jeudi 29 octobre 2015


Image de saint Colman de Kilmacduagh, 
Kilmacduagh Cathedral, County Galway, Irlande

St Colman Mac Duagh, évêque en Irlande († v. 632)

Martyrologe Romain : À Kilmacduagh en Irlande, vers 632, saint Colman Mac Duagh, évêque. Moine ordonné évêque malgré lui, il vécut avec un seul disciple de légumes et d’eau, puis fonda un monastère à Killmacduagh, qui le vénère comme son premier évêque.

© 2001-2016


Colman of Kilmacduagh B (AC)

Born at Corker, Kiltartan, Galway, Ireland, c. 550; died 632; cultus approved in 1903. Son of the Irish chieftain Duac, Colman was educated at Saint Enda's monastery in Aran. Thereafter he was a recluse, living in prayer and prolonged fastings, at Arranmore and then at Burren in County Clare. With King Guaire of Connaught he founded the monastery of Kilmacduagh, i.e., the church of the son of Duac, and governed it as abbot-bishop. The "leaning tower of Kilmacduagh," 112 feet high, is almost twice as old as the famous town in Pisa. The Irish round tower was restored in 1880.

There is a legend that angels brought King Guaire to him by causing his festive Easter dinner to disappear from his table. The king and his court followed the angels to the place where Colman had kept the Lenten fast and now was without food. The path of this legendary journey is called the "road of the dishes."

As with many relics, Saint Colman's abbatial crozier has been used through the centuries for the swearing of oaths. Although it was in the custodianship of the O'Heynes of Kiltartan (descendants of King Guaire) and their relatives, the O'Shaughnessys, it can now be seen in the National Museum in Dublin (Attwater, Benedictines, Carty, D'Arcy, Farmer, MacLysaght, Montague, Stokes).

Other tales are recounted about Saint Colman, who loved birds and animals. He had a pet rooster who served as an alarm clock at a time before there were such modern conveniences. The rooster would begin his song at the breaking of dawn and continue until Colman would come out and speak to it. Colman would then call the other monks to prayer by ringing the bells.

But the monks wanted to pray the night hours, too, and couldn't count on the rooster to awaken them at midnight and 3:00 a.m. So Colman made a pet out of a mouse that often kept him company in the night by giving it crumbs to eat. Eventually the mouse was tamed and Colman asked its help:

"So you are awake all night, are you? It isn't your time for sleep, is it? My friend, the cock, gives me great help, waking me every morning. Couldn't you do the same for me at night, while the cock is asleep? If you do not find me stirring at the usual time, couldn't you call me? Will you do that?"

It was a long time before Colman tested the understanding of the mouse. After a long day of preaching and travelling on foot, Colman slept very soundly. When he did not awake at the usual hour in the middle of the night for Lauds, the mouse pattered over to the bed, climbed on the pillow, and rubbed his tiny head against Colman's ear. Not enough to awaken the exhausted monk. So the mouse tried again, but Colman shook him off impatiently. Making one last effort, the mouse nibbled on the saint's ear and Colman immediately arose--laughing. The mouse, looking very serious and important, just sat there on the pillow staring at the monk, while Colman continued to laugh in disbelief that the mouse had indeed understood its job.

When he regained his composure, Colman praised the clever mouse for his faithfulness and fed him extra treats. Then entered God's presence in prayer. Thereafter, Colman always waited for the mouse to rub his ear before arising, whether he was awake or not. The mouse never failed in his mission.

The monk had another strange pet: a fly. Each day Colman would spend some time reading a large, awkward parchment manuscript prayer book. Each day the fly would perch on the margin of the sheet. Eventually Colman began to talk to the fly, thanked him for his company, and asked for his help:

"Do you think you could do something useful for me? You see yourself that everyone who lives in the monastery is useful. Well, if I am called away, as I often am, while I am reading, don't you go too; stay here on the spot I mark with my finger, so that I'll know exactly where to start when I come back. Do you see what I mean?"

So, as with the mouse, it was a long time before Colman put the understanding of the fly to the test. He probably provided the insect with treats as he did the mouse--perhaps a single drop of honey or crumb of cake. One day Colman was called to attend a visitor. He pointed the spot on the manuscript where he had stopped and asked the fly to stay there until he returned. The fly did as the saint requested, obediently remaining still for over an hour. Colman was delighted. Thereafter, he often gave the faithful fly a little task that it was proud to do for him. The other monks thought it was such a marvel that they wrote it done in the monastery records, which is how we know about it.

But a fly's life is short. At the end of summer, Colman's little friend was dead. While still mourning the death of the fly, the mouse died, too, as did the rooster. Colman's heart was so heavy at the loss of his last pet that he wrote to his friend Saint Columba. Columba responded:

"You were too rich when you had them. That is why you are sad now. Trouble like that only comes where there are riches. Be rich no more." Colman then realized that one can be rich without any money (Curtayne).


