The Celtic Literature Collective

Life of S. Kieran of Saighir.

Beatissimus episcopus Ciaranus sanctorum Hibernia primogenitus i.e. bishop Kieran of Saighir was the first saint born in Ireland; and was of Leinster’s eastern portion, which is called Ossory. In that time the Irish all were non-christians and gentiles. Laighne was his father’s name and he was of the nobles of Ossory; his mother’s name was Liadain, and she was of the southern part of Munster, being indeed [to be more precise] of the Corca-laighde by race.

Before she conceived Kieran in her womb his mother had a dream: as it were a star that fell into her mouth; which dream she related to the magicians and to the knowledgeable ones of the time, and they said to her: “thou wilt bear a son whose fame and whose virtues shall to the world’s latter end be great [i.e. notorious].” Afterwards that holy son Kieran was born; and where he was [actually] brought forth and nursed was in Corca-laighde, on the island which is called Cléire. Verily God chose him in his mother’s womb.

When Ireland then had [first and vaguely] heard Christ’s name the disposition of Christian devotion had its first origin in Kieran; his parents and every other one marvelling at the extent to which all his deeds were virtuous. He was mild in his nature, and of converse sweet; his qualities were attended with prosperity, his counsel was instruction, and so with all else that appertained to a saintly man.

One day that he was in Cléire there it was that, he being at the time but a young child, he made a beginning of his miracles; for in the air right over him a kite came soaring and, swooping down before his face, lifted a little bird that sat upon her nest. Compassion for the little bird took Kieran, and he deemed it an ill thing to see it in such plight; thereupon the kite turned back and in front of Kieran deposited the bird half dead, sore hurt; but Kieran bade it rise and be whole. The bird arose, and by God’s favour went whole upon its nest again.

A score and ten years now before ever he was baptised Kieran spent in Ireland in sanctity and in perfection both of body and of soul, the Irish being as we have said gentiles. But the Holy Spirit being come to dwell in His servant, in Kieran, he for that length [of time] lived in devotion and in perfect ways; then he heard a report that the Christian piety was in Rome and, leaving Ireland, went thither, where he was instructed in the Catholic faith. For twenty years he was there: reading the Holy Scripture, collecting his books and learning the rule of the Church; so that when the Roman people saw our Kieran’s wisdom and cunning, his devotion and his faith, he was ordained into the Church. Afterwards he reached Ireland again; but upon the way from Italy Patrick (primate of Ireland) had met him, and when they (God’s people) saw each other they made much rejoicing and had great gladness. Now at that time Patrick was not a bishop, but was made one later on.

Celestinus it was that made a bishop of him and then sent him to preach to the Irish; for albeit before Patrick there were saints in Ireland, yet for him God reserved her magistracy and primacy until he came; nor till his advent did their kings or their lords believe by any other’s means.

Said Patrick to Kieran: “precede me into Ireland; and in the marching of her northern with her southern part, in her central point, thou shalt find a well. At such well (the name of which is uardn) build thou a monastery; there shall thine honour abide for ever and thy resurrection be.” Kieran answered and said:  “impart to me the spot where the well is.” Patrick said to him: “the Lord will be with thee : go thou but straight before thee take to thee [first] my little bell, which until thou reach the well that we have mentioned shall be speechless; but when thou attainest to it the little bell will with a clear melodious voice speak out: so shalt thou know the well, and at the end of nine years and a score I will follow thee to that place.”

They blessed and kissed each other, and Kieran went his way to Ireland; but Patrick tarried in Italy. Kieran’s bell was without uttering until he came to the place where was the well of which Patrick spoke: Uarán namely; for when Kieran was come - into Ireland God guided him to that well, which when he had reached, straightway the little bell spoke with a bright clear voice:  barcán Ciaráin ‘tis called, and for a token is now in Kieran’s parish and in his see; throughout the territories round about ‘tis carried to be sworn upon [in covenants] between kings, for a sanction that they shall keep their troth. Moreover it is borne about to all peoples in general to procure for the successors to - Kieran’s monastery all that of which they may stand in need. Where it was made was with Germanus the bishop, Patrick’s master, who also gave it to Patrick.

