Produced by Michael Gray ([email protected]
[Frontispiece: Picture of Boulogne-sur-Mer]
The cross marks the ruins of the fortifications built around Caligula's
Tower by Henry VIII., King of England.
_ST. PATRICK'S NATIVE TOWN_
REV. WILLIAM CANON FLEMING,
RECTOR OF ST. MARY'S, MOORFIELDS, LONDON
R. & T. WASHBOURNE
1 2 & 4 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON.
BENZIGER BROS.: NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, AND CHICAGO.
GULIRLMUS CANONICUS GILDEA, D.D., M.R.
THIS HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK'S NATIVE TOWN
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO THE
RIGHT REVEREND PATRICK FENTON
BISHOP OF AMYCLA
BISHOP AUXILIARY OF WESTMINSTER.
THE numerous bewildering and contradictory theories to be met with in
books, pamphlets, and reviews concerning St. Patrick's native country
are calculated to provoke a spirit of weary incredulity and impatience.
However, when presenting this book to the public, we may quote the late
Canon O'Hanlon's plea for adventurous writers who still endeavour to
solve the problem: "The question of St. Patrick's country," writes the
distinguished author of the "Lives of the Irish Saints," "has an
interest for all candid investigators far beyond the claim of rival
nations for the honour it should confer. It has been debated, indeed,
with considerable learning and earnestness both by Irish and foreign
writers; yet, as Ireland does not prefer any serious claim to the
distinction, of which she might well feel proud, so can Irishmen afford
to be impartial in prosecuting such an enquiry" (St. Patrick, March
From a patriotic point of view it might be urged that, although
innumerable books and pamphlets have been written on our subject, not
one too many has seen the light, inasmuch as each of them has served in
a greater or lesser degree to keep the memory of our great Apostle ever
fresh in our minds.
We are deeply indebted to the Rev. Professor Leilleux, who is
at present engaged in writing a "History of the Diocese of
Boulogne-sur-Mer," and to the Abbe Massot, chaplain to the Little
Sisters of the Poor in that town, for having clearly proved to us that
ancient Bononia was called "Bonauen," and Caligula's tower - Turris
Ordinis - was called "Nemtor" by the Gaulish Celts. These discoveries go
far to show that the Apostle of Ireland was a native of ancient Bononia,
now called Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Colgan, who published his "Trias Thaumaturga" in 1647, assures us in
his fifth Appendix, chapter i., that there was an old tradition in
Armorica that St. Patrick was a native of that province; and the same
author adds that several Irish writers adhered to that opinion. This
book, therefore, does not seek to formulate a new theory; its only
object is to gather together many of the records which tend to prove
that St. Patrick was born in Armorican Britain.
Our most grateful thanks are also due to the Very Rev. Canon Gildea,
D.D., M.R., who has kindly read through this book for the "Nil obstat";
and to the courteous Curator of the Library and Museum at Boulogne for
permitting us to make a sketch of Caligula's famous tower and
lighthouse, which was called Turris Ordinis or Turris Ardens by the
Romans, and Nemtor or Nemthur by the Armorican Britons.
WILLIAM CANON FLEMING.
ST. MARY'S, MOORFIELDS,
St. Patrick's Parentage
The Different Birthplaces assigned to St. Patrick
Bonaven Taberniae was well known to the Irish Scots
History of the Town Bonaven, or Bononia
St. Patrick made Captive by Niall of the Nine Hostages
St. Patrick after his Captivity returns to (Gaul) his Native Country
St. Fiacc's Nemthur was situated in the Suburbs of Boulogne
St. Fiacc describes St. Patrick's Flight from Ireland to Armorica
The Scholiast practically admits St. Patrick's Birth in Armorica
The "Trepartite Life" falls into the Same Error
All that the Second and Third "Lives" testify
The Fourth "Life"
The Sixth "Life of St. Patrick," by Jocelin
The Fifth "Life," by Probus, proves that St. Patrick was born in
St. Patrick's Flight to Marmoutier described by Probus
Britain in Gaul St. Patrick's Native Country
Britanniae in the Plural not appropriated to Great Britain
St. Patrick calls Coroticus, a British Prince, "Fellow Citizen"
The Site of the Villula where St. Patrick was born
ST. PATRICK'S PARENTAGE
ABOUT the middle of the fourth century a noble decurion named
Calphurnius espoused Conchessa, the niece of St. Martin of Tours.
Heaven blessed their union with several children, the youngest of whom
was a boy, who received at his baptism the name of Succath, which in
the Gaelic tongue signifies "valiant."
