November III Saint Malachy, Confessor archbishop of ardmach or armagh
Saint Malachy, Confessor
archbishop of ardmach or armagh
From St. Bernard’s Life, l. 4, c. 4, and the Life of St. Malachy, written by St. Bernard himself, partly from his own knowledge, and partly from relations sent him from Ireland by the abbot Congan, t. 2, p. 663 ad p. 698. ed. Mabill. Also St. Bernard’s Letters, ep. 341, (p. 314, t. 1,) ad Malachiam Hiberni Archiep anno 1140, ep. 356, (p. 223, anno 1141,) ad Malachiam Hiberni Archiep. sedis Apostolic legatum: and ep. 374, anno 1148, (p. 337,) ad Fratres de Hibernia. de Transitu Malachi, giving his brethren in Ireland an account of his death. Also St. Bernard’s two Sermons, one spoken at his funeral, in transitu S. Malachi, (p. 1048, t. 3,) the other on his anniversary festival, entitled. De S. Malachi, p, 1052, t. 3, ed. Mabill. See the bull of the canonization of St. Malachy, published by Mabillon, ib. p. 698. St. Bernard’s discourses on St. Malachy are ranked amongst the most methodical and elegant of his writings. He seems to surpass himself when he speaks of this saint. The Jesuit Maffei, a true judge and passionate student of eloquence, placed his translation of St. Bernard’s Life of St. Malachy the first among the seventeen elegant lives of confessors which he published in Italian.
a. d. 1148.
In the fifth century Ireland was converted from heathenism to Christianity. Through the three succeeding ages it became the principal seat of learning in Christendom. So happy a distinction was owing to the labors and apostolic lives of the native ecclesiastics, who were never known to abuse the great immunities and secular endowments conferred on them by the Irish princes. This change from idolatry to the gospel was brought about in a period when the Roman empire in the West was torn to pieces, and when inundations of pagan nations seized on the greater part of Europe. In that state, providence, ever watchful over the church, erected an asylum in this remote island for its repose and extension. For three hundred years the Christian youth of the continent flocked hither to be instructed in the science of the saints, and in the literature which leads to it. In the ninth century, Ireland began to feel the grievances which followed the invasion of the sanctuary in other countries. It was infested in its turn by heathen barbarians, who under the general name of Normans, ravaged at the same time the maritime districts of France, England, and Scotland; and, finally, made establishments in all. Nothing sacred had escaped their depredations: wherever their power prevailed they massacred the ecclesiastics, demolished the monasteries, and committed their libraries to the flames. In these confusions the civil power was weakened; and kings contending with a foreign enemy, and with vassals often equally dangerous, lost much of their authority. The national assemblies, the guardians and framers of law, were seldom convened; and when convened, they wanted the power, perhaps the wisdom, to restore the old constitution, or establish a better on its ruins. Through a long and unavoidable intercourse between the natives and the oppressors of religion and law, a great relaxation of piety and morals gradually took place. Vice and ignorance succeeded to the Christian virtues, and to knowledge. Factions among the governors of provinces ended in a dissolution of the Irish monarchy, on the demise of Malachy II., in 1022; and, through the accumulation of so many evils, the nation was, in a great degree, sunk in barbarism.
It was in this state of the nation that the glorious saint, whose life we are writing, was born. Malachy,* called in Irish Maol-Maodhog O Morgair,1 was a native of Armagh: his parents were persons of the first rank, and very virtuous, especially his mother, who was most solicitous to train him up in the fear of God. When he was of age to go to school, not content to procure him pious tutors while he studied grammar at Armagh,* she never ceased at home to instil into his tender mind the most perfect sentiments and maxims of piety; which were deeply imprinted in his heart by that interior master in whose school he was from his infancy a great proficient. He was meek, humble, obedient, modest, obliging to all, and very diligent in his studies; he was temperate in diet, vanquished sleep, and had no inclination to childish sports and diversions, so that he far outstripped his fellow students in learning, and his very masters in virtue. In his studies, devotions, and little practices of penance he was very cautious and circumspect to shun as much as possible the eyes of others, and all danger of vain-glory, the most baneful poison of virtues. For this reason he spent not so much time in churches as he desired to do, but prayed much in retired places, and at all times frequently lifted up his pure hands and heart to heaven in such a manner as not to be taken notice of. When his master took a walk to a neighboring village without any other company but this beloved scholar, the pious youth often remained a little behind to send up with more liberty, as it were by stealth, short inflamed ejaculations from the bow of his heart, which was always bent, says St. Bernard.
To learn more perfectly the art of dying to himself, and living wholly to God and his love, Malachy put himself under the discipline of a holy recluse named Imar, or Imarius, who led a most austere life in continual prayer in a cell near the great church of Armagh. This step in one of his age and quality astonished the whole city, and many severely censured and laughed at him for it; many ascribed this undertaking to melancholy, fickleness, or the rash heat of youth; and his friends grieved and reproached him, not being able to bear the thought that one of so delicate a constitution and so fine accomplishments and dispositions for the world, should embrace a state of such rigor, and, in their eyes, so mean and contemptible. The saint valued not their censures, and learned by despising them with humility and meekness to vanquish both the world and himself. To attain to the true love of God he condemned himself while alive, as it were, to the grave, says St. Bernard, and submitted himself to the rule of a man; not being like those who undertake to teach what they have never learned, and by seeking to gather and multiply scholars without having ever been at school, become blind guides of the blind. The simplicity of the disciple’s obedience, his love of silence, and his fervor in mortification and prayer, were both the means and the marks of his spiritual progress, which infinitely endeared him to his master, and edified even those who at first had condemned his choice. Their railleries were soon converted into praises, and their contempt into admiration: and many, moved by the example of his virtue, desired to be his imitators and companions in that manner of life. Malachy prevailed upon Imar to admit the most fervent among these petitioners, and they soon formed a considerable community. Malachy was by his eminent virtues a model to all the rest, though he always looked upon himself as the least and most unworthy of that religious society. A disciple so meek, so humble, so obedient, so mortified and devout, could not fail, by the assiduous exercises of penance and prayer, to advance apace to the summit of evangelical perfection. Imar, his superior, and Celsus or Ceallach, archbishop of Armagh,* judged him worthy of holy orders, and this prelate obliged him, notwithstanding all the resistance he could make, to receive at his hands the order of deacon, and some time after, the priesthood, when he was twenty-five years old, though the age which the canons then required for priestly orders was thirty years, as St. Bernard testifies; but his extraordinary merit was just reason for dispensing with that rule. At the same time, the archbishop made him his vicar to preach the word of God to the rude people and to extirpate evil customs, which were many, grievous, and inveterate, and most horribly disfigured the face of that church. Wonderful was the zeal with which St. Malachy discharged this commission; abuses and vices were quite defeated and dispersed before his face; barbarous customs were abolished, diabolical charms and superstitions were banished; and whatever squared not with the rule of the gospel could not stand before him. He seemed to be a flame amidst the forests, or a hook extirpating noxious plants: with a giant’s heart he appeared at work on every side. He made several regulations in ecclesiastical discipline, which were authorized by the bishops, and settled the regular solemn rehearsal of the canonical hours in all the churches of the diocese, which, since the Danish invasions, had been omitted even in cities: in which it was of service to him that from his youth he had applied himself to the church music. What was yet of much greater importance, he renewed the use of the sacraments, especially of confession or penance, of confirmation, and regular matrimony. St. Malachy, fearing lest he was not sufficiently skilled in the canons of the church to carry on a thorough reformation of discipline, and often laboring under great anxiety of mind on this account, resolved, with the approbation of his prelate, to repair for some time to Malchus, bishop of Lismore, who had been educated in England where he became a monk of Winchester, and was then for his learning and sanctity reputed the oracle of all Ireland. Being courteously received by this good old man, he was diligently instructed by him in all things belonging to the divine service, and to the care of souls, and, at the same time, he employed his ministry in that church.