Touching that well of which we have spoken: the very spot in which it is is in the mearing betwixt two parts of Ireland, Mun ster being the southernmost part and..., the northern; howbeit in Munster actually the country is which men call Ely. In that place Kieran began to dwell as a hermit (for at that time it was all encircled with vast woods) and for a commencement went - about to build a little cell of flimsy workmanship (there it was that [later] he founded a monastery and metropolis which all in general now call Saighir Chiaráin). When first Kieran came hither he sat him down under a tree’s shade; but from the other side of the trunk rose a wild boar of great fury which, when he saw Kieran, fled and then turned again as a tame servitor to him, - he being by God rendered gentle. Which boar was the first disciple and the first monk that Kieran had there; and moreover went to the wood to pull wattles and thatch with his teeth by way of helping on the cell (human being there was none at that time with Kieran, for it was alone and away from his disciples - that he came on that eremiteship). And out of every airt in which they were of the wilderness irrational animals came to Kieran: a fox namely, a brock, a wolf, and a doe; which were tame to him, and as monks humbled themselves to his teaching and did all that he enjoined them.

But of a day that the fox (which was gross of appetite, crafty, and full of malice) came to Kieran’s brogues he e’en stole them and, shunning the community, made for his own cave of old and there lusted to have devoured the brogues. Which thing being shewn to Kieran he sent another monk of the monks of his familia (the brock to wit) to fetch the fox and to bring him to the same spot [where all were]. To the fox’s earth the brock went accordingly, and caught him in very act to eat the brogues themselves (their lugs and thongs he had consumed already). The brock was instant on him that he should come with him to the monastery; at eventide they reached Kieran, and the brogues with them. Kieran said to the fox: “brother, wherefore hast thou done this thievery which was not becoming for a monk to perpetrate? seeing thou neededst not to have committed any such; for we have in common water that is void of all offence, meat too we have [of the same]. But and if thy nature constrained thee to deem it for thy benefit that thou shouldst eat flesh, out of the very bark that is on these trees round about thee God would have made such for thee.” Of Kieran then the fox besought remission of his sins and that he would lay on him a penance; so it was done, nor till he had leave of Kieran did the fox eat meat; and from that time forth he was righteous as were all the rest.

Afterwards his own disciples came to Kieran, with many more; - then he began to build a stately monastery, and henceforth those animals in their own condition abode still with Kieran, for they diverted him. Now grew the Christian faith in Ireland [insomuch that] before Patrick’s advent thither there were three - most saintly bishops: as Ailbe of Imlech iubhair, bishop Braus, with Declan in his land and country, in the Decies of Munster; while of his own country too, of Ossory, Kieran the holy turned - many men to the Catholic faith.

It was after this that from Pope Celestinus the glorious Arch bishop Patrick came into Ireland; from whom all that land was filled with the Christian faith and baptism.

To Kieran came once a young woman: he made of her a Christian and a veritable servant to God, and near to the monastery built for her a small but honourable cell; about her he assembled other saintly maidens, and of these was the most exquisite virgin whose name was Bruinneck: daughter of a noble lord of Munster. By Kieran’s mother she was beloved dearly and zealously; she was under Liadain’s special care, and profitable in all her ways. But when the chief of Hy-Fiachrach heard the fame of this girl’s beauty that we have mentioned, with great bands of kerne he came and carried her away forcibly; his name was Díma, and with him in his castle she was for a long time; indeed she slept by him, and he held her dear exceedingly. Kieran came to Díma to require the girl of him, but DIma consented not to dismiss her; he said further that by no means would he suffer her to depart from him unless that a stork’s voice it were that on the morrow woke him (it was time of winter then and great snow was fallen; but on the spot where Kieran was with his disciples fell no whit of the same). On the morrow’s morn then (although the thing were against nature) on every housetop that was in the precinct a stork uttered; which when Díma heard, speedily he sought Kieran, on his knees he fell before him, and let the young woman go. She was pregnant then, which was not good in Kieran’s sight; therefore upon her body he signed the Holy Cross, and her burden vanished quite away; then he led her to her own cell which [now] is called Cill Liadain.