Jocelin is responsible for the statement that the parents of the future
Apostle of Ireland took, by mutual consent, the vow of celibacy after
St. Patrick's birth, and that Calphurnius, like St. Gregory of Nyssa,
St. Hilary, and St. Germanus, who were all married men, "closed his
days in the priesthood" (chap, ii., p. 2). "There were thousands of
priests and Bishops," as Dr. Dollinger observes, "who had sons before
their ordination" ("History of the Church," vol. ii., p. 23, note).
There are others, however, like Father Bullen Morris, who are of
opinion that St. Patrick's declaration in the "Confession" that his
father was "a deacon" is a mistake on the part of the copyist for
"decurion," and, as a proof of this contention, they point to the words
made use of by the Saint in his Epistle to Coroticus, which is
admittedly genuine: "I am of noble blood, for my father was a decurion.
I have bartered my nobility - for which I feel neither shame nor
sorrow - for the sake of others." It is difficult to reconcile this
statement with the assurance given in the "Confession" that his father
was a humble deacon. "It is inconceivable," as Father Bullen Morris
argues, "that the Saint, sprung from a noble family, should base his
claim to nobility on the fact that his father, Calphurnius, was a
deacon. On the other hand, the theory that Calphurnius was a Roman
officer fits in with both statements of the Saint" ("St. Patrick,
Apostle of Ireland," p. 285, Appendix).
The same author gives another reason for calling in question this part
of the text of the "Confession" in the "Book of Armagh." A scribe made
an addition to the genealogy of St. Patrick as recorded in the Book,
writing on the margin "Son of Odisseus"; and these words are actually
introduced into the text by Dr. Whitley Stokes, in his edition of the
"Confession," without either note or comment. It is easy to imagine,
therefore, that ancient Celtic writers, with their passion for
genealogies, should tamper with the ancestors of St. Patrick.
Nicholson, a distinguished Irish scholar, was, of opinion that the
addition "a deacon" was mere guesswork on the part of the copyist, and
wrote "incertus liber hic" - "the book is here unreliable" ("St.
Patrick, Apostle of Ireland," Appendix, pp. 286 - 288).
Moreover, if the word "a deacon" in the "Book of Armagh" is the true
reading, it must surely be a matter for surprise that St. Patrick, who
sternly enforced the law of celibacy in Ireland as part of the
discipline of the Catholic Church, should describe himself as the son
of a deacon without either comment or explanation, and more especially
when we remember that the Council of Elvira, A.D. 305, and the Council
of Aries, A.D. 314, had enforced the laws of celibacy - "The severe
discipline of the Councils of Elvira and Aries," writes Alzog,
"obtained the force of law and became general throughout the Western
Church" ("Universal Church History," vol. i., chap, iv., pp. 280, 281).
The practice of clerical celibacy, therefore, existed in the Western
Church probably before Calphurnius was born, and certainly before he
was old enough to get married.
Calphurnius was admittedly a decurion, or Roman officer. Now Pope
Innocent I., in his Letter to Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, in the
year 405, in answer to a number of questions submitted to him by the
Bishop, stated that there was an impediment to the ordination of men
who had served in the army on account of the loose morality prevalent
in the camp. As the Pope was simply laying down the rules of discipline
already existing in the Church, Calphurnius, being a Roman officer,
could not have been ordained without the removal of the impediment. All
this tends at least to prove that we should read "decurion" for
"deacon" in the "Confession."
According to the "Book of Sligo," St. Patrick was born on Wednesday
(373), baptized on Wednesday, and died on Wednesday, March 17th, A.D.
THE DIFFERENT BIRTHPLACES ASSIGNED TO ST. PATRICK
BARONIUS and Matthew of Westminster declare that St. Patrick was born
in Ireland, but scarcely any writer of the present day ventures to
express that view. O'Sullivan, Keating, Lanigan, and many French
writers contend that he was a native of Armoric Gaul, or Britain in
France. Welshmen are strongly of opinion that Ross Vale, Pembrokeshire,
was the honoured place; whilst Canon Sylvester Malone attributed the
glory to Burrium, Monmouthshire, a town situated, as Camden narrates,
near the spot where the River Brydhin empties itself into the Usk. The
Scholiast, Colgan, and Archbishop Healy seem to have no doubt as to the
Saint's birth at Dumbarton. Ware believes that a town that once stood
almost under the shadow of the crag possessed a stronger claim; Usher
and the Aberdeen Breviary are equally positive that Kilpatrick was the
town. Cardinal Moran, on the other hand, has convinced himself that St.
