grandfather. As we will see in the extract below, Jocelin supplies a trio of sisters for our patron and their offspring in turn become Uncle Patrick's willing helpers in his Irish mission:
Of the Sisters and the Nephews of St. Patrick.  
AND the saint had three sisters, memorable for their holiness and for their justice, and they were pleasing unto the Lord; and of these the names were Lupita, Tygridia, and Darercha. And Tygridia was blessed with a happy fruitfulness, for she brought forth seventeen sons and five daughters. And all her sons became most wise and holy monks, and priests, and prelates; and all her daughters became nuns, and ended their days as holy virgins; and the names of the bishops were Brochadius, Brochanus, Mogenochus, and Lumanus, who, with their uncle, Saint Patrick, going from Britain into Ireland, earnestly laboring together in the field of the Lord, they collected an abundant harvest into the granary of heaven. And Darercha, the youngest sister, was the mother of the pious bishops, Mel, Moch, and Munis, and their father was named Conis. And these also accompanied Saint Patrick in his preaching and in his travel, and in divers places obtained the episcopal dignity. Truly did their generation appear blessed, and the nephews of Saint Patrick were a holy heritage. 
In his 1985 study of medieval households, which includes a chapter on Ireland, scholar David Herlihy puts Jocelin's account of Patrick's family into context:
The Irish lives make frequent mention of the avunculate tie, and of other relationships running though women. In the life of St Patrick written by the English Cistercian Jocelin of Furness (after about 1180), Patrick is represented as the great-nephew of St Martin of Tours; his mother Conquessa is Martin's niece.  Jocelin is the first to claim that the two saints were related, and significantly, he runs their blood tie through two women.  Still according to Jocelin, to his cognatus Patrick, Martin gives  the monastic habit and his rule. As a boy, Patrick had been reared in his aunt's house in a town called Nemphtor (presumably Clyde) in northern Britain. The aunt was his mother's sister. Patrick himself had three sisters, one of whom, Lupita, had seventeen sons and five daughters. They all become priests and nuns, and all come to help Patrick on his mission; so also did his other nephews, sons of sisters. "Truly the offspring of these [sisters] appears blessed... and a holy inheritance was the nephews of St Patrick". The embellishments, which Jocelin added to the ancient legends of Patrick, are extraordinarily rich in matrilineal allusions.
David Herlihy, Medieval Households (Harvard and London, 1985), 41.

Tomorrow we will look at a miracle recorded in Jocelin's Life which involved one of these reputed nephews, Bishop Lumanus.

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