In love for the woman Díma was entangled hugely however, and repented him that he had dismissed her. He returned to carry her away again, but God wrought conformably to the will of three: of Kieran, of his mother, and of the woman’s self; so that when he came to the town Bruinnech died. Díma took it ill, and said to Kieran: “wherefore hast thou slain my wedded wife that before me never knew a man, for as a lawful spouse I bound her to me? thy habitation therefore shall not be in this place, but I will expel thee out of it.” Kieran answered: “not of thyself are the powers by which thou mightest do that or any other thing; but God it is that hath given thee faculty, as it were an earthly shadow, for so long as it may please Him. Therefore my place I will not leave for thee but, whether it like thee or like thee not, will still be in it.” Dima when he heard it departed with great anger, and against Kieran uttered threats; but in revenge of his injustice distress of God fell on him, insomuch that when he came to his castle he found it and all as many buildings as surrounded it on fire. Now a favourite [little] son that he had was forgotten in the house and he asleep in Díma’s bed; but his nurse, when she perceived that for man it was not possible to rescue him from the flames, cried with a loud voice: “beloved babe, I make thee over to Kieran of Saighir, and to his safeguard do consign thee!" whereat the flames being fallen and the prernises cooled down, the child was found whole as though but asleep. When Díma saw it he came where Kieran was (and the bishop called Aedh with him); from Kieran he accepted a sore penance and dedicated to him his two Sons: Donough (the son that the Saint had himself saved from the fire) and another one, with their seed and posterity after them, [with] both monastery and revenue, and with burial place. Then to his own place Díma returned again, with joy and with Kieran’s benediction. As for this latter it grieved him that his charge was so quickly gone from the world, and he knew that thenceforth Díma would no more do him violence; where the young woman’s body was thither he went therefore, atld in her behalf made prayers to God so that she rose From death and for a long time after that lived on.

Of another day the steward that Kieran had in order to the monastery’s work [of construction] came to him saying: “we lack swine.” Kieran made answer: “even as God giveth us every Dther thing so too will He furnish swine.” Sure enough on the morrow there came to the workmen an exceeding great sow and along with her of little pigs a dozen, from which in the sequel proceeded many porkers.

Of Kieran upon yet another day the self-same man sought sheep. Kieran said: “the One that gave us swine will give us sheep;" and the steward being gone out saw on the green a score and eight white sheep that ate grass. Then he took them away, and of them came many sheep.

A certain man of power that was in that country :-and to Kieran he brought his dead son to be made alive again (Laeghaire was the boy’s name). Kieran having prayed to his Lord, the lad - rose up from death and lived long after; in gratitude for which that man bestowed on Kieran and on his representative for ever the land that is called Ráth-feráin.

It was after this that Patrick the Preacher came into Ireland, and to the king of Munster: to Angus son of Nadfraech, who believed in God and in Patrick; and Patrick baptised him. In that time came one of the seed of Duach, of the country of Ossory, and of set purpose killed Patrick’s horse; by the king’s people he was seized and without delay set in fetters, that he might be put to death. Howbeit in his behalf his friends besought Kieran, who came to the king and in lieu of the other gave him wealth of gold and of silver, so procuring [the prisonerl to be enlarged free to his own country. But Kieran being gone the - treasure went to nothing, whereby anger took the king and he summoned Kieran. He enquired of him why for the culprit that he held he had given him empty riches (mock substance that is to say); Kieran answered and said: “all riches whatsoever, ‘tis but of nought they come and into nought must go.” Again anger took the king, and he threatened Kieran; but from God vengeance came on the king, for on the instant his sight was taken from him and in the presence of all that were present he fell to the earth. Then came Carthach (that was pupil to Kieran and related to the king) and besought Kieran for him; [in the end] by prayer of Carthach and of many more it came to pass that for the king Kieran relighted his eyes and he rose up whole (now to many it had seemed as though the king were dead, and it were his resurrection that Kieran had effected thus), and being risen conferred many alms on Kieran, and to God gave thanks.