Ireland being at that time divided into several little kingdoms,† it happened that Cormac, king of Munster, was dethroned by his wicked brother, and, in his misfortunes, had recourse to bishop Malchus, not to recover his crown, but to save his soul; fearing him who takes away the spirit of princes, and being averse from shedding more blood for temporal interests. At the news of the arrival of such a guest, Malchus made preparations to receive him with due honor; but the king would by no means consent to his desires, declaring it was his intention to think no more of worldly pomp, but to live among his canons, to put on sackcloth, and labor by penance to secure to himself the possession of an eternal kingdom. Malchus made him a suitable exhortation on the conditions of his sacrifice, and of a contrite heart, and assigned him a little house to lodge in, and appointed St. Malachy his master, with bread and water for his sustenance. Through our saint’s exhortations the king began to relish the sweetness of the incorruptible heavenly food of the soul, his heart was softened by compunction; and while he subdued his flesh by austerities, he washed his soul with penitential tears, like another David, never ceasing to cry out with him to God: Behold my baseness and my misery, and pardon me all my offences. The sovereign judge was not deaf to his prayer, but (according to his infinite goodness) heard it not only in the sense in which it was uttered, purely for spiritual benefits, but also with regard to the greatest temporal favors, granting him his holy grace which he asked, and in the bargain restoring him to his earthly kingdom. For a neighboring king, moved with indignation at the injury done to the majesty of kings in his expulsion, sought out the penitent in his cell, and finding him insensible to all worldly motives of interest, pressed him with those of piety, and the justice which he owed to his own subjects; and not being able yet to succeed, engaged both Malchus the bishop, and St. Malachy, to employ their authority and command, and to represent to him that justice to his people, and the divine honor, obliged him not to oppose the design. Therefore, with the succors of this king, and the activity of many loyal subjects, he was easily placed again upon the throne; and he ever after loved and honored St. Malachy as his father. Our saint was soon after called back by Celsus and Imar, both by letters and messages, to Armagh.
The great abbey of Benchor,* now in the county of Down, lay at that time in a desolate condition, and its revenues were possessed by an uncle of St. Malachy, till it should be re-established. This uncle resigned it to his holy nephew that he might settle in it regular observance, and became himself a monk under his direction in this house, which, by the care of the saint, became a flourishing seminary of learning and piety, though not so numerous as it had formerly been. St. Malachy governed this house some time, and, to use St. Bernard’s words, was in his deportment a living rule, and a bright glass, or, as it were, a book laid open in which all might learn the true precepts of religious conversation. He not only always went before his little flock, in all monastic observances, but also did particular penances, and other actions of perfection, which no man was able to equal, and he worked with his brethren in hewing timber, and in the like manual labor.
Several miraculous cures of sick persons, some of which St. Bernard recounts, added to our saint’s reputation. But the whole tenor of his life, says this saint, was the greatest of his miracles; and the composure of his mind, and the inward sanctity of his soul, appeared in his countenance, which was always modestly cheerful. A sister of our saint, who had led a worldly life, died, and he recommended her soul to God for a long time in the sacrifice of the altar. Having intermitted this for thirty days, he seemed one night to be advertised in his sleep that his sister waited with sorrow in the churchyard, and had been thirty days without food. This he understood of spiritual food; and having resumed the custom of saying mass, or causing one to be said for her every day, saw her after some time admitted to the door of the church, then within the church, and some days after to the altar, where she appeared in joy, in the midst of a troop of happy spirits; which vision gave him great comfort.2
St. Malachy, in the thirtieth year of his age, was chosen bishop of Connor, (now in the county of Antrim,) and, as he peremptorily refused to acquiesce in the election, he was at length obliged by the command of Imar and the archbishop Celsus, to submit. Upon beginning the exercise of his functions he found that his flock were Christians in name only, but in their manners savage, vicious, and worse than pagans. However, he would not run away like a hireling, but resolved to spare no pains to turn these wolves into sheep. He preached in public with an apostolical vigor, mingling tenderness with a wholesome severity; and when they would not come to the church to hear him, he sought them in the streets and in their houses, exhorted them with tenderness, and often shed tears over them. He offered to God for them the sacrifice of a contrite and humble heart, and sometimes passed whole nights weeping and with his hands stretched forth to heaven in their behalf. The remotest villages and cottages of his diocese he visited, going always on foot, and he received all manner of affronts and sufferings with invincible patience. The most savage hearts were at length softened into humanity and a sense of religion, and the saint restored the frequent use of the sacraments among the people; and whereas he found among them very few priests, and those both slothful and ignorant, he filled the diocese with zealous pastors, by whose assistance he banished ignorance and superstition, and established all religious observances, and the practice of piety. In the whole comportment of this holy man, nothing was more admirable than his invincible patience and meekness. All his actions breathed this spirit in such a manner as often to infuse the same into others. Among his miracles St. Bernard mentions, that a certain passionate woman, who was before intolerable to all that approached her, was converted into the mildest of women by the saint commanding her in the name of Christ never to be angry more, hearing her confession, and enjoining her a suitable penance; from which time no injuries or tribulations could disturb her.
After some years the city of Connor was taken and sacked by the king of Ulster; upon which St. Malachy, with a hundred and twenty disciples, retired into Munster, and there, with the assistance of king Cormac, built the monastery of Ibrac, which some suppose to have been near Cork, others in the isle of Beg-erin, where St. Imar formerly resided. While our saint governed this holy family in the strictest monastic discipline, humbling himself even to the meanest offices of the community, and, in point of holy poverty and penance, going beyond all his brethren, the archbishop Celsus was taken with that illness of which he died. In his infirmity he appointed St. Malachy to be his successor, conjuring all persons concerned, in the name of St. Patrick, the founder of that see, to concur to that promotion, and oppose the intrusion of any other person. This he not only most earnestly declared by word of mouth, but also recommended by letters to persons of the greatest interest and power in the country, particularly to the two kings of Upper and Lower Munster. This he did out of a zealous desire to abolish a most scandalous abuse which had been the source of all other disorders in the churches of Ireland. For two hundred years past, the family out of which Celsus had been assumed, and which was the most powerful in the country, had, during fifteen generations, usurped the archbishopric as an inheritance; insomuch, that when there was no clergyman of their kindred, they intruded some married man and layman of their family, who, without any holy orders, had the administration, and enjoyed the revenues of that see, and even exercised a despotic tyranny over the other bishops of the island. Notwithstanding the precaution taken by Celsus, who was a good man, after his death, though Malachy was canonically elected pursuant to his desire, Maurice, one of the above-mentioned family got possession. Malachy declined the promotion, and alleged the dangers of a tumult and bloodshed. Thus three years passed till Malchus, bishop of Lismore, and Gillebert, bishop of Limerick, who was the pope’s legate in Ireland, assembled the bishops and great men of the island, and threatened Malachy with excommunication if he refused to accept the archbishopric. Hereupon he submitted, but said, “You drag me to death. I obey in hopes of martyrdom; but, on this condition, that if the business succeed according to your desires, when all things are settled, you shall permit me to return to my former spouse, and my beloved poverty.” They promised he should have the liberty so to do, and he took upon him that charge, and exercised his functions with great zeal through the whole province, except in the city of Armagh, which he did not enter for fear of bloodshed, so long as Maurice lived, which was two years more.