Cathédrale de Kilmacduagh, avec la tour ronde en arrière-plan

St. Colman

Bishop and patron of Kilmacduagh, born at Kiltartan c. 560; died 29 October, 632. He lived for many years as a hermit in Arranmore, where he built two churches, both forming the present group of ruins at Kilmurvy. Thence he sought greater seclusion in the woods of Burren, in 592, and at length, in 610, founded a monastery, which became the centre of the tribal Diocese of Aidhne, practically coextensive with the present See of Kilmacduagh. Although the "Martyrology of Donegal" assigns his feast to 2 February, yet the weight of evidence and the tradition of the diocese point to 29 October, on which day his festival has been kept from time immemorial, and which was fixed by a rescript of Pope Benedict XIV, in 1747, as a major double.


Martyrology of Donegal, ed. TODD AND REEVES (Dublin, 1864); Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, ed. O'DONOVAN; LANIGAN, Ecclesiastical History of Ireland (Dublin, 1829); II; COLGAN, Acta Sanct. Hib. (Louvain, 1645); PETRIE, Round Towers (Dublin, 1845); FAHEY, Hist. and Ant. of Kilmacduagh (1893).

Grattan-Flood, William. "St. Colman." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 29 Oct. 2015 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.


Saint Colman of Kilmacduagh

28 October 2009, 8:36 pm


Son of a chieftain named Duagh. Hermit in Arranmore where he built two churches. His reputation for holiness attracted too much attention, so he retreated to the woods of Burren in 592 to live in isolation. In 610, on land donated by King Guaire of Connacht, he founded a monastery which became the center of the diocese of Kilmacduagh. He reluctantly served as the house’s first abbot, the diocese‘s first bishop.



Saint Colman of Kilmacduagh in Ireland, Wonder Worker

Commemorated: October 29/November 11

St. Colman (c. 550 or c. 560-632), a great ascetic and one of the most interesting Irish saints of his age, has been venerated and loved by pious Irishmen for more than 1300 years, especially in Counties Galway and Clare (the provinces of Connacht and Munster) on the west coast of present-day Northern Ireland. It is a relief that interest in this wonderworker on the part of modern researchers has now grown.

The future saint was born in Ireland into the family of a chief named Duagh (hence the full name of the saint—Colman Mac Duagh, that is, “Colman, son of Duagh”) and his wife Rhinagh. His birthplace may have been Corker in Galway, which is a pilgrimage site to this day. When he was still in his mother’s womb, she heard a prophecy that her son would become a great man who would surpass in his glory all men in his lineage. According to tradition, the jealous father understood these words not in the spiritual, but in the secular sense and bore malice to the still unborn child. The pregnant mother, fearing for her baby’s safety, fled from their home. However, Duagh’s servants soon found her, tied a heavy stone around her neck and threw her into the river Kiltartin. But by the grace of God Rhinagh was cast ashore, survived and gave birth. The very stone to which she was tied, with marks of the rope, has survived and is kept inside a church in Corker.

When it was time to baptize the newly-born Colman, the priest who came to Rhinagh found that there was no water to perform the baptism. The mother, fearing to go back home, took shelter under an ash-tree. She prayed hard and suddenly a holy spring gushed forth from under the ground near the tree and the baby was baptized in it. Many healings and other miracles occurred from the pure water of this spring, which still exists in Corker near the river and attracts many pilgrims (there are many modern reports of healing from it). Rhinagh entrusted her boy to the care of pious monks.

Already a young man, Colman arrived on the Aran Islands in Donegal where he remained for some years under the great Irish Abbot St. Enda of Inishmore.1 Colman became a monk there and was later ordained priest. According to tradition, St. Colman spent several years as a hermit on Aranmore Island where he also built two churches—the ruins of both of them can still be seen. Aranmore was always known as an island with extremely harsh conditions for life; in spite of this, a multitude of ascetics lived and prayed there for many years throughout “the age of saints” in Ireland.   

St. Colman’s zeal and thirst for spiritual perfection were so strong that with time he resolved to leave the island monastery and to retreat to a remote and quiet place to pray more deeply. Thus, according to tradition, from 592 the holy man lived for seven years alone in solitude in the dense Burren forests of County Clare, and obtained the gift of unceasing prayer; he prayed and kept vigil day and night, ate only herbs, drank water and wore a deerskin. In his ascetic practices St. Colman imitated the Egyptian hermits, headed by St. Anthony; many other Celtic saints lived in the same spirit in those centuries. Colman’s hermitage was situated in a perfect setting surrounded by wild forest and the beautiful Burren mountains.

St. Colman made himself a tiny dwelling in a very small cave on a steep slope where he spent most of his time praying. This cave, known as St. Colman’s cave, has been well-preserved to this day. The saint also built a little chapel at the foot of the cliff where he celebrated the services alone. This St. Colman’s Chapel existed for many centuries after him but was severely damaged by puritan iconoclasts in the seventeenth century. However, its ruins survive and still preserve a particular spirit of holiness, which is evidenced by pilgrims who visit this place to this day. The saint drank water from the natural holy well located near the chapel. By the grace of God this holy well survives in good condition, and numerous miracles still occur through its water today.