Some good harpers that Angus the king had at that time--they were melodious as they sang poems and played their harps. Of a day that they walked through Muskerry in the province of Munster, there they were slain by some that were enemies to them; their bodies were hidden in a loch adjoining to the open ground in which they were killed, and their harps were slung in a tree on the loch’s shore. Now this [i.e. the harpers’ absence] misliked Angus, and he took it ill that he knew not what was befallen them; but he was aware that Kieran was full of the Holy Spirit’s virtue, and he came to him in order to learn that which had happened to the harpers: for (seeing that he had embraced the faith of Christ) he would not seek it of his magician. What Kieran said to him was: “thine harpers are slain privily, and their bodies hidden in a loch hard by the spot where they were killed; their harps moreover hang in a tree on the loch’s shore.” The king besought Kieran that he would go with him to the loch in order that he might find the bodies to have them raised; to the loch they went, and for three days Kieran fasted in order that it should be possible to raise the bodies:  which three days’ fast being accomplished the loch’s water ebbed to an extent such that they were no longer hidden at all. They were lifted and brought into the presence of Kieran, who made prayer to God so that before all men the dead rose as though they had but slept: their number was eight, and the length of time that they had been in the loch an entire month. Out of the tree they (as Kieran instructed them) took to them their harps, and in presence of the king, of Kieran, and of all the rest in general, played delicious melody: in which music was delightfulness such that great number of the multitude fell asleep to it; and glory was given to God and to Kieran (as for the loch in which they had been drowned, from that time forth water gathers not there; only that for a commemoration of that miracle it still is called loch na gcruitiredh, i.e. ‘Loch of the Harpers’). Then Kieran, after the king’s and the harpers’ benediction had, returned - to his own metropolis.

On yet another day as the king’s (Angus’s) steward walked through the land that is called Múscraighe tíre there came in his way a herd of swine, and he bade his people kill a hog of them; they killed and took it into the nearest wood to eat it. [Which while they did] certain that were their enemies happening on them slew the steward and a score of his people on the bank of the river that is called Brosnach. When Kieran was certified of this, by his pupil Carthach (that was brother to Angus the king, or it may be his grandson) and by others he was entreated that they might go fetch the bodies of that company, so that wild beasts should not devour them. They having reached the bodies then, Kieran saw that such number as he had with him sufficed not to carry them to the church; with a loud voice therefore he said: “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ rise wretched people! come with me!" they rose straightway (the hog also with them), and a certain holy man that had Eochaid to his name, and was of that same country, returned to his house; but they that were raised up [and had not previously been holy men] were from that time pious monks with Kieran.

Yet another day Kieran walked, and in his way there was by chance a brake on which was great abundance of blackberries; and from his seer’s quality he comprehended that [for some purpose] these would be needed yet He provided them with a covering therefore, that the winter’s cold should not touch them; and it was his intent that, though to a year’s end they were there, they should be none the worse, if not indeed all the better. It was after this that by a certain chief of his people (Concraidh king of Ossory: he was the chief in question) a feast was prepared for the king, for Angus; to consume which feast the king came, and his queen, and with them a great multitude, the season being then just after Easter. At this banquet the queen fell in love with Concraidh and (for he was comely of form exceedingly) besought him to respond to her; but Concraidh refused this thing. In order that after the king she might remain with Concraidh in the town the queen resorted now to a feigned sickness, and said that if she might have blackberries to eat she would be whole (for she never thought that at that season it were feasible to get blackberries). On account of the king, Concraidh for his part feared to have her in the town; he went therefore to where his own peculiar patron Kieran was, to whom he shewed each particular that we have mentioned (now every spot in Ossory belongs to Kieran’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction). Kieran when he had heard the matter said “blackberries she shall have,” and so went to the brake upon which in the foregoing autumn he had left blackberries under cover; of which he brought back a vessel full and by Concraidk sent them to the queen. She ate them and was whole, for on the spot she cared no whit more for him; it was the taste of honey moreover that the queen and every one that ate them found in those blackberries. She perceived then that it was a miracle had been performed on her by Kieran, wherefore she came and humbled herself to him and craved forgiveness; Kieran gave her remission and his blessing too, but said: “from the death that is pronounced for thee I may not save thee: for in the one day thyself and Angus must find death in battle; but God will have mercy on you” (this was Eithne Uathack daughter of Enna Cinnselach’s son Crimthann; Patrick foretold so much for them, and Kieran too on this occasion, and it was true: for by Muirchertach mac Erca and Illann son of Dúnlang king of Leinster, and by Conn’s Half, Angus and that queen fell in the battle of Cill-osnad on Moy-Fea of Offaley (sic); the day on which that battle was delivered being the eighth of the Ides of October, when the Lord’s Age was thirteen years and fourscore and four hundred years. Patrick’s demise in the same year).

