Celtic and Old English Saints 15 April
* St. Ruadan of Lorrha
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=St. Ruadan of Lorrha (Lothra), Abbot
(Ruadhan, Rodan, Rowan)
Born in Leinster, Ireland; died 584. Saint Ruadan, born of royal Munster stock, became a disciple of Saint Finian of Clonard (f.d.December 12). Because he was the founding abbot of Lorrha-Lothra Monastery in Tipperary, where he directed 150 fervent monks who produced the masterpiece Stowe Missal, Ruadan is considered one of the "Twelve
Apostles of Ireland". He divided his time between prayer and manual labour sanctified by prayer.
One legend of Ruadan involves the Cursing of Tara, wherein the saintly abbot invoked a solemn curse against the High King of Tara for violating the sanctuary of the monastery to capture the king of Connaught. It is said that the curse was so efficacious that Tara was ruined and deserted. However, the Ardri continued to reside at Tara till his death
(564). The legend as to Tara's halls having been deserted after 564 is of comparatively late origin, and is contradicted by the fact that a Feis was held at Tara in 697.
St. Ruadhan's hand was preserved in a silver shrine at Lorrha until the great vandalism of the Reformation. The parish church of Lorrha is built on to an ancient oratory, which may be that of Ruadan.
The little town of Lorrha near Lough Derg, is still set in the surrounds of ancient monastic ruins. The churches, whether in ruins or still in use, are noted for their stone-carving, wood-carving and other crafts (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Healy, Husenbeth, Montague,
One of the early saints of Ireland, and the founder and first abbot of Lothra in County Tipperary, Ruadhan was educated by St. Finnian of Clonard, and was reckoned as one of the most distinguished of his disciples. The Lives which have come down to us are late versions and unfortunately are so full of fabulous additions that it is difficult to
be sure of what is actually historical. S. Ruadhan is chiefly remembered for his cursing of Tara, and the account describes how the place was blasted to the ground and wiped out from all the subsequent history of Ireland.
There is no doubt that there was animosity and rivalry between Ruadhan and King Dermot, but the King had a healthy regard for the abbot. When one of the nobles fled from the King, he took refuge first with his relative Senach, but Senach passed on this cousin of his, who was called Odo, to Ruadhan, reckoning that he would give him greater protection. Ruadhan had a chamber or crypt beneath his oratory and concealed the fugitive there, placing a chair over the hatch. Dermot, arriving at the cell, seated himself on the chair and demanded where Odo was hidden. Ruadhan answered truthfully, "I cannot say, unless he is beneath your chair".
Tara was not only the seat of the High King but also the centre of the Druidic religion, and the cursing may well be a way of describing how the Celtic civilisation was altered and revitalised by the Christian Church. The significance of the thirty sea-green horses paid to King Dermot by St. Ruadhan as ransom for Odo is more difficult to explain. The story of the saint's dealing with lepers, of how he struck his staff in the ground and a fountain gushed forth cleansing twelve lepers from their disease, is much easier to understand.
The old parish church at Lorrha is built on the site of St. Ruadhan's monastery, and the stumps of two High Crosses are to be found in the church yard there. The Stowe Missal, with its fine shrine, now in the National Museum in Dublin used to be at this monastery, and S. Ruadhan's Bell is in the British Museum in London (Bowen).
The Cursing of Tarahttp://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/4494/tara.htm
A hundred after Saint Patrick had come and gone, there was a King who ruled Ireland whose name was Diarmuid Mac Cearbhaill. He was the high king of Ireland, ruling his kingdom from his throne at Tara.
Now it happened that one of Diarmuid's men was killed by a chieftain named Hugh Guairy who had a bishop for a brother. This bishop happened to be a close friend of Saint Ruadan of Lorrha. When Diarmuid sent men to arrest Guairy, the clergy, at the request of the bishop, provided him with a safe house. Diarmuid, however, had little respect for the bishops of the new religion, and Guairy was taken away from under the refuge of the Church.
The bishops of Ireland joined together against the King who had dared to strike against their authority. They gathered together at Tara and fasted against the King, cursing him and his seat of government. It was at this time that Diarmuid's wife had a prophetic dream, and she told it thus to Diarmuid:
"Upon Tara's green was a vast and wide-foliaged tree, and eleven slaves hewing at it; but every chip that they knocked from it would return into its place again and there adhere instantly, till at last there came one man that dealt the tree but a stroke, and with that single cut laid it low."
Diarmuid immediately knew that the tree was the authority of the Irish monarchy; that the twelve hewers were the Saints of Ireland; and the one who laid it low was Saint Ruadan. Recognising the fate of his country hanging in the balance the King exclaimed:
"Alas, for the iniquitous contest that ye have waged against me; seeing that it is Ireland's good that I pursue, and to preserve her discipline and royal right; but 'tis Ireland's unpeace and murderousness that ye endeavour."
But Saint Ruadan cursed Tara saying, "Desolate be Tara forever and ever". Guairy was surrendered to the fasting bishops and Tara was abandoned, and never more did Ireland have a King of all Her People except for the short time that Brian Boru drove the Vikings from Clontarf.
N.B. Ruadan's embassy to King Dermot at Tara, in 556, is worked into a romance known as the "Cursing of Tara", but the ard ri (high king)continued to reside at Tara till his death (564). The legend as to Tara's halls having been deserted after 564 is of comparatively late origin, and is contradicted by the fact that a Feis was held at Tara in 697.
Text of the Stowe-Lorrha Missal:
Part 1: http://www.illusions.com/rowanhold/stowe.htm
Part 2: http://www.illusions.com/rowanhold/stowe2.htm
Medieval Irish Book Shrines and Book Satchels
( including the Stowe-Lorrha Missal):http://www.eskimo.com/~hmiller/cumdachs.html
For those who only wish to see the pictures:http://www.eskimo.com/~hmiller/cumdach.html