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holy Confessors, adorned with the Virgins' flowers, he
ceases not to succour those on earth who hope in him,
call on him, and praise him.

" He was buried in the Church of St. Martin, which
he had himself built from the foundation, and placed
in a stone coffin near the altar, tlie Clergy and people
standing by, and lifting up their heavenly hymns with
heart and voice, with sighs and tears. And at this
place the power which had shone forth in his life,
ceases not in death to manifest itself around liis body,
so that all the faithful recognize him as living in hea-
ven, because it is evident that he produces effects on
earth. At his most sacred tomb, the sick are cured,
the lepers are cleansed, the evil ones ai-e affrighted,
the blind receive their sight. And by all these things

ST. ninian's latter days. 139

the feitli of believers is confirmed to the praise and
glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reign-
eth with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy
Ghost, Avorld without end. Amen."

The death of St. Ninian occurred on the 16th of
September, A. D. 432 ; and on that day his memory
was celebrated in the Scottish Church, in Catholic
ages, with deep veneration, as their chiefest Saint,
to whom first they owed it, that they had been brought
from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to
God. The service for the day in the Aberdeen Breviary
is very beautiful, and in connexion with his history,
most interesting. It contains nine Lessons, extracted
from St. Aelred's life, and throws into devotional form
the various events we have been recording. The cir-
cumstances of liis life and miracles are expressed in
hymns and proses, antiphones and responses, which
once were chaunted in his praise throughout all the
Churches of Scotland. His name and day were noted
in the Kalendar prefixed to the Scottish Prayer Book
of King Charles the First.

The rest of St. Aelred's work is occupied by a de-
tailed account of miracles wrought at the tomb of St.
Ninian, which it is not necessary now to narrate.
" When the Saint had been taken up to heaven," he
says, " the multitude of the faithful continued to visit,
with the deepest devotion, what seemed to be left them
of him — his most holy remains, and out of regard to their
piety and faith,. the Almighty showed, by the evidence
of numerous miracles, that, though the common lot of
mortality had taken His Saint from the earth, yet he
still lived in heaven." A distorted child was first re-
stored ; this led many to hasten to bring their varied
diseases before his holy relics ; in particular, a man


covered with a cutaneous disease of a most horrible
kind was restored ; tlien a ^irl, who had lost her
sight ; and two lepers were made clean by bathing in
his spring. " Through his prayers," to quote a hymn
for his day, " the shipwrecked find a harbour, and the
barren woman is blessed with otfspring ;" and St.
Aelred says that the power continued to be manifested
even in his own times.


And now, that we have followed St. Ninian through
his laborious life to his peaceful rest, we may not un-
naturally wish to know what became of his Church
and people after he Avas taken from them. On this
point however our information is very limited, and
much is left to be inferred from probabilities.

He had introduced the Ritual and Observances of
the Roman Church, which were certainly different from
those which the Britons used. Of these however no
traces can be discovered. It would seem as if they
had been lost among the changes which occurred be-
tween his death and the time of Bede ; for, though
tliat writer carefully sought for instances of conformity
witli Rome, he makes no mention of this, which would
have been marked in itself, and known to the Saxons at
Whithern. The Church of St. Ninian may herein have
conformed to the practices of the other Britons, un-


der the Episcopate of St. Kentigern, or have quite
sunk into obscurity.

We should naturally expect that the instructions he
established, would, for a time at least, be maintained ;
that the religious society would hold together, and con-
tinue its work, as a refuge of piety and teacher of re-
ligion ; and there is some confirmation of this expec-
tation in the statement of Scottish historians, that St.
Ninian's monastery was a school which supplied teachers
for the people ; and that of Bede, that the body of the
Saint, with those of many holy men rested in the
Church of Whithern, as though there was there a
home of Saints.