Yet another day Patrick and Angus son of Nadfraech with a great multitude came to Saighir (where Kieran was), and eight oxen were slaughtered for them besides other meat [provided]. Said some one or other to Kieran: “for yon so great multitude of people where is the profit in what meat is here?" Kieran answered: “He that in the wilderness did with a little bread and fish satisfy many thousands may well effect that to yonder numbers this small portion of meat shall be satiety.” He blessed his own well, and turned it to wine; and of God’s grace and Kieran’s it came that, so long as ever all such throngs as were present there desired it, they had their sufficiency of meat and of wine.

Yet another time came the king of Tara with a strong force to take the men of Munster’s pledges. Olioll king of Cashel would not submit to him, but made a great gathering to oppose him; and close to Kieran’s metropolis they met Kieran would fain have made peace between them; they would not have it [i.e. his mediation] of him, and from God he procured that which of proud human folk he had not gained: for in the face of Munster as they marched to the battle a mighty wood sprang up, while to bar Conn’s Half the Brosnach’s stream swelled over her banks so that not one dared take it. When they saw that miracle fear seized them: the king, seeing the current which formerly was passable for his hosts rise against them now, turned away from that stream and departed to his own country; and that night Munster lay in the vicinity of Kieran’s metropolis. He sent to the king a beef and a pig ready cooked; with which meat the whole army was replete, and they left fragments. By these various miracles God’s name and Kieran’s were magnified.

Of another time great bands of marauders came out of other countries into the marches of Munster, to do pillage and to kill people; but a good man of Munster whose name was Lonan overtook them, and the outlaws turned to flight. When they saw that they might not by any means escape, they prayed Kieran to save them out of that extremity; and when Lonan and his people would have taken and killed them, a thunderbolt fell betwixt them and the robbers. Great fear took Lonan and his men, so that beyond that point they followed them not, but reverted to their own dwelling-place; and the bandits recognised that they were Kieran’s miracles which had succoured them. They repaired to him therefore and told him their story; and the course on which they resolved was to don religious habits, and thenceforth to serve God and Kieran; this was performed by them, and until they died they continued under Kieran’s hand in good works and in piety.

Yet another day came a thief (whose name was Cairbre) of Leinster’s province, and stole an extraordinary good cow that Kieran’s monks had; but as he made for Slievebloom a mist and a darkness came down upon him so that the way was no longer patent to him, and he falling into a river was drowned. The cow turned and to Kieran and to the monks came back again.

Yet another day Kieran sent to his nurse, to Cuinche, a team of oxen (they having no man with them) to plough for her. Whenever the oxen were come to her she knew that it was Kieran had sent them to her to plough: now it was a long way between Kieran and Cuinche’s monastery i.e. Ros-bennachoir, for this is in the sea’s neighbourhood, in the eastern part of Ireland. Those oxen ploughed of themselves and (the time of ploughing ended) returned to Kieran, there being no one with them. It was Kieran’s use upon every Christmas eve (after from his own hand administering communion to his familia in Saigizir) to resort to his nurse’s monastery, to Ros-bennachoir and from his own hand again to give her too the communion of Christ’s Body; on which same night then he would return to his own convent. And the manner after which we understand that it was God that did this is [by considering] how he wrought with Abacus in bringing him from India (his own country) to Chaldæa and back to India again in but a brief space of the day. S. Cuinche’s great stone (on which she practised to pray to and to supplicate her Lord) stood on the sea’s shore a space from the monastery: its name is Carraig Chuinche now, round about which the sears waves would oftentimes come up. Kieran one day mounted upon this: stone and it floated on the sea; then, when Kieran so willed it, came back to its place. Nor was this wonderful, for it is written: mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis (Ps. cxxxv.) i.e. “God is marvellous in his saints.”