At the end of five years, after the demise of Celsus, Maurice died, and, to complete his iniquities and increase his damnation, named his kinsman Nigellus for his successor. But king Cormac, and the bishops, resolved to install St. Malachy in that see, and he was acknowledged the only lawful metropolitan in the year 1133, the thirty-eighth of his age. Nigellus was obliged to leave Armagh, but carried with him two relics held by the Irish in great veneration; and the common people were foolishly persuaded that he was archbishop who had them in his possession. These were a book of the gospels which had belonged to St. Patrick, and a crosier called the staff of Jesus, which was covered with gold, and ornamented with rich jewels. By this fallacy some still adhered to him, and his kindred violently persecuted St. Malachy. One of the chief amongst them invited him to a conference at his house with a secret design to murder him. The saint, against the advice of all his friends, went thither, offering himself to martyrdom for the sake of peace; he was accompanied only by three disciples who were ready to die with him. But the courage and heavenly mildness of his countenance disarmed his enemies as soon as he appeared amongst them; and he who had designed to murder him, rose up to do him honor, and a peace was concluded on all sides. Nigellus not long after surrendered the sacred book and crosier into his hands; and several of the saint’s enemies were cut off by visible judgments. A raging pestilence, which broke out at Armagh, was suddenly averted by his prayers, and he wrought many other miracles. Having rescued that church from oppression, and restored discipline and peace, he insisted upon resigning the archiepiscopal dignity, according to covenant, and ordained Gelasius, a worthy ecclesiastic, in his place. He then returned to his former see; but whereas the two sees of Connor and Down had been long united, he again divided them, consecrated another bishop for Connor, and reserved to himself only that of Down, which was the smaller and poorer. Here he established a community of regular canons, with whom he attended to prayer and meditation, as much as the external duties of his charge would permit him. He regulated every thing and formed great designs for the divine honor.
To obtain the confirmation of many things which he had done, he undertook a journey to Rome: in which one of his motives was to procure palls for two archbishops; namely, for the see of Armagh, which had long wanted that honor through the neglect and abuses of the late usurpers, and for another metropolitical see which Celsus had formed a project of, but which had not been confirmed by the pope.* St. Malachy left Ireland in 1139; conversed some time at York with a holy priest named Sycar, an eminent servant of God, and in his way through France visited Clairvaux, where St. Bernard first became acquainted with him, and conceived the greatest affection and veneration for him on account of his sanctity. St. Malachy was so edified with the wonderful spirit of piety which he discovered in St. Bernard and his monks, that he most earnestly desired to join them in their holy exercises of penance and contemplation, and to end his days in their company; but he was never able to gain the pope’s consent to leave his bishopric. Proceeding on his journey, at Yvree in Piedmont he restored to health the child of the host with whom he lodged, who was at the point of death. Pope Innocent II. received him with great honor; but would not hear of his petition for spending the remainder of his life at Clairvaux. He confirmed all he had done in Ireland, made him his legate in that island, and promised him the pall. The saint in his return called again at Clairvaux, where, says St. Bernard, he gave us a second time his blessing. Not being able to remain himself with those servants of God, he left his heart there, and four of his companions, who taking the Cistercian habit, afterwards came over into Ireland, and instituted the abbey of Mellifont, of that order, and the parent of many others in those parts. St. Malachy went home through Scotland, where king David earnestly entreated him to restore to health his son Henry, who lay dangerously ill. The saint said to the sick prince: “Be of good courage; you will not die this time.” Then sprinkled him with holy water, and the next day the prince was perfectly recovered.
St. Malachy was received in Ireland with the greatest joy, and discharged his office of legate with wonderful zeal and fruit, preaching everywhere, holding synods, making excellent regulations, abolishing abuses, and working many miracles. One of these St. Charles Borromeo used to repeat to his priests, when he exhorted them not to fail being watchful and diligent in administering in due time the sacrament of extreme unction to the sick. It is related by St. Bernard as follows:3 The lady of a certain knight who dwelt near Benchor being at the article of death, St. Malachy was sent for; and after suitable exhortations he prepared himself to give her extreme unction. It seemed to all her friends better to postpone that sacrament till the next morning, when she might be better disposed to receive it. St. Malachy yielded to their earnest entreaties, though with great unwillingness. The holy man having made the sign of the cross upon the sick woman, retired to his chamber; but was disturbed in the beginning of the night with an uproar through the whole house, and lamentations and cries, that their mistress was dead. The bishop ran to her chamber, and found her departed; whereupon, lifting up his hands to heaven, he said with bitter grief and remorse: “It is I myself who have sinned by this delay, not this poor creature.” Desiring earnestly to render to the dead what he accused himself that he by his neglect had robbed her of, he continued standing over the corpse, and praying with many bitter tears and sighs; and from time to time turning towards the company, he said to them: “Watch and pray.” They passed the whole night in sighs, and reciting the psalter, and other devout prayers; when, at break of day, the deceased lady opened her eyes, sat up, and knowing St. Malachy, with devout bow saluted him: at which sight all present were exceedingly amazed, and their sadness was turned into joy. St. Malachy would anoint her without delay, knowing well that by this sacrament sins are remitted, and the body receives help as is most expedient. The lady, to the greater glory of God, recovered and lived some time to perform the penance imposed on her by St. Malachy; then relapsed, and with the usual succors of the church, happily departed.