As regards the succession to his See, we are alto-
gether without information. It is possible that in the
troubled state of the country, when the Picts and Scots
were so grievously afflicting the Britons, and when
there certainly was so great a want of earnestness
among the British Bishops, they may have neglected
to supply a successor to St. Ninian ; and the monastery
and country priests may have continued without a
pastor, trusting to occasional missionary visits, such as
those of Palladius and others. The Church he loved
so well was now desolate, and a widow. This seems
most probably to have been the case till the time of
St. Kentigern, who fixed his See at Glasgow, and in-
cluded in his diocese the district which had been St.
Ninian's care, and it is said, completed the work of
conversion. That diocese, as has been stated before,
extended over the south-west of Scotland, and the
Cumbrian Britons, as far as Stainmoor ; and Wliit-
hern, whether it retained its monastery or not, became
Meanwhile the Saxons were occupying England ;


were themselves being converted ; and their pewer
rapidly increasing, accompanied by a depth and earn-
estness of religion, perhaps unequalled in any people.
From being the most barbarous, they became the most
devout. The nation seemed a really Christian nation,
and England Avas indeed an Isle of Saints. A spirit
of piety was diffused through every class. Political
measures were in consequence determined by the prin-
ciples of the Gospel ; and Saxon conquests were Chris-
tian ones, suboi'dinate to the great objects of extending
the privileges of religion, and procuring everlasting
good for those whom they subdued.

It was the lot of Galloway in the eighth century to
be overcome, and partially occupied by them, as a por-
tion of the kingdom of Bernicia ; and they too revered
St. Ninian ; and in the place where he was resting,
and where his miracles were recorded to have been
wrought, they established a monastery, and introduced
a new succession of Bishops, under the metropolitan
See of York. Then it was that Bede wrote of St.
Ninian, and Alcuin was in correspondence with the
brethren of the monastery. This succession conti-
nued as long as the Saxons had possession of Gal-
loway ; and the names of the Bishops are recorded
from 723 to 790.

After this it was again broken ; for fresh incursions
afflicted tlie unhappy country. They were now over-
run, not by a people who introduced a pure religion
and social improvement, but by hordes of Irish, called
Cruithne, or Picts, which is said to be a word of the
same meaning ; a distinct race, be it observed, from all
who had previously borne that name. They were an
uncivilized and very savage people, who brought their
own religion and habits, and established them here.


They were long known as the wild Picts of Galloway,
and continued as a distinct and notoriously barbarous
people till after the time of St. Aeb-ed ; indeed Gaelic
continued to be spoken here till the time of Mary
Stuart. These are the Picts of later times, from whom
the Picts' wall is named. During the dreary period
which followed their invasion, the Bishop of Man, the
nearest See, took charge of the deserted flock. A
work of love which may add some little to our interest
in that lowly relic of the Celtic Church.

In the twelfth century however brighter days beamed
on Galloway. Tlie power of the Saxon race who
ruled in Scotland increased, and the Lords of Galloway,
with their country, became dependent on the sovereign,
and enjoyed the dangerous distinction of being the iirst
to make the onset in his battles. David I. was a de-
votedly religious prince ; the perfect example, as histo-
rians not disposed to flattery have called him, of a good
king, whom St. Aelred loved and mourned over as
though he were his father. His great object was to
restore religion in Scotland, and with this view he
founded Bishopricks and monasteries throughout his
dominions, and St. Ninian's See was first restored.^
But such was the fallen condition of the Scottish
Church, that no Bishop was left to consecrate the
newly appointed one. And by the direction of the
Pope, Thurstan, the Archbishop of York, pei-fbrmed
the office. The Bishop, Gilaldan, from the evidence
of ancient custom, as he said, acknowledged the obe-
dience of his See to York ; referring to the time of
the Saxon succession in the eighth century. Gallo-

' If it had not been, it was earlier ; as some think, by Malcolm
III., in the preceding century.


way thus again became part of the Province of York,
which gives the English Church another claim on St,
Ninian ; and so continued/certainly till the fourteenth
century, and perhaps till the establisliment of St.
Andrew's as a metropolitan Church in the fifteenth.
Thus was the Church again restored in Galloway, and
continued to flourish till the change of religion in the
sixteenth century ; her Bishop, out of regard to St.
Ninian, and the antiquity of the See, taking the first
place among the Scottish Bishops.