The pupil whom we have said that Kieran had, Carthach namely: he and a virgin of Liadain’s familia fell immoderately in love with each other and conceived a contaminated intention of sinning; they appointed a place of meeting where they should be at their ease to court, and attended the same; but when they would have embraced, a thunderbolt fell between them so that - hardly they escaped unconsumed. Great fear took them, and for the magnitude of their terror they uttered not a single word; they returned back [from their assignation] but the virgin was stricken blind, and till the time of her death was so: nor was it an inequitable judgment that the woman who had blinded her mind even to [the pitch of committing] sin should have her eyes blinded of corporal [i.e. physical] light. Carthach for his part submitted to the penance imposed on him, and went on a pilgrimage. Whence also Kieran’s sanctity is manifest; for God would not that those two virgins should sin that were in the saint’s keeping, seeing that in safeguarding of his flock he was a most zealous pastor.

To Kieran came two that were brethren to each other (Odhran and Medhran their names were, of Múscraighe-thíre and of the town called Letrach): and when these reached Saighir the one man (it was Zk[ea!hran) longed to abide with Kieran; but Odhran said: “not thus thou promisedst, my brother,” and told Kieran not to keep back his brother from him. Kieran answered: “God shall judge betwixt us whose he shall be: in his hand let him take this taper, let him blow on it with his breath, and if the taper kindle let him remain with me; if it light not, let him go with thee.” The taper was given him in his hand, he blew on it with his breath, and straightway it lighted; therefore in great sanctity and in good works Medhran till his death’s day abode with Kieran. To Odhran Kieran said: “I tell thee, Odhran, that though thou range the whole world, yet ‘tis in thine own town, in Letrach, thou shalt die; return therefore and in that same pass thy time, for ‘tis from thee that it shall have its name for ever.” Through Kieran’s words Odhran returned to his own town, where he made an honourable monastery; his virtues and his sanctity were great, and after performance of miracles in number (as is read in his own life) he went to Heaven. Thus then Kieran’s words were verified, for Letrach Odhrain it is which serves that place for a name.

Awoman called Etill walked one day and chanced to be thrown down, so that her bones were broken and she died; at three days’ end Kieran brought her to life again and she conceded to him the land on which she had the fall: léirn Etille [i.e. ‘Etill’s Leap’] is its name. Moreover she gave thanks to God and to Kieran.

Aretainer of the king’s people, Cennfaela by name: he slew Cronan that was a friend to Kieran; the saint revived him (and at the seventh day’s end it was he did it) in the name of Christ He then [Cronan] being in the presence of all the rest whole again, Kieran said: “he that killed thee (Cennfaela namely) shall be slain, and in the castle which is called Rath... of Ely (?) his body shall be burned.”

Yet another day the king of Munster (Olioll) addressed Kieran with surly words, and departed from him in great wrath; but it was no long time before the king was stricken dumb, so that for eight days he was speechless. He came to Kieran and prostrated himself before him; he accused himself of his unlawful deeds [which he had committed] and craved forgiveness; and Kieran, when he perceived that the king felt true penitence, blessed his tongue so that at once and with plain clear utterance he spoke, then, after Kieran’s blessing received, went away whole to his house and magnified God’s name and the saint’s.

One night Kieran and a pilgrim named Germanus that was with him entered into a stream of cold water, in which when they had now been for a long time Germanus said: “Kieran, I may no longer hold out in the water.” Kieran made the sign of the Holy Cross upon the water, whereby he turned it to be ternperate and of bathing heat; and there they were praising God.

Kieran said: “to-morrow, Germanus, a beloved guest will come to us: Carthach namely, the king of Munster’s son and mine own pupil, whom for a sin that he lusted to commit [and] had not God and I hindered him [would have committed] I sent on a pilgrimage: [I hindered him I say] for I would not that he should have ruined [or ‘thrown away’] all his hitherto devotion and his labour. He having obtained remission of his sins, and being cleansed of his fault, returns even now; thou therefore take of this fish that surrounds thee, so that it shall be ready against my beloved son.” As Kieran had bidden him, so Germanus caught a great fish; and on the morrow (as also Kieran had said) Carthach came.