St. Malachy built a church of stone at Benchor on a new plan, such as he had seen in other countries; at which unusual edifice the people of the country were struck with great admiration.4 He likewise rebuilt or repaired the cathedral church at Down, famous for the tomb of St. Patrick; whither also the bodies of St. Columba and St. Bridget were afterwards removed.* St. Malachy’s zeal for the re-establishment of the Irish church in its splendour moved him to meditate a second journey into France, in order to meet pope Eugenius III., who was come into that kingdom. Innocent II. died before the two palls which he had promised could be prepared and sent. Celestine II. and Lucius II. died in less than a year and a half. This affair having been so long delayed, St. Malachy convened the bishops of Ireland, and received from them a deputation to make fresh application to the apostolic see. In his journey through England, while he lodged with the holy canons at Gisburn, a woman was brought to him, who had a loathsome cancer in her breast, whom he sprinkled with water which he had blessed, and the next day she was perfectly healed. Before he reached France the pope was returned to Rome, but St. Malachy determined not to cross the Alps without first visiting his beloved Clairvaux. He arrived there in October, 1148, and was received with great joy by St. Bernard and his holy monks, in whose happy company he was soon to end his mortal pilgrimage. Having celebrated mass with his usual devotion on the feast of St. Luke, he was seized with a fever, which obliged him to take to his bed. The good monks were very active in assisting him; but he assured them that all the pains they took about him was to no purpose, because he should not recover. St. Bernard doubts not but he had a foreknowledge of the day of his departure. How sick and weak soever he was, he would needs rise and crawl down stairs into the church, that he might there receive the extreme unction and the viaticum, which he did lying on ashes strewed on the floor. He earnestly begged that all persons would continue their prayers for him after his death, promising to remember them before God; he tenderly commended also to their prayers all the souls which had been recommitted to his charge, and sweetly reposed in our Lord on All Souls’-day, the 2d of November, in the year 1148, of his age fifty-four; and was interred in the chapel of our Lady at Clairvaux, and carried to the grave on the shoulders of abbots. At his burial was present a youth, one of whose arms was struck with a dead palsy, so that it hung useless and without life by his side. Him St. Bernard called, and taking up the dead arm, applied it to the hand of the deceased saint, and it was wonderfully restored to itself, as this venerable author himself assures us.5 St. Bernard, in his second discourse on this saint, says to his monks:6 “May he protect us by his merits, whom he has instructed by his example, and confirmed by his miracles.” At his funeral, having sung a mass of requiem for his soul, he added to the mass a collect to implore the divine grace through his intercession; having been assured of his glory by a revelation at the altar, as his disciple Geoffroy relates in the fourth book of his life. St. Malachy was canonized by a bull of pope Clement, (either the third or fourth,) addressed to the general chapter of the Cistercians, in the third year of his pontificate.7
Two things, says St. Bernard,8 made Malachy a saint, perfect meekness (which is always founded in sincere profound humility) and a lively faith: by the first, he was dead to himself; by the second, his soul was closely united to God in the exercises of assiduous prayer and contemplation. He sanctified him in faith and mildness.9 It is only by the same means we can become saints. How perfectly Malachy was dead to himself, appeared by his holding the metropolitical dignity so long as it was attended with extraordinary dangers and tribulations, and by his quitting it as soon as he could enjoy it in peace: how entirely he was dead to the world, he showed by his love of sufferings and poverty, and by the state of voluntary privations and self-denial in which he lived in the midst of prosperity, being always poor to himself, and rich to the poor, as he is styled by St. Bernard. In him this father draws the true character of a good pastor, when he tells us, that self-love and the world were crucified in his heart, and that he joined the closest interior solitude with the most diligent application to all the exterior functions of his ministry. “He seemed to live wholly to himself, yet so devoted to the service of his neighbor as if he lived wholly for them.* So perfectly did neither charity withdraw him from the strictest watchfulness over himself, nor the care of his own soul hinder him in any thing from attending to the service of others. If you saw him amidst the cares and functions of his pastoral charge, you would say he was born for others, not for himself. Yet if you considered him in his retirement, or observed his constant recollection, you would think that he lived only to God and himself.”
St. Hubert, Bishop of Liege, C.
God, who is wonderful in his mercies above all his works, called St. Hubert from a worldly life to his service in an extraordinary manner; though the circumstances of this event are so obscured by popular inconsistent relations, that we have no authentic account of his actions before he was engaged in the service of the church under the discipline of St. Lambert, bishop of Maestricht. He is said to have been a nobleman of Aquitaine passed his youth in the court of Theodoric III., and probably spent some time in the service of Pepin of Herstal, who became mayor of the palace of Austrasia in 681. He is also said to have been passionately addicted to the diversion of hunting, and was entirely taken up in worldly pursuits, when, moved by divine grace, he resolved at once to renounce the school of vanity, and enter himself in that of Christ, in which his name had been enrolled in baptism. St. Lambert was the experienced and skilful master by whose direction he studied to divest himself of the spirit of the world, and to put on that of Jesus Christ: and to learn to overcome enemies and injuries by meekness and patience, not by revenge and pride, rather to sink under, than to vanquish them. His extraordinary fervor, and the great progress which he made in virtue and learning strongly recommended him to St. Lambert, who ordained him priest, and intrusted him with the principal share in the administration of his diocese. That holy prelate being barbarously murdered in 681, St. Hubert was unanimously chosen his successor and the death of his dear master inflamed him with a holy desire of martyrdom, of which he sought all occasions. For charity conceives no other sentiments from wrongs, and knows no other revenge for the most atrocious injuries than the most tender concern and regard for sinners, and a desire of returning all good offices for evil received; thus to overcome evil by good, and invincibly maintain justice. St. Hubert never ceased with David to deplore his banishment from the face of God, and tears almost continually watered his cheeks. His revenues he consecrated to the service of the poor, and his labors to the extirpation of vice and of the remains of idolatry. His fervour in fasting, watching, and prayer, far from ever abating, seemed every day to increase; and he preached the word of God assiduously, with so much sweetness and energy, and with such unction of the Holy Ghost, that it was truly in his mouth a two-edged sword, and the people flocked from distant places to hear it from him. Out of devotion to the memory of St. Lambert, in the thirteenth year of his episcopal dignity, he translated his bones from Maestricht to Liege, then a very commodious and agreeable village upon the banks of the Meuse, which from this treasure very soon grew into a flourishing city, to which the ruins of Herstal, a mile distant, and of several other palaces and fortresses on the Meuse, contributed not a little. St. Hubert placed the relics of the martyr in a stately church which he built upon the spot where he had spilt his blood, which our saint made his cathedral, removing thither the episcopal see from Maestricht in 721, which St. Servatius had translated from Tongres to Maestricht in 382. Hence St. Lambert is honored at Liege as principal patron, and St. Hubert as founder of the city and church, and its first bishop.
The great forest of Ardenne, famous in the Commentaries of Julius Csar and later writers, was in many parts a shelter for idolatry down to that age.* St. Hubert with incredible zeal penetrated into the most remote and barbarous places of this country, and abolished the worship of idols; and as he performed the office of the apostles, God bestowed on him a like gift of miracles. Amongst others the author of his life relates as an eye-witness, that on the three days’ fast of the Rogations which the whole church observes, the holy bishop went out of the city of Maestricht in procession, through the fields and villages with his clergy and people, according to custom, following the standard of the cross and the relics of the saints, and singing the litany. This religious procession was disturbed in its devotions by a woman possessed by an evil spirit; but the holy bishop silenced her and restored her to her health by signing her with the cross. In the time of a great drought he obtained rain by his prayers. A year before his happy death he was advertised of it in a vision, and favored with a sight of a place prepared for him in glory. Though the foreknowledge which faith gives us of the great change for which we wait the divine will, be equally sufficient to raise up our hearts thither, the saint from that time redoubled his fervour in sighing after that bliss, and in putting his house in order; and reserved to himself more time for visiting the altars, and the shrines of the saints, especially the tomb of St. Lambert, and the altar of St. Albinus, commending his soul to God through the intercession of the saints with many tears. Going to dedicate a new church at Fur, (which seems to be Terture in Brabant,) twelve leagues from Liege, he preached there his farewell sermon; immediately after which he betook himself to bed ill of a fever, and on the sixth day of his sickness, reciting to his last breath the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, sweetly reposed in Christ, on the 30th of May, in 727. His body was conveyed to Liege, and deposited in the collegiate church of St. Peter.* With the leave of the bishop, and of the emperor Leuis Dbonnaire, it was translated, in 825, to the abbey of Andain, since called St. Hubert’s, in the Ardennes, on the frontiers of the duchy of Luxemburg. The abbot is lord of the territory, which comprises sixteen villages. The shrine of St. Hubert is resorted to by many pilgrims, and has been honored by many miraculous cures, especially of persons bit by mad dogs.† The principal feast of St. Hubert, probably on account of some translation, is kept on the 3rd of November. See the history of his life from the time of his conversion, written by one who had conversed familiarly with him; also the History of the Translation of his relics to Andain (or St. Hubert’s) by Jonas, (probably the Bishop of Orleans,) and an anonymous history of his miracles compiled in the eleventh age, all published by Mabillon, Sc. Ben. 4, p. 293, &c. Likewise Le Cointe and Mirus, in their Annals of France and Belgium; Placentius, Hist. Episcoporum Leod. p. 272; Buxhorn, Antiq. Leod. p. 7, &c.
