Discover Scotland's Saints, some are well known, but most of the rest will not be. Piecing together the lives of these early Catholics in Scotland is not easy and is beset by legend, poor translations and often quite scant information. However, there is much to learn, not least it tells us something about the people who venerated these men and women.
St Murdoch | 8th or 9th Century?
Like quite a few of our lesser known Saints, lesser is the word
in regards information concerning them! St Murdoch could
be the Saint referred to as having been a hermit who lived in
Argyll around 800AD and also known as a Bard. Alternatively
he could be the name of a Saint associated with
St Murdochs Well and Chapel just South of Brechin
St Giles | 8th or 9th Century
It would be remiss of me not to mention Saint Giles, patron
of our capital Edinburgh and has given his name to the
High Kirk Cathedral on the Royal Mile. It is however difficult
to nail down his historicity. Many legends seemed to have
attached themselves to him, but what we can certainly see
is that veneration to this Saint began in France in the
lower Rhone area. He was a hermit of the 8th or 9th century
that saw a monastic community grow up around him (or his memory) into what became the French town of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. His cultus grew throughout Europe due to his miraculous healing abilities and eventually spread to Great Britain. He was not known to have ever visited Scotland but no doubt the Norman influence that David I would have known must have played apart when he founded the Abbey of St Giles in 1124.
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St Ninian | 5th Century
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There is a dedication to this Saint in the Kincardine Parish at Menteith - St Lolan’s Church which was known in the 12th Century when it was given to the Canons at Cambuskenneth with the inclusion of the Saint’s bell and staff. The Bell became part of the investitures of the Earldom of Perth in 1675 alongside St Kessog’s bell. Whence the bells have gone, now no one knows. An interesting thing I did find in my research for this Saint was that Saints relics were held by hereditary keepers called ‘deoradh’. It is quite likely Lolan was Pictish but the Aberdeen Breviary relates a legend that he was the nephew of St Serf which would make him from the country around Israel. However, there was a period in Scottish history when many Pictish Saints, Serf included were depicitified and made Irish, continental European or even from the Eastern Mediterranean. We know little about this Saint’s life other than he was a Bishop and Confessor of Kincardine near Stirling.
St Adomnan (Eunan) 740AD
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St Barr or Finbarr | 6th Century
It was devotion to this Saint that the Island of Barra took its name. It was said part of his missionary journey from his home in Cork took him to Barra, an Island that a previous missionary had visited to share the faith with but was met with cannibalism. St Barr was more successful and after his departure the islanders carved a log into his likeness venerating him right up until the 1700’s. A Scottish writer of the 17th Century, Martin Martin observed the following:
The natives have St. Barr’s wooden image standing on the altar, covered with linen in form of a shirt; all their greatest asseverations are by this saint. I came very early in the morning with an intention to see this image, but was disappointed; for the natives prevented me by carrying it away, lest I might take occasion to ridicule their superstition, as some Protestants have done formerly; and when I was gone it was again exposed on the altar.
St Barr also laboured in Kintyre with the Island of Davar having been formally named after him.
St Machan | 12th Century
Born in Scotland and educated in Ireland St Machan travelled to Rome in which to his consternation was made a Bishop, the Holy Father waived away his humble protestations and was sent back to continue the Church's work in Scotland. He died near Lennoxtown just North of Glasgow. To this day he is honoured in the Parish name and School.