Yet another time by a certain king named Furbaidhe Kieran of Clonmacnoise was taken and set in bonds: the cause being that of the king’s treasure, which was in Kieran’s custody, the saint (for he was full of pity) bestowed great portion on the poor of God. Where Kieran was [in prison] thither the king came one day, and through jocoseness said: “if I got four bald cows, red-bodied, with white heads on them, I would enlarge thee.” He answered: “God is able for that same; but let me out to seek them, and if I find them not I will myself return again to be at thy disposal.” His bonds were loosened then and he came to Saighir, where the other Kieran was, to whom he told this matter; at which time both the Brendans were with Kieran, and to them all it was a gladdening that Kieran of Cluain was come. Said the other Kieran to his man of trust: “what shall these saints have to eat to-night?" the man of trust rejoined that, saving flesh alone, he had no meat Kieran said: “with speed make ready that thou hast” The flesh then being boiled, Kieran blessed it and in the others’ presence changed it at his discretion to oil, to fish, to pottage, and to various meats; while by God’s grace it came to pass that for the meal of those saints whom we have mentioned all the vessels of the house were filled up with fine wine. There was within there a monk (mac Congair he was) to whom it was distasteful to eat meat with the saints, and he said that he would not use the meats that were made out of the flesh. Kieran pronounced: “thou shalt e’en eat flesh in Lent, and on the day in which thou shalt eat it thine enemies shall slay thee; thy head also shall be taken from thee, and thou shalt not possess the kingdom of God; and thy life thou shalt spend disastrously, for thy monk’s habit thou shalt lay aside.” Now Kieran’s words came true, for close to Saighir of Kieran he was killed.

Then those four saints (two Kierans and two Brendans) made an alliance between themselves and between their successors after them. Kieran of Cluain, after leave taken of those other saints and their blessings had, turned to go his way, lacking all knowledge where were the kine which the king demanded of him. Kieran of Saighir came a piece of the way with him to convey him, and either gave the other farewell benediction. Said Kieran of Cluaitt: “by my blessing’s efficacity be there for ever in thy town riches, and much treasure, and cattle;" Kieran of Saighir said: “by virtue of my blessing be there in thy place for ever wealth both of wisdom and of piety.” When then they were come to the ford that is called Ath-salach, upon the river’s bank they got four bald and white-headed cows. Kieran of Cluain said: “seest thou how God hath given us the cows which the king required of us?” They parted from each other then, having first rendered thanks and praise to God, and having in token of peace and of grace given and received blessing and osculations; Kieran the elder returned back to Saighir and the other Kieran went to Cluain. He sent the kine to the king, who marvelled how it could be that cows such as they had been found; but Kieran being now discharged of his promise they vanished away to nothing, so that from that time to this no account whatsoever of them has been had. Whereupon the king was aware that that which he had done to Kieran was unrighteous.
In the monastery of Clonmacnoise was a child whose name was Crithid: that in good works was no more than a fool; but in bad works of maliciousness, right noxious. He came to Saighir and for a while was there with Kieran the elder, who had enjoined that till a year’s end a certain holy fire which at the previous Eastertide he had consecrated must not be quenched within the monastery, but be nourished and safeguarded there; yet at the Devil’s instigation the child of whom we spoke came, and of set purpose quenched the fire. Kieran said: “know ye that the accursed child whom men call Grithid of Cluain hath quenched the sacred fire that we had? vengeance shall come on him for this, and he will die to-morrow.” Which also was verified for on the morrow the wolves killed him on the lands abroad, and there he was left [uneaten]. Kieran said “up to Easter shall be no fire in the church unless God put it there.” But Kieran of Cluain heard that the child was perished so, and speedily he came to Saighir where he was received with much honour. The monastery wanted all fire however; for it was from the aforesaid holy flame that every night they kindled others there, and Kieran had pronounced that (unless God sent such from Heaven) there should not until Eastertime be fire in it. But to the town on that day came [as we have said] guests Kieran of Cluain and his company, who were much oppressed with cold, for it was snowy weather then. Kieran the elder went out and with vehement prayer stretched forth his hand to God; into his breast fell then a fiery mass, round about which he wrapped his mantle’s skirt and took it into the house where the guests were. Who being now warmed, supper was made ready for them; but when they were set to eat it Kieran of Cluain declared that till he should have restitution of the child he would not eat meat Kieran the elder said: “we know that such is thy journey’s purpose, and God will grant us that he come back alive to us; eat thy meat then, for that child is on his way to us.” Even as Kieran said the word the child came, whom when they saw they rendered thanks to God and to his sanctity. They ate their meal; and Kieran of Cluain, having received Kieran the elder’s blessing, departed taking his child with him.