St. Wenefride, or Winefride,‡ Virgin, Martyr
Her father, whose name was Thevith, was very rich, and one of the prime nobility in the country, being son to Eluth, the chief magistrate, and second man in the kingdom, of North Wales, next to the king.§ Her virtuous parents desired above all things to breed her up in the fear of God, and to preserve her soul untainted amidst the corrupt air of the world. About that time St. Beuno, Benno, or Benow, a holy priest and monk, who is said to have been uncle to our saint by the mother, having founded certain religious houses in other places, came and settled in that neighborhood. Thevith rejoiced at his arrival, gave him a spot of ground free from all burden or tribute, to build a church on, and recommended his daughter to be instructed by him in Christian piety.1 When the holy priest preached to the people, Wenefride was placed at his feet, and her tender soul eagerly imbibed his heavenly doctrine, and was wonderfully affected with the great truths which he delivered, or rather which God addressed to her by his mouth. The love of the sovereign and infinite good growing daily in her heart, her affections were quite weaned from all the things of this world: and it was her earnest desire to consecrate her virginity by vow to God, and, instead of an earthly bridegroom, to choose Jesus Christ for her spouse. Her parents readily gave their consent, shedding tears of joy, and thanking God for her holy resolution. She first made a private vow of virginity in the hands of St. Beuno, and some time after received the religious veil from him, with certain other pious virgins, in whose company she served God in a small nunnery which her father had built for her, under the direction of St. Beuno, near Holy-Well.* After this, St. Beuno returned to the first monastery which he had built at Clunnock, or Clynog Vaur, about forty miles distant, and there soon after slept in our Lord. His tomb was famous there in the thirteenth century. Leland mentions,2 that St. Beuno founded Clunnock Vaur, a monastery of white monks, in a place given him by Guithin, uncle to one of the princes of North-Wales. His name occurs in the English Martyrology.
After the death of St. Beuno, St. Wenefride left Holy-Well, and after putting herself for a short time under the direction of St. Deifer, entered the nunnery of Gutherin in Denbighshire, under the direction of a very holy abbot called Elerius, who governed there a double monastery. After the death of the abbess Theonia, St. Wenefride was chosen to succeed her. Leland speaks of St. Elerius as follows:3 “Elerius was anciently, and is at present in esteem among the Welsh. I guess that he studied at the banks of the Elivi where now St. Asaph’s stands. He afterwards retired in the deserts. It is most certain that he built a monastery in the vale of Cluide, which was double, and very numerous of both sexes. Among these was the most noble virgin Guenvrede, who had been educated by Beuno, and who suffered death, having her head cut off by the furious Caradoc.”* Leland mentions not the stupendous miracles which Robert of Salop and others relate on that occasion,† though in the abstract of her life inserted in an appendix to the fourth volume of the last edition of Leland’s Itinerary,4 she is said to have been raised to life by the prayers of St. Beuno. In all monuments and calendars she is styled a martyr: all the accounts we have of her agree that Caradoc, or Cradoc, son of Alain, prince of that country, being violently fallen in love with her, gave so far way to his brutish passion, that, finding it impossible to extort her consent to marry him, or gratify his desires, in his rage he one day pursued her, and cut off her head, as she was flying from him to take refuge in the church which St. Beuno had built at Holy-Well. Robert of Shrewsbury and some others add, that Cradoc was swallowed up by the earth upon the spot; secondly, that in the place where the head fell, the wonderful well which is seen there sprang up, with pebble stones and large parts of the rock in the bottom stained with red streaks, and with moss growing on the sides under the water, which renders a sweet fragrant smell;‡ and thirdly, that the martyr was raised to life by the prayers of St. Beuno, and bore ever after a mark of her martyrdom by a red circle on her skin about her neck. If these authors, who lived a long time after these transactions, were by some of their guides led into any mistakes in any of these circumstances, neither the sanctity of the martyr nor the devotion of the place can be hereby made liable to censure. St. Wenefride died on the 22d of June, as the old panegyric preached on her festival, mentioned in the notes, and several of her lives testify: the most ancient life of this saint, in the Cottonian manuscript, places her death, or rather her burial at Guthurin on the 24th of June. The words are: “The place where she lived with the holy virgins was called Guthurin, where sleeping, on the eighth before the calends of July, she was buried, and rests in the Lord.” Her festival was removed to the 3d of November, probably on account of some translation; and in 1391, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, with his clergy in convocation assembled, ordered her festival to be kept on that day throughout his province with an office of nine lessons,5 which is inserted in the Sarum Breviary. The time when this saint lived is not mentioned in any of her lives: most, with Alford and Cressy, think it was about the close of the seventh century. Her relics were translated from Guthurin to Shrewsbury in the year 1138, and deposited with great honor in the church of the Benedictin abbey which had been founded there, without the walls, in 1083, by Roger earl of Montgomery. Herbert, abbot of that house, procured the consent of the diocesan, the bishop of Bangor, (for the bishopric of St. Asaph’s, in which Guthurin is situated, was only restored in 1143,) and caused the translation to be performed with great solemnity, as is related by Robert, then prior of that house, (probably the same who was made bishop of Bangor in 1210,) who mentions some miraculous cures performed on that occasion to which he was eye-witness. The shrine of this saint was plundered at the dissolution of monasteries.
Several miracles were wrought through the intercession of this saint at Guthurin, Shrewsbury, and especially Holy-Well. To instance some examples: Sir Roger Bodenham, knight of the Bath, after he was abandoned by the ablest physicians and the most famous colleges of that faculty, was cured of a terrible leprosy by bathing in this miraculous fountain, in 1606, upon which he became himself a Catholic, and gave an ample certificate of his wonderful cure, signed by many others. Mrs. Jane Wakeman of Sussex, in 1630, brought to the last extremity by a terrible ulcerated breast, was perfectly healed in one night by bathing thrice in that well, as she and her husband attested. A poor widow of Kidderminster in Worcestershire, had been long lame and bedridden, when she sent a single penny to Holy-Well to be given to the first poor body the person should meet with there; and at the very time it was given at the Holy-Well, the patient arose in perfect health at Kidderminster. This fact was examined and juridically attested by Mr James Bridges, who was afterwards sheriff of Worcester, in 1651. Mrs. Mary Newman had been reduced to a skeleton, and to such a decrepit state and lameness that for eighteen years she had not been able to point or set her foot on the ground. She tried all helps in England, France, and Portugal; but in vain. At last she was perfectly cured in the very well while she was bathing herself the fifth time. Roger Whetstone, a quaker near Bromsgrove, by bathing at Holy-Well was cured of an inveterate lameness and palsy, by which he was converted to the Catholic faith. Innumerable such instances might be collected. Cardinal Baronius6 expresses his astonishment at the wonderful cures which the pious bishop of St. Asaph’s, the pope’s vicegerent for the episcopal functions at Rome, related to him as an eye-witness. See St. Wenefride’s life, written by Robert prior of Shrewsbury, translated into English with frequent abridgments, and some few additions from other authors, (but not without some mistakes,) first by F. Alford, whose true name was Griffith, afterwards by J. F., both Jesuits; and printed in 1635, and again with some alterations and additional late miracles by F. Metcalf, S. J., in 1712. Lluydh, in his catalogue of Welsh manuscripts, mentions two lives of St. Wenefride in that language, one in the hands of Humphrey, then bishop of Hereford, the other in the college of Jesus, Oxon.
