CELT document T201046

Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu (Taghmon, Co. Wexford)


This translation of the Life of Fintán of Tech Munnu is part of a translation project of the so-called O'Donohue Lives from the Codex Salmanticensis. The project is dedicated to the memory of Richard Sharpe, the foremost student of these Lives, whose unpublished draft translations of a number of Lives facilitated the recent work undertaken by Eoghan Ahern, Sumner Braund, Meredith Cutrer, and Roy Flechner. We are grateful to Ingrid Sperber for generous expert advice. We thank the College of Arts and Humanities at UCD for seed funding that helped to set this project in motion.

ciuitas: A church settlement, often refers to a major church.
familia: Old Irish muintir. Collective name for those living in an ecclesiastical settlement, either lay or in orders. Occasionally used in a more general sense of 'people pertaining to' either a lord or a place.
locus (pl. loca): Church, monastery, church settlement, its buildings (e.g. monastic cell), or a holy place of some description (e.g. chapel). Sometimes used in a more general sense as 'place'.
monachus: Old Irish manach (pl. manaig). May denote both lay tenant of an ecclesiastical settlement or a monk who took vows.
parrochia: the territories or churches subordinate to a major church.
termonn: Latin terminus. A precinct around a church which is under the church's jurisdiction. The vast termonn of Armagh is famously described in the Liber Angeli (Bieler, Patrician Texts, p. 184).

Unknown author

Vita prior S. Fintani seu Munnu abbatis de Tech Munnu

Edited by W. W. Heist

Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu (Taghmon, Co. Wexford)

1. Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu


Saint Fintán, priest of God the