Like many Irish saints, St. Colman lived in harmony with wild nature. Various versions of his life relate the same and truly striking story (though with different minor details) about the communication of the holy man with animals. This story says that a cock, a mouse, and a fly were Colman’s closest friends in Burren. All of them served their holy master as they could. The cock crowed at a certain time every night, reminding the saint of the time for prayer; the mouse gently touched his face, thus waking him up and ensuring that he slept only five hours per day; the fly carefully crept over the lines of the sacred books that he read, and when his eyes got tired or when the saint had to move away for a while, the fly crawled onto the first letter of the following sentence so that he could never lose his place.

The saint loved and fed these faithful friends. Once Colman got so tired that he fell into a very deep sleep and the mouse could not awaken him as usual. Then it began scratching his ear so hard that Colman awoke immediately: he praised the animal and gave it more food from that time on. One day the saint was away for more than an hour, conversing with a guest. On his return he noticed that the fly was sitting without movement on the very word in his prayer-book where he had stopped before leaving. The saint praised the fly for its zeal and began giving it more breadcrumbs with drops of honey as a treat. But by the end of summer all of them died on the same day: the fly was the first and the mouse and cock died after it from grief. In his sorrow St. Colman wrote a letter to his friend, St. Columba of Iona, telling him this story. And St. Columba sent a letter in reply: “When you had these friends, brother, you were rich. That is why you are in sorrow now. Such sorrows come due to riches. So try not to have riches any more.” And Colman realized that one can be rich even without money.

In the seventh year of Colman’s solitude it came to pass that after spending Lent in fasting and prayer, St. Colman had nothing to eat on the day of Holy Easter. At the same time the pious and generous King Guaire of Connacht (possibly the saint’s cousin) was about to celebrate Easter with his retinue, sitting at table with sumptuous dishes. Suddenly the king exclaimed: “May all of our dinner by Divine providence go to some worthy servant of God! And we will do without such a luxury today.” And at once invisible angels carried all the dishes from the royal table to St. Colman’s cave. The king ordered his men to find out: Who is this holy man to whom angels brought food? And soon the hermit Colman was found. The king marveled at his ascetic life, promised to give him land to found a monastery, and assigned sufficient means to maintain it.

Thus St. Colman left his hermitage and began to serve people. Soon his glory as a wonderworker spread all over the region. Many people came to Colman and obtained healing and consolation. Once the saint’s belt fell on the ground not far from his former hermitage and it was a sign that he was to build a monastery on that spot. The monastery was called Kilmacduagh (“church of the son of Duagh”) and Colman became its first abbot. (His belt was later kept as a relic and many were healed by it). Much against his will, St. Colman was also probably ordained bishop of the region with its center in Kilmacduagh and founded the first cathedral there. Colman, being a bishop and abbot at the same time, labored with all his zeal as a true good pastor, caring for all the monasteries and convents in his diocese and kindling the hearts of his flock with fervent love for Christ our Saviour. But life “in the world” (in comparison with his former seclusion), the fame and praise from people were a burden to him, and with all his heart he desired to return to his beloved way of life one day. And after many years of service to people, the saint resigned his episcopacy seven years before his death. The saint settled in the Oughtmama valley in the Burren area where he reposed on October 29, 632, at a very advanced age.

St. Colman was venerated as a saint immediately after his death and became the patron-saint of Kilmacduagh. In addition to his main relics, the episcopal vestments and the personal staff of St. Colman were kept as precious relics for many centuries, and the staff is still preserved at the National Museum in Dublin—it was used for the taking of oaths in the late medieval period. According to legend, the saint predicted that no man or animal would ever be killed by lightning in the diocese of Kilmacduagh and it is said that this is true to this day.

In medieval times, Kilmacduagh Monastery gained great popularity and excelled in preserving ascetic traditions. This religious site was so important that from the twelfth century on a permanent diocese existed here. Unfortunately, Vikings made raids on the monastery, and it was eventually plundered in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century an Augustinian Abbey appeared on the site. This monastery was dissolved at the Reformation.

Today Kilmacduagh is a small village in the south of County Galway near the town of Gort. It continues to be a holy site and a destination for pilgrimages. Many ancient picturesque ruins survive, including ruins of the cathedral, monastery churches (St. Mary’s, St. John the Baptist’s and others) and monastic buildings (the abbots’ house). One of its gems is an ancient Irish round tower—the highest surviving such tower in the country (112 feet).

Saint Colman of Kilmacduagh, pray to God for us!

11 / 11 / 2014

1 The greatest monastery of St. Enda was situated on Inishmore in Galway; however, for some time he lived on the Aran Islands, including on Aranmore.