St. Papoul, or Papulus, Priest, M.
He is mentioned in the Acts of St. Saturninus, the first bishop of Toulouse, whose colleague he was in preaching the faith in the southern parts of France in the third century. The crown of martyrdom was the recompence of his zeal, which he received about the beginning of Dioclesian’s reign, in the Lauragais, (a small territory in Languedoc,) nine leagues from Toulouse. A famous church and abbey was built there, and much augmented by Charlemagne, which was secularized and made an episcopal see by John XXII., in 1317, being now a considerable town in Languedoc, called St. Papoul. The saint’s relics are kept in a rich shrine in a cathedral of Toulouse. See Bosquet. Histor. Eccl. Gallic. l. 3, c. 29. Tillem, t. 3, p. 302.
St. Flour, B. C.
Was the apostle and first bishop of Lodeve in Languedoc, and of the Cevennes, and died about the year 389. A church was built on the spot where his relics were interred. St. Odilo founded there an abbey which was converted into a bishopric by John XXII. The saint’s relics are kept in the cathedral. The town is situated in Upper Auvergne. See Saussay and Hist. de Lodeve.
St. Rumwald, C.
patron of brackley and buckingham
His father was king of Northumberland, his mother a daughter of Penda, king of the Mercians. He was born at Sutthun, and baptized by Widerin, a bishop, the holy priest Eadwold being his godfather. He died very young on the 3rd of November, and was buried in Sutthun by Eadwold. The year following his remains were translated by Widelin to Brackley in Northamptonshire, and on the third year after his death to Buckingham, where his shrineeek Synaxary, and the Menology of the votion. The 28th of August was celebrated at Brackley, probably the day of the translation of his relics. See an abstract of his life in Leland’s Itiner., p. 34, alias 48. Brown-Willis in the history of the county-town of Buckingham, &c.
* Maol-Maodhog was the name given to St. Malachy at the font of baptism. It is a compound which merits explanation, as it relates to a pious custom among the ancient Irish. Moal, in the ecclesiastical acceptation of that adjective, signifies tonsured; and prefixed to Maodhog, it denotes one tonsured. i.e. devoted to the patronage of St. Maodhog, who was the first bishop of Ferns, and is honored on the 31st of January. Of this prefix of Maol, denoting the dedication of infants to patron saints, there are numberless examples in the Irish annals: as Maol-Muire; Maol-Eoin; Maol-Colum; Maol-Brighid; i.e. the tonsured in the Blessed Mary, to John the Baptist, to Columokille, to Brigit, &c. The piety of parents converted these compounds to baptismal names. Instead of Maol, others among the ancient Irish prefixed the word Gilla, or Gilda, (in baptismal names,) to the saints they chose as patrons to infants. Gilla signifies servant, and hence the names of Gilla-De, the servant of God; Gilla-Croist, the servant of Christ Gilla-Padraic, the servant of Patrick; Gilla-na-Naomb, the servant of the saints, &c.
1 Sir James Ware, Antiq. Hibern. c. 26, pp. 206, 210, &c. Item, de Script. Hibern. p. 54, and Tanner, p. 502
* Ardmacha in the Irish language signifies a high field.
* His life is on the 6th of April. Hanmer (chron. 101) is certainly mistaken when he says that Celsus was a married man, and was buried with his wife at Armagh. Out of the fifteen intruders into the see of Armagh from the year 885, eight were married men; but they only usurped the temporalities, and had a suffragan or vicar who was a consecrated bishop, and who performed all the functions, as Colgan and Ware observe; whence these vicars are named in some catalogues instead of the intruders. Maol-brighid, who was the first archbishop of the fifteen of this family, and the thirteenth in descent from Nia the Great, was a charitable and worthy prelate: but the thirteen following were oppressors of the see. Celsus, the last prelate of the family, was duly elected, and put an end to this tyranny by recommending the canonical election of Malachy. St. Celsus is usually styled in the Irish annals Comarba of St. Patrick, i.e. his successor.
† Ireland was anciently divided into two parts, the southern called Leth-Mogna, or Mogha’s-share; and the northern called Leth-Cuinn, or Conn’s-share; from Concead-cathach, king of Ireland, and Mogha-muadhad, king of Munster. The partition was made between the two contending kings about the year 192 by a line drawn from the mouth of the river Liffey at Dublin, to Galway.
* Benchor, now corruptly called Bangor, is derived from the Latin Benedictus-chorus. Blessed choir. It was founded by St. Comgall about the year 550, is said to have had sometimes three thousand monks at once; at least from it swarmed many other monasteries in Ireland and Scotland; and St. Columban, a monk of this house, propagated its institute in France and Italy. The buildings were destroyed by Danish pirates, who massacred here nine hundred monks in one day. From that time it lay in ruins till St. Malachy restored it. A small part of St. Malachy’s building yet subsists. The traces of the old foundation discover it to have been of great extent. See the new accurate History of the County of Down, p. 64 published in 1744, and Sir James Ware, in Monasteriologiâ Hibernicâ, p. 210.
2 S. Bern. Vit. S. Malachiæ. c. 5.
* The great metropolitical see of Armagh was erected by St. Patrick in the year 444, according to the annals of Ulster, quoted by Sir James Ware. The great church was built in 1262, by the archbishop Patrick O Scanlain, a great benefactor to this see. It was served by regular canons of St. Austin, who are said to have been founded here by Imar O Hedagain, master of St. Malachy O Morgair, who settled that community in this church when he was archbishop. The metropolitical see erected by Celsus, the name of which was unknown to St. Bernard, was perhaps that of Tuam, to which a pall was first granted in 1152.
3 S. Barnard, in vit. S. Malachiæ, c. 24, (al. 20,) p. 686, ed. Mabill. fol.
4 Ib. c. 26.
* The see of Down was again united to that of Connor, by Eugenius IV. in 1441. Dun signified a hill among the Irish, Britons, Saxons, and Gauls. Whence Dun-keran, Dun-gannon, Dun-garvan, &c. Dunelmum, Camelodunum, Sorbiodunum, &c. Lugdunum, Juliodunum, &c. (Sir James Ware, Antiq. Hibern c. 29, p. 296.) Dun also signifies a habitation, generally erected on elevated ground. We learn from the ancient Irish Annals that many stone churches had been erected in Ireland before the time of St. Malachy. They were, in the language of the country, called Damliags, from Dam a house, and liag a stone.
5 S. Bern. vit. S. Malach. c. ult. p. 698.
6 Serm. 2. de S. Malach. p. 1052.
7 Mabill. ib. p. 698.
8 Serm. de S. Malachiâ.
9 Ecclus. 40:5.
* “Totus suus et totus omnium erat,” &c. S. Bern. Serm. 2, de S. Malachia, p. 1053.
* A small district on both sides of the Meuse still retains the name of the country of Ardenne. The ancient forest of that name was enclosed between the Rhine and the Meuse. Some authors have extended it on one side into Champagne, and on the other as far as the Scheldt. Those at least who carry it beyond this river into Artois, seem to take this name of Ardenne for any great wood, as the Romans understood the word Hercynian. On which account they called by the same name Hercynia the whole great German forest, which was extended from the Ardennes or the Rhine, through all Germany to the Danube. They seem to have mistaken the German word Hartz, a wood, and the plural Hartzen, for an appellative, which they corrupted into Hercynia. The name of Hercynian or Hartz-Forest is given by moderns only to that wood which it thirty English miles broad, and about sixty long, situated in Brunswic-Lunenburg, Thuringia, Anhalt, and Hildersheim. See the Natural History of Hartz-Forest by H. Behrens, M. D.