Soon after this new foundation of the Bishoprick,
the Lord of Galloway, Fergus, followed up the work
of his sovereign and friend, and imitated in Galloway
the course he had taken in the rest of Scotland. He
is spoken of by the historians of Galloway as in his
sphere, one of the greatest benefactors of Ids country.
He found his people wild, barbarous, and irreligious,
and to effect a reformation among them, he established
monasteries, as sources from which flowed forth the
blessings of holy example and Christian teaching, and
moral and social improvement, which in time took
effect upon the people.

At Whithern he introduced a body of Prtemonstra-
tensian canons, an order then recently established, and
full of life ; it was an offset from Saulseat, Avhere he
had previously brought a colony from Cockersand,
in Lancashire. These formed the Chapter, (the Prior,
during the vacancy of the See, being Vicar General)
and elected the Bishop, though with occasional oppo-
sition from the secular Clergy. It was soon after the
foundation of the Priory that St. Aelred wrote his Life
of St. Ninian, and the chancel of the Church was built
not long after ; the publication of the Life probably


making tlie virtues of St. Ninian known, and drawing
numerous worshippers and offerings to his shrine.

From that time the Saint was held in the highest
veneration, and his shrine visited, and his intercession
sought by people from every part. Thousands of pil-
grims came every year ; and a general protection, very
necessary in those days of Border warfare, was granted
by James the First, in 1425, to all strangers coming
into Scotland to visit St. Ninian's tomb ; and in 1506
it was renewed for all persons of England, L-eland,
and the Isle of Man, coming by sea or land to the
Church of Whithern in honour of St. Ninian.

Numerous Churches in every part of Scotland are
dedicated to him. In England there is one at Brough-
am, in the diocese of Carlisle, within the limits of his
ancient diocese, the name of which is now corrupted
into Ninechurch ; and another, it is believed, at a
place, called St. Ninian's, in Northumberland, where
an annual fair is held on his Day, (O. S.) Sept. 27.
Many wells too in the Border counties are called by
his name, and believed to have special virtues derived
from him ; never drying in the hottest, or freezing in
the coldest weather ; and still thought by the people
to wash linen whiter than any other water.

The accounts of miracles wrought, and blessings ob-
tained through his prayers, enter largely into the or-
dinary civil history of Scotland. For instance, Da-
vid II. received several wounds from the English
archers, at Neville's Cross, before he was taken pris-
oner ; one of the arrow heads could not be extracted,
and remained, it is said by the historian of the times,
till he went to St. Ninian's, then the flesh opened and
the arrow head sprung out.

Besides other kings and nobles who visited the


shrine, James IV., on whom the memory^of his father's
death hung so heavily, made a pilgi-image to St. Nin-
ian's (so AVhithern was usually called), once at least
every year. The treasurer's books of his reign con-
tain many notices illustrative of the circumstances of
his visits and his large almsgivings. One pilgrimage
he made on foot to pray for the safety of his Queen on
the bii'th of her first son, and, after her recovery, she
came with a great attendance to return thanks for the
blessing she had received. This was Margaret, the
daughter of Henry VII. and the mother of our Stuarts.

In the next generation, when Wliithern was again
without a Bishop, these pilgrimages continued so rooted
in the habits and aifections of the people, that the utmost
zeal of the preachers could not put them dow^ n, till they
were made punishable by law, in 1581. Such was the
regard for our holy Saint, and so deeply fixed in the
minds of those who had been blessed by him. And
doubtless it still lingers in the behef of those who
enjoy the fair water of his springs, or show his cave to
the passing stranger, or glory in the honour the Saint
once gave to their native town.

James I. restored a Bishop to Galloway, who was
consecrated in 1610. The succession continued till
1689 ; when John Gordon, the last Bishop, followed
the Kin"' to Ireland and France, and continued to per-
form the offices of the English Church at St. Ger-
mains. He died abroad ; and St. Ninian's country was
again included in the diocese of Glasgow — in name, at
least, for throughout the whole district of Galloway,
there is no Clergyman or congregation in communion
with the Scottish Bishops. So entirely has that por-
tion been swept away, so dreary a region to an English-


man is the countiy, wliich St. Ninian blessed by his
labours and his prayers.