Yet another day: one of Kieran’s own brethren came and unguardedly, not of purpose, quenched the fire again; he did penance and had absolution. That same day Ruadhan of Lothra came to the town on a visit to Kieran, and in the monastery was no fire for the period of the guests’ stay. Kieran went therefore to a great stone that was near him and blessed it; forthwith the stone took fire, and in that condition he carried it to the house in which the guests were. Which when Ruadhan with his disciples saw, to God and to Kieran they gave glory and laudation.

The brother whom we mentioned, Báithin: he spilt a vessel of milk that he had carrying it; but Kieran made the sign of the cross on the utensil and it was full again. Fear before their master, before Kieran, fell on the brother that had spilt the milk and on some others of the brethren; after which many were confirmed in the faith and in good works.

Kieran prayed to his Lord one day: an angel came and shewed him that the season of his death was [comprised] within but a short space. In the angel’s presence he craved of God petitions three, and these he had of the angel even as he desired them, for they had been promised to him by God: the first petition of them was that, whosoever should be buried in his metropolis, in his burial-ground, the gates of Hell should not be shut on him after the Judgment-day; the second petition was that, whosoever should shew honour to his day, lack of the world’s wealth should not afflict him, and that on the yonderside he should have Heaven; the third petition was that the tribe of which he was and to which he was patron, they of Ossory namely, never should by any extern tribe such as might come unlawfully to take their country be worsted in battle, neither themselves go to make unjust conquest in any other land.

This holy one of whom we have spoken, Kieran of Saighir: in every place he was full of humility, and to his death’s date loved to hear, to read, and to learn [i.e. study] the Scripture. It is related too that he (with the saints of Ireland his contemporaries) was with Finnian of Clonirard, and entered that school at an advanced age, where he attained to great theology; so that on him (as on the others) was bestowed the designation of ‘Finnian’s pupil.’ He being now grown ancient, being of great wisdom also, instructed perfectly (as we have said), and an honourable bishop, nevertheless (for love of humility and of knowledge) was contented to learn still, while from him [at the same time] others derived instruction. Moreover, from his ‘young age’ [i.e. from childhood] Kieran never drank apght by which he might be drunken, never wrapped himself in downy or in soft raiment, never partook of a banquet, never slept his fill, nor for love of carousing and of good company rushed off anywhither. And his own tribe, the tribe of Ossory (forby many other men) he converted to the faith. Many times he was visited by angels; he ordained great number of bishops, of priests, and of other orders of the Church. The angel instructed him also of a venerable well by which much various disease and infirmity is healed: its name is tobar Cicirain [i.e. ‘Tubberkieran’ or ‘Kieran’s Well’]. Thirty years Kieran, passed in zealous service to God before his baptism. Then when by age and by sickness he was now become infirm, the days of his death drew near to him; and out of every quarter where they were he summoned to him his people and his parishioners, and blessed them. He enjoined on them to keep God’s commandments, and on the third of the nones of March he, being surrounded by choirs of saints, with Christ’s peace received the sacraments of the Church. He dismissed his spirit and, by God’s leave, in the one night with him a score and ten bishops that he had himself ordained went likewise to the Kingdom of God.

Here is an end of the Life of Kieran: written by Maurice O’Conor, ship-carpenter, in Cork.


Silva Gadelica (I-XXXI). ed. Standish Hayes O'Grady. Reprint of the 1892 ed. New York, Lemma Pub. Corp., 1970.

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