* The military order of knights of St. Hubert was instituted by Gerard V., duke of Cleves and Gueldres, in memory of his victory gained in 1444, on St. Hubert’s day, over the house of Egmont, which pretended a claim to those dutchies. The knights wore a gold collar ornamented with hunting horns: on which hung a medal with an image of St. Hubert before their breast. The duke of Neuburgh became heir to Cleves, and in 1685 was made elector palatine of the Rhine. This honor is since conferred by the elector palatine on certain gentlemen of his court with pensions. The knights now wear a gold collar with a cross and an image of St. Hubert, &c. See Statuta Ordinis Militaris S. Huberti a ser. Principe Joan. Gul. Comite Palatino Rheni S. R. J. elect. renovati. an. 1708; also the Jesuit Bonanni, Schoonebeck, Bern. Giustiniani and F. Honoratus of St. Mary in their histories of military orders of knighthood.
† Against this dreadful venom the blessing of heaven is so much the more earnestly to be implored, as no confidence can be placed in bathing in the sea or other vulgar remedies, as Somerville truly observes; neither is the new secret a sure prescription, though it sometimes succeeds. Nevertheless, superstitious notions and practices, which easily creep into the best devotions amongst the vulgar, cannot be too carefully guarded against on all occasions, and require the particular attention of all pastors concerned in these pilgrimages, &c., at St. Hubert’s, that every practice be regulated and directed by true piety and religion. See Doctor. Thiers, Traités des Superstitions, l. 6, c. 4, p. 107; F. Le Brun, Hist. Crit. des Pratiques Superstit. l. 4, c. 4, p. 195; Raynaud, t. 8, p. 116; Bened. XIV. de Canoniz., &c.
‡ This name in the English-Saxon tongue signifies Winner or Procurer of Peace; but in the British Fair Countenance. (Camd. Rem. p. 104.) The English Saxons in West-Sex seem to have borrowed it from the neighboring Britons, for St. Winfrid changed his name in foreign countries into Boniface, a Latin word of the same import. St. Boniface by this change rendered a rough uncouth name familiar to foreigners amóng whom he lived. Otherwise, such changes, made without reason, occasioned great obscurity in history. Yet this madness has sometimes seized men. Erstwert, or Blackland, would be called from the Greek Melancthon; Newman, Neander; Brooke, Torrentius; Fenne, Paludanus; Du Bois, Sylvius; Reucklin or Smoke, Capnion, &c.
That this was the etymology of St. Wenefride’s name appears, first, because she was of British extraction; secondly, in the best MSS., and by the most correct antiquarians, she is called Wenefride, or Guenfride, or Guenvera; and thirdly, in her Cottonian life by an allusion to her name she is styled the Fair Wenefride, Candida Wenefreda.
§ The English editor, J. F., construing ill the text of Prior Robert, says: “Eluith the Second was then king;” whereas the author says: “Eluith was the second man from the king. Thevith qui fult filius summi senatoris et a rege secundi, Eluith.”
1 Vit. Wenefr. in app. ad Lei. Itiner, t. 4, p. 128, ed. Nov.
* Several objections made by some Protestants to this history are obviated by the remarks on the saint’s name, and other circumstances inserted in this account of her life. They allege the silence of Bede, Nennius, Doomsday Book, and Giraldus Cambrensis. Bede wrote only the church history of the English, which the king had desired of him. If he touches upon the British affairs, it is only by way of introduction. He nowhere names St. David, St. Kentigern, and many other illustrious British saints. Nennius, abbot of Bangor, wrote his history of the Britons, according to Cave and Tanner, about the year 620; but, according to the best manuscript copies of this book, (see Usher, p. 217, et ed. Galæi, p. 93,) in 858; but is a very imperfect and inaccurate historian, and gives no account of that part of Wales where St. Wenefride lived. At least Bede preceded her; which is also probable of Nennius, who certainly brings not his history down low enough. Doomsday Book was a survey to give an estimate of families and lands. A well or prodigy was not an object for such a purpose; and many places are omitted in it, because comprised under neighboring manors. Giraldus Cambrensis, bishop of St. David’s, in South Wales, wrote his Itinerary of Wales in the year 1188, and died in 1210; before which times we have certain monuments extant of St. Wenefride and Holy-Well. Many unknown accidents occasion much greater omission in authors. Giraldus is very superficial except in Brecknockshire, of which he was archdeacon. He had imbibed at Paris an implacable enmity against the monks of his age, (though he commends their founders and institutes,) which he discovers in all his works, especially in his Speculum Ecclesiæ, or De Monasticis Ordinibus, a manuscript in the Cottonian library. His spleen was augmented after he lost his bishopric at Rome. He probably never visited this well, nor the neighboring monastery: or omitted them, because lately described by the Prior Robert and others. What omissions are there not in Leland himself relating to this very point? No wonder if St. Wenefride is omitted in an old calendar of St. David’s, which church in South-Wales kept its own festivals, but not those of North-Wales, as other examples show.
We have now extant a MS. life of St. Wenefride, in the Cottonian library, written soon after the conquest of England by the Normans, whom it calls French, (consequently about the year 1100,) in which manuscript her body is said to have been then at Guthurin, says Bishop Fleetwood. A second life was compiled in 1140, by Robert, prior of Shrewsbury, who gives a history of the translation of her relics to that monastery in 1138, and who discovers a scrupulous sincerity in relating only what he gathered, partly from written records found in the monasteries of North Wales, and partly from the popular traditions of ancient priests and the people. Both these lives were written before Giraldus Cambrensis; nor had Robert seen the former, their relations differing in some places. The life of St. Wenefride which came from Ramsey abbey, and was in the hands of Sir James Ware, and some others in manuscript, though copied in part from Robert’s, have sufficient differences to show other memoires to have been then extant. Her life in John of Tinmouth, copied from him by Capgrave, is an abstract from Prior Robert’s work. Alford and Cressy seem to have seen no other life than that in Capgrave. All these memoirs are mentioned by Dr. Fleetwood, bishop of St. Asaph’s, afterwards of Ely, in his Dissertation or Remarks against the Life of St. Wenefride. A manuscript which escaped the search of this learned antiquarian, is a sermon on St. Wenefride, preached, as it seems by the rest of the book, at Derby, whilst her festival was kept on the 22nd of June, immediately after it had been appointed a holiday. In it we have a short account of her life and martyrdom, with the mention of the miraculous cures of a leper covered with blotches, of a blind man, and of another who was bedridden, wrought at her shrine at Shrewsbury. This manuscript book called Festivale, is a collection of Sermons upon the Festivals, and is in the curious library of Mr. Martin of Palgrave in Suffolk. We must add the monuments and testimonies of all the churches of North-Wales about the year 1000, which amount to certain proofs of the sanctity and martyrdom of this holy virgin: and several memoirs were then extant which are now lost. Gutryn Owen, quoted by Percy Enderbie, (p. 274,) observes, that even in the twelfth century, the successions and acts of the princes of Wales were kept in the abbeys of Conwey in North-Wales (in Caernarvonshire) and of Stratflur (of Cluniac monks in Cardiganshire) in South-Wales, which are not to be found.