In 1684 the tower of the Church was still standing
among the ruins of the aisles, transepts, and extensive
monastic buildings. All these ai*e gone ; but we
may still trace them partly in their foundations, partly
as portions of houses, partly as used for building ma-
terials, or kept as ornaments. The chancel has been
preserved, being used by the Parishioners, till of late
years, as their place of worship. It was built upon the
site of much more ancient buildings, which had been
the crypt, as it would seem, of an extensive Church ;
for there are large vaults of old and rude masonry
around, which rise higher than the level of the chancel
flooi". They must have been part of the original
Church of St. Ninian, of the fourth century ; or built
by the Saxons in the eighth century, and it would be
interesting to ascertain whether they are not really
part of a Church, the building and date of which are
so marked in the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland.
The chancel is a well proportioned and beautiful sjje-
cimen of the early English style. The South-west
door-way is round, and elegantly worked, the windows
pointed, of single lights. In the north wall, in the
usual place near the east end, are two canopied recesses,
apparently sepulchral ones, nearly on the level of the
floor, in one of which doubtless St. Ninian's body lay, ^

' The words, north and east are used, though improperly,
for the Church stands north and south ; a circumstance which
we may connect with St. Aelred, for that is the position of
his Abbey Church at Rievaux, and persons are sometimes glad
to repeat even defects, when they remind them of a place they
love. Fergus loved Aelred, and planted a colony of Cister-
cians from Rievaux at Dundrennan ; St. Aelred himself was in
Galloway, and probably concerned in founding the Priory.


This even is now dismantled ; a new building was
erected about twenty years ago, which is the place of
worship for the Parishioners ; and the roof and fur-
niture were removed from the old chancel, and the
mere walls left ; and that Church — once the most
honoured in Scotland, where the holy remains of St.
Ninian lay, and crowds of suppliants sought his in-
tercession, where once the chaunt was heard by night
and day, where holy men anticipated and prepared for
heaven — that Church is now bare and roofless, exposed
to the wild winds ; grass grows upon the pavement,
and ivy and wild flowers ornament its walls. A sad
sight indeed ; but it is beautiful in its ruins, and more
pleasing far thus consecrated by loneliness and deso-
lation, than defaced by incongruities, or applied to uses
inconsistent with its spirit. A sad sight indeed, but
one which harmonizes well with the condition of that
system of which it formed a part ; a system the i'air
relics of which we love to trace in histoiy, and com-
plete in imagination ; which once was, and is no longer.
Here St. Ninian laboured to raise a spiritual as well as
a material Building, and to frame it in its services
and doctrines after the Catholic model. Where is
that Church ? Where are those services now ? There
remains but a ruin of what once existed in beauty
and honour.

Henry Mozley and Sons, Printers, Derby.



^t. Stxman,





Henry Mozley and Sons, Printers, Derby.


Cake has been taken in the annexed work, to avoid as
far as possible all dogmatism upon disputed points of
doctrine and discipline. The austerities of Saints and
the miracles they performed, are, in some measure, an
exception ; both because the numbers of those who have
ungenial feelings with regard to them, are gradually
diminishing, and because they form as it were the very
substance of ancient Hierology. At the same time
many things which are out of date in this country,
have been produced just as they were found in original
documents for the sake of historical veracity. Facts
have been often related as facts without any intention
of proposing them as examples. For which i-eason little
has been said about the develoj^ment of any prin-
ciple into its consequences, or the different stages of
the process, as necessarily involving an opinion and a
decision upon the thing developed or the reality of the
development. Those miracles which have been given
without any stress upon the authority or evidence, are
here considered true and credible as far as testimony
can make any thing credible. Still on the cu'cum-
stances and accidents chiefly has the weight been laid,
inasmuch as probable evidence varies in its influence
in proportion to the shades of human disposition and
prejudice. Where no authority is given, that of Con-
stantius, the contemporary of St. German, must be


supposed ; elsewhere the author or the sources of the
information are distinctly marked. Hericus, the Com-
mentator of Constantius, after his original, stands out
among the recorders of these miracles.