Patrick first saw the light of day at a place that once stood near the
present town of Hamilton, just where the river Avon discharges itself
into the Clyde. Some English writers have strongly advocated the claims
of a Roman town named Bannaventa that once stood near the present site
of Davantry, Northamptonshire. Professor Bury, in his "Life of St.
Patrick," had the doubtful honour of inventing a new birthplace for the
Saint; he tells us that St. Patrick was born at a Bannaventa, "which
was probably situated in the regions of the Lower Severn."
ST. PATRICK WAS NOT BORN IN WALES.
The belief that St. Patrick was born in Ross Vale, Pembrokeshire, is
founded principally on the supposed acceptance of that view by Camden,
and on an old tradition to the effect that St. Patrick, having
completed his missionary labours in Ireland, founded a monastery at
Menevia and died there.
As the authority of the learned Camden carries with it great weight, it
will here be not out of place to quote his own declaration, which is as
follows: "Beyond Ross Vale is a spacious promontory called by Ptolemy
Octopitarum, by the Britons Pebidiog and Kantev-Dewi, and by the
English St. David's land. . . . It was the retiring place and nursery
of several Saints, for Calphurnius, a British priest - _as some have
written, I know not hew truly_ - begot there St. Patrick, the Apostle of
Ireland" ("Britannia," vol. ii., p. 32). The same author, in another
place, gives expression to his own views on the subject, to which,
indeed, he does not seem to have devoted very serious study. "St.
Patrick," he writes, "was a Briton born in Clydesdale, and related to
St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, and he was a disciple of St. Germanus"
("Britannia," vol. ii., p. 326).
The Ross Vale theory has, in truth, as little in its favour as the old,
but groundless, tradition that St. Patrick founded a monastery and
ended his days at Menevia. This is plainly contradicted by the Saint's
assertion that after he had landed as a missionary in Ireland he never
once left, and ended his days in the land of his adoption. "Though I
could have wished to leave them" (the Irish), writes the Saint in his
"Confession," "and had been desirous of going to Britain, as if to my
own country and parents, and not that alone, but even to Gaul to visit
my brethren, and see the face of the Lord's Saints. But I am bound in
the spirit, and He who witnesseth all will account me guilty if I do
it, and I fear to lose the labour which I have begun; and not I, but
the Lord Christ, who commanded me to come and remain with them for the
rest of my life, if the Lord prolongs it, and keeps me from all sin
before Him." This statement, which was made by St. Patrick just before
his death, when he wrote the "Confession," could never have been
volunteered if he had once left the country where the Lord had
commanded him to remain for the rest of his life.
THE SCOTCH THEORIES ON THIS SUBJECT.
The Scholiast and Colgan, who identify the Crag of Dumbarton with the
Nemthur of the Saint's nativity, are faced by the unanswerable
difficulty that though Nemthur may be the name of a tower, or may be
the name of the district in which the tower stood, it cannot be the
name of a town. The Saint in his "Confession" states that his father
hailed from the suburban district of a town called Bonaven Tabernise,
where he possessed a country seat, from which he (the Saint) was
carried off into captivity. Bonaven, therefore, is rightly regarded as
St. Patrick's native town. St. Fiacc simply states that St. Patrick was
born at Nemthur, but he does not assart that Nemthur was a town,
otherwise he would be at variance with his Patron, who plainly gives us
to understand that he was born at Bonaven Tabernise, The only way of
reconciling this apparent conflict of evidence is to assume that St.
Fiacc is giving the name either of the tower or the district in which
St. Patrick was born, while the Saint is giving the name of the town of
which he was a native, but not the name of the district which was
honoured by his birth.
Dr. Lanigan, however, objects "that no sensible writer, wishing to
inform his readers where the Saint was born, would say that he came
into the world in a tower" ("Eccl. Hist.," vol. i., p. 101).
Nemthur may indeed be a corruption of Neustria, as Dr. Lanigan
suggests; but it must not be forgotten that districts not unfrequently
derive their names from famous monuments that either stand or have
stood in their midst. We have an illustration of this in the very
locality where many believe that St. Patrick was born. The high level
on the north-eastern cliff's of Boulogne is called even at the present
time "Tour d'Ordre," deriving its name from Caligula's tower, which the
Romans called Turris Ordinis, and the Gaulish Celts called Nemtor,
which once stood on the lofty plateau, but is no longer in existence.
Ware's theory, in his own words, is this: "I must dissent from the
Scholiast that Nemthur and Alcuid were the same place; though it must
be granted that they stood near each other, as appears from a passage
of Jocelin: 'there was a promontory hanging over the town of Empthor, a
certain fortification, the ruins of which are yet visible,' and a
little later: 'this celebrated place, seated in the valley of the
Clyde, is, in the language of the country, called "Dunbreaton," that
is, the Fort of the Britons'" (Ware, vol. i., p. 6).
Relying also on Jocelin's statement that Tabernise signified a "Field
of Tents" - "Tabernaculorum Campus" - and on his unwarranted assertion
that the habitation of Calphurnius was "not far from the Irish Sea,"
Usher pointed out Kilpatrick, a town situated between Dumbarton and the
city of Glasgow, as St. Patrick's native town.
Jocelin's "Life of St. Patrick," as Canon O'Hanlon has said, is
"incomparably the worst" of the Latin lives of the Saint, and yet it is
on this untrustworthy foundation, and on the contradictions of the
Scholiast, that Usher and Ware rest their respective theories. Usher
discovered a Roman camp at Kilpatrick, and found that the town was "not
far from the Irish Sea," and it is upon this weak hypothesis that the
Kilpatrick theory rests.
The Aberdeen Breviary coincides with Usher, and the lesson referring to
St. Patrick is as follows: "St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was
born of Calphurnius, a man of illustrious Celtic descent, and of
Conchessa, a native of Gaul and a sister of St. Martin, Bishop of
Tours. He was conceived with many miraculous signs at Dumbarton Castle,
but was born and reared at Kilpatrick in Scotland, near the Castle."
But if the Aberdeen Breviary asserts that St. Patrick was born at
Kilpatrick, the Continental Breviaries, as Colgan freely admits, are
equally positive that he was a native of Armoric Gaul.
Cardinal Moran, in an article contributed to the _Dublin Review_ in the
spring of 1880, insisted rightly that the solution of the difficulty is
to be found in the word Bonaven. Bon, or Ban, he tells us, is a Celtic
word which signifies the mouth of a river, and Avon is the river
itself. From this, he argues that the Saint was born at a town which
once stood on the present site of Hamilton, which is situated at the
mouth of the Avon, just where that river discharges itself into the
Clyde. The same argument would apply with equal force to a town
situated at the mouth of the River Aven on the French coast, which
flows into the harbour of Concarneu in Brittany.
Anyone who accepts the authority of Probus, who asserts that Bonaven
Tabernise "was not far from the Western sea," or of the Scholiast, who
is the author of the Dumbarton theory, will see a grave objection to
accepting the Cardinal's solution of the problem: Hamilton is about
fifty miles distant from Dumbarton, and far away from the Atlantic
None of the authors mentioned make any attempt to reconcile the two
contradictory statements of the Scholiast: (1) that St. Patrick was
born at Dumbarton, and (2) that he was captured in Armorica. They have
failed to notice that, if the Saint was captured in Armorica, he could
not have been born at Dumbarton, because he assures us in his
"Confession" that he was captured at his father's home. Even according
to the admissions of the Scholiast, therefore, Bonaven Tabernise, St.
Patrick's home, was situated in Armorica. Usher, Ware, and Cardinal
Moran, while contending that the Apostle of Ireland was born in North
Britain, refuse to accept the Scholiast's statement that he was a
native of Dumbarton.
ST. PATRICK WAS NOT BORN IN GREAT BRITAIN.
Ignoring altogether both the Scotch and Welsh theories as to the
birthplace of St. Patrick, Professor Bury, in his Life of the Saint,
holds that Ireland's Apostle was born in a village named Bannaventa;
not, however, Bannaventa now known as Daventry in Northamptonshire,
seeing that that town would be too far "from the Western sea," but
another Bannaventa somewhere on the sea coast, and "perhaps in the
region of the Severn" (chap, ii., p. 17, and Appendix, 323).
The whole of Professor Bury's new theory rests on a very faint
similarity between Bonaven or Bannaven - the name which the Saint gives
to the town of his birth - and Bannaventa; and on an entirely gratuitous
assumption that there must have been a town named Bannaventa "in the
regions of the lower Severn."
Professor Bury is recognised as a very able historian by the literary
world; his Appendix alone to the "Life of St. Patrick" affords ample
proof of his learning and genius. Nevertheless, he occasionally
indulges in some obiter dicta without historical proof, and at times
lays himself open to the charge of want of historical accuracy. For
instance, he ascribes the origin of the Papal power to a decree of the
Emperor Valintinian III., issued in A.D. 445 at the instance of Pope
Leo, which is supposed to have conferred "on the Bishop of Rome sovran
authority in the Western provinces which were under the imperial sway."
Before that period, he tells us, "the Roman See was recognised by
imperial decrees of Valintinian I. and Gratian as a Court to which the
clergy might appeal from the decisions of Provincial Councils in any
part of the Western portion of the Empire"; that "the answers to such
were called Decretals"; that there were no Decretals before those of
Damasus (366, 384); "that those who consulted the Roman Pontiff were
not bound in any way to accept his ruling"; and that when Pope Zosimus
endeavoured to enforce his Decretals "he was smitten on one cheek by
the Synods of Africa; he was smitten on the other by the Gallic Bishops
at the Council of Turin." "By tact and adroitness," Pope Leo induced
the Emperor Valintinian III. to issue an edict which established the
Papal power over the Western provinces of the Roman Empire. The
Professor explains how Ireland, on account of its geographical
position, was drawn into the Roman Confederation; and it is on that
account that he admits the genuineness of the decree of a Synod held by
St. Patrick, to the effect that in cases of ecclesiastical
difficulties, which the Irish Bishops could not solve themselves, the
Sovereign Pontiff should be asked to give a decision ("Life of St.
Patrick," pp. 59 - 66).
The Professor's perversion of ecclesiastical history is a blot on his
otherwise excellent "Life of St. Patrick." How can he reconcile these
statements with St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians, which
Eusebius admits to be genuine, or with Pope Stephen's exercise of
pontifical authority in the case of St. Cyprian and the question of
validity of baptism conferred by heretics; or with the celebrated
declaration of St. Irenaeus on the authority of the Church of Rome,
which is as follows: "It is a matter of necessity that every Church
should agree with this Church on account of its pre-eminent authority,
that is, the faithful of all nations"? ("Irenseus contra Hereses," vol.
L, lib. iii., cap. iii., sect. 2, translated by Rev. A. Roberts,
Edinburgh, 1868). Now St. Clement lived in Apostolic times, St. Cyprian
from 200 to 258, and St. Irenaeus flourished between A.D. 150 to 202,
while the Roman Emperors were persecuting the Church. Leaving the
well-defined path of history, the Professor indulges in speculations
which will seem to most people to be without warrant.
St. Patrick's home, he tells us, was in "a village named Bannaventa,
but we cannot with any certainty identify its locality. The only
Bannaventa that we know lays near Daventry; but this position does not
agree with an ancient indication that the village of Calphurnius was
close to the Western sea. As the two elements of the name Bannaventa
were probably not uncommon in British geographical nomenclature, it is
not rash to suppose that there were other small places so called
besides the only Bannaventa that happens to appear in Roman
geographical sources, and we may be inclined to look for the Bannaventa
of Calphurnius in South-Western Britain, perhaps in the regions of the
lower Severn. The village must have been in the neighbourhood of a town
in possession of a municipal council of decurions" (chap, ii., pp. 16,
The Professor quietly assumes without proof that Bonaven and Bannaventa
are one and the same; that "vicus" is used in its secondary meaning of
"a village," and not in its primary signification, "a district or
quarter of a town," in the "Confession"; and while admitting that there
was no other town in Britain named Bannaventa except Bannaventa in
Northampton, as far as can be gathered from "Roman sources of
information," and passing over the fact that Camden's "Britannia,"
which gives the history of every old town in the kingdom, and Horsley's
"Britannia Romana," which performs the same task, make no mention of
any other Bannaventa, whilst old maps and itineraries are equally
silent, the Professor seemingly rests satisfied with his own mere
conjecture, that there may have been another Bannaventa, which was
probably situated in the regions of the lower Severn. Surely a
speculation of this kind may well be called unwarranted.
ST. PATRICK WAS A NATIVE OF ARMORIC GAUL.
Colgan, when he published his "Trias Thaumaturga" in 1647, admitted
that there was "A constant tradition amongst the inhabitants of that
country that St. Patrick was a native of Armorican Britain, which
tradition several Irishmen endorse," (In Britannia Armorica regione
Gallise natum esse vetus est traditio incolarum istius terrae cui
nonulli suffragantur Hiberni.) (Appendix 5, p. 2.)
Don Philip O'Sullivan, who published "Patriciana Decas" in 1621,
strongly upheld this view. Attempts, however, have more recently been
made to prove that St. Patrick was a native of Scotland, but there
undoubtedly existed a tradition in favour of the belief that St.
Patrick came from Gaul to Ireland, and this view is firmly held by
Keating and Lanigan, two of our ablest Irish historians.
St. Patrick narrates in his "Confession" that he was born in the