2 Itinerary, t. 5, p. 14, ed. Hearnianæ.
3 De Scriptor. Brit. c. 49, ed. Hearn.
* St. Elerius was buried in a church at Gutherin which afterwards bore his name, and his tomb was held in veneration in that place when Robert of Shrewsbury wrote; he is named in the English Martyrology on the 14th of June. He survived St. Wenefride, and is said by some to have been the original author of her life; (see Tanner, in Leland de Script. p. 258, and Vossius de Historicis Latin, p. 267, Pits, p. 109. and Bale;) but this is no where affirmed by Leland, as Bishop Fleetwood observes.
† God has often wrought greater miracles than those here mentioned. But as such extraordinary events are to be received with veneration when authentically attested, so are they not to be lightly admitted. Robert of Salop had some good memoirs; but he sometimes relies upon popular reports. With regard to these miracles, we know not what vouchers he had; so that the credibility of these facts is left to every one’s discretion; as it is not impossible that some one, imagining that she had not been at Gutherin before her martyrdom, might infer, that after it she had been raised to life. It is well known that St. Dionysius of Paris, and certain other martyrs are said by some moderns to have been raised again to life, or survived their own death, and carried their several heads in their hands to certain places. Muratori thinks these accounts, which have no foundation in authentic historians or competent vouchers, to have been first taken up amongst the common people from seeing certain pictures of these martyrs with red circles about their necks, or carrying their heads in their hands, as it were offering them to God; by which no more was originally meant than to express their martyrdom. (Murat. Præf. in Spicilegium Ravennatis Historiæ, t. 1, part 2, p. 527.) All these miracles are easy to Omnipotence, but must be made credible by reasonable and convincing testimonies.
4 Ed. Hearnii, Nov. an. 1744, p. 128.
‡ Some Protestants have ascribed the origin of Holy-Well to the monks of Basingwerk in that neighborhood. But that monastery was only founded in 1131, by Raadle, earl of Chester, first for the Grey-brothers, i. e. of the order of Sevigny, which was soon after united to the Cistercian, which rule this house then embraced. It was so much augmented and enriched by Henry II. in 1150, that he was called the principal founder. Holy-Well was certainly a place of great devotion, and bore this name before that time. Richard, the second earl palatine of Chester, (who was afterwards drowned, in 1120, in a voyage to Normandy,) made a pilgrimage to Holy-Well, and was miraculously preserved in it from an army of Welchmen by the intercession of St. Wereburge, as is related in her life from Bradshaw. Ranulf, or Randle, the nephew and successor of this earl, in his charter of the foundation of Basingwerk, in 1131, gave to that monastery, “Haly-Well, Fulbrook,” and other places. It is called Holy-Well in the charter of Henry II., by which that prince confirmed this foundation; also in a charter given to it by Leweline, prince of Wales, and David his son, in 1240. Ranulf Higden, a monk of Chester in 1360, inserts in his Polychronicon, in the part published by Gale, (p. 1,) twenty rhymes on Holy-Well at Basingwerk, in which he describes the wonderful spring stones tinged with red, miraculous cures of the sick, and devotion of the pilgrims:
Ad Basingwerk fons oritur,
Qui satis vulgò dicitur,
Et tantis bullis scaturit,
Quòd mox injecta rejicit:
Tam magnum flumen procreat,
Ut Cambriæ sufficiat:
Ægri qui dant rogamina,
Rubro guttatos lapides.
In scatebris reperies, &c.
St. Wenefride’s well is in itself far more remarkable than the celebrated fountain of Vaucluse, five leagues from Avignon, which is no more than a subterraneous river gushing out at the foot of a mountain; or that of La Source, two leagues from Orleans, where the famous Lord Bolingbroke built himself a house. He could by no experiments find any bottom, the weights and cords, &c., being probably carried aside deep under water into some subterraneous river. At Holy-Well such vast quantities of water spring constantly without intermission or variation, that above twenty-six tuns are raised every minute, or fifty-two tuns two hogsheads in two minutes; for, if the water be let out, the basin and well, which contain at least two hundred and forty tuns, are filled in less than ten minutes. The water is so clear that though the basin is above four feet deep, a pin is easily perceived lying at the bottom. The spring head is a fine octagon basin, twenty-nine feet two inches in length, twenty-seven feet four inches in breadth, and eighteen feet two inches high, and is covered with a chapel. The present exquisite Gothic building was erected by Henry VII., and his mother, the countess of Richmond and Derby. The ceiling is curiously carved, and ornamented with coats of arms, and the figures of Henry VII., his mother, and the earl of Derby. Those who desire to bathe descend by twenty steps into the area under the chapel; but no one can bathe there in the spring head, the impetuosity with which the water springs up making it too difficult: hence the bathers descend by two circular staircases under a larger arch into the bath, which is a great basin forty-two feet long, fourteen feet seven inches broad, with a handsome flagged walk round.
Dr. Linden, an able physician, who made a considerable stay there, speaks of this well in his book. On Chalibeate Waters and Natural Hot Baths, printed at London in 1748. (c. 4, p. 126.) He says, the green sweet-scented moss is frequently applied to ulcerated wounds with signal success, in the way of contracting and healing them: which powerful medicinal efficacy he supposes may be ascribed to a vegetating spirit drawn from the water. For this water is clear of all gross earth or mineral contents. This physician recommends Holy-Well as a cold bath of the first rank, and says it has on its side the experience of ages, and a series of innumerable authentic cures worked upon the most stubborn and malignant diseases, such as leprosy, weakness of nerves, and other chronical inveterate disorders. The salutary effects of cold water baths, in several distempers, as well as of the use of different kinds of mineral waters in various cases, used with a proper regimen and method, and with due restrictions and precautions, are incontestable and well known. Nor will any one deny such natural qualities in many of those called Holy-Wells. (See Philos. Transact, n. 57, vol. 5, p. 1160). Nevertheless, in the use of natural remedies we ought by prayer always to have recourse to God, the Almighty Physician. (2 Paralip. 16:12.) And it is undoubted that God is pleased often to display also a miraculous power in certain places of public devotion, and where the relics and other pledges of saints or holy things render him more propitious, as in the Probatic pond, John 5:2, &c. Thus St. Austin, ordering his clergy at Hippo to send a priest named Boniface to pray in a certain church celebrated for holy relics, said, (ep. 78. ol. 137, t. 2, p. 184. ed. Ben.:) “God who created all things is in all places, and is everywhere to be adored in spirit and in truth. But who can explore the holy order of his providence, in dispensing his gifts, why these miracles should be done in some places and not in others? The sanctity of the place where the body of the blessed Felix of Nola is buried, is well known. And we ourselves know the like at Milan. All the saints have not the gift of healing, nor the discernment of spirits, (1 Cor. 12:30;) so neither does it please him who distributes his gifts according to his holy will, that such things be performed. In all the memories, or chapels of the saints.” (See Instit. Cathol. or Catech. of Montpell. ed. Lat. t. 1, p. 687, and t. 2, p. 933.) Perhaps no pilgrimage in the North was for some ages more famous than that of Holy-Well, where the divine mercy was implored through the intercession of her who in that place had glorified his name and sanctified her soul. Many cures of corporal distempers, there wrought, are proved by several circumstances to have been miraculous; which the very answers of bishop Fleetwood and other adversaries suffice to confirm. Some of them were performed through the devotion of persons at a distance from the place, mentioned in the life of this saint; and such as certainly cannot have been produced by imagination, as bishop Fleetwood would have us believe.
5 Lyndewoode, fol. 76; Johnson’s Canons, t. 2, ed an. 1398.
6 Not. in Martyr Rom. hac die.
Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) IV, 352-367.