Lastly, the dates of Boschius the Bollandist have been
followed. Though on some occasions it might have
appeared warrantable to depart from them, yet it was
safer not so to do. Dates are, as many other things,
like a house of cards. Take away one, you endanger
the whole fabric. The chronology of the learned Jesuit
is all of a piece. It is finely interwoven with the facts,
and it does not materially vary from that of our great
Chronologer, Archbishop Usher.




The subject of the following narrative will be called,
not St. Germanvis nor St. Germain, though precedents
are not wanting for these forms of his name, but St.
German, Tliis it is believed is his true English name,
as connected with the ancient and warm sympathies of
our country. Several places still bear witness to these
sympathies, while they support the assei-tion just made.
The town of St. Germans in Cornwall, with its old
Priory, the Abbey-church of Selby in Yorkshire, dedi-
cated to St. German, the Cathedral church of the Isle
of Man, a chapel yet visible in the Abbey of St.
Albans, and the field of a famous victory obtained in
"Wales, by the Britons under St. German's auspices, and
still called Maes Gannon, or Field of German : these
are the most prominent instances, though doubtless
there are many other traces of the Saint and his name,
in that storehouse of old traditions and fond remem-
brances, "Wales. 1

' He is called German in Cressy, Collier, Stillingfleet, Dug-
dale and Camden ; In the Primer of Queen Mary, Germayne,
but in the Psalter of Elizabeth, German.


St. Gei'man was born in the fourth century, and
flourished in the beginning of the fifth. He was not a
Briton l)y birth, parents, or habitual residence. Yet
he is numbered among English saints on account of
his great services to our nation, and has been honoured
with the high title of Apostle to the Britons by his
contemporaries and by subsequent ^vriters. He was
bishop of Auxerre in France, a town not very far from
Sens, which was the metropolitan See, and the name of
Auxerre is commonly added to his own, to distinguish
him from another famous St. German, bishop of Paris
a century later. ' Six other distinguished saints are also
mentioned as having at different times, and in different
countries borne the same name ; a martyr near Amiens,
a bishop of Constantinople, a bishop in Africa, a
martyr in Spain, another at Cesarea in Cappadocia, and
a bishop of Capua. The canonization of St. German of
Auxerre was not determined by those rules which in
later times were introduced to avoid mistake ; either
the age in which he lived was marked with gi-eater
candour, or his character stood too high to require any
investigation. The testimonies to his fame from early
writers, equal, one might almost say, the number of
authors in Gaul or Britain, who lived within a few
centui'ies of his own time. St. Gregory of Tours has
transmitted to us the words of St. Nicetius, who, a cen-
tury after St. German's death, wrote to a person in high
authority in the following way : " In what language can
I speak of the illustrious German, Hilary or Lupus ?
such miracles are performed at the time I write before
their shrines, that language fails me in relating them.
Persons afflicted by demoniacal possession are suddenly
raised and suspended in the air, while undergoing the

' See Martvrol. Antissiod. 1751.


ceremony of Exorcism, and proclaim publicly the
glories of these Saints." Accordingly Anxerre, from
the date of his elevation to the bishopric, became the
object of universal reverence in the West. No town in
France, say the learned, ^ can boast of such a number
of precious offerings. Yet there is nothing in the
natural advantages of the place to raise it in men's
consideration. To the mere traveller for pleasure,
Auxerre must appear very insignificant. The country
around is uniform and tame. Its vineyards produce
excellent Avines, but vineyards are in reality not j^leasant
objects to behold. The river Yonne is large enough to
supply the town with the uecessai'ies of life, but too
inconsiderable on the other hand to give much dignity
to the walls it washes. The buildings are not of the
most stately and attractive appearance. Many col-
legiate Churches in France exceed St. Stephen, the
cathedral of Auxerre, in architectural beauty. Yet
notwithstanding Auxerre has ever had more than the
ordinary respect of Christendom, which is to be traced
up to St. German its founder and benefactor. Such
was the title of this Saint to Canonization ; not any
formal examination into his claims, but the general
consent of men, the acknowledged reality of his mira-
cles, the proverbial use of his name, the dm-able efficacy
of his saintly life.

St. German's name is found in all the early martyr-
ologies and calendai's. Mai'tyrologies are not confined

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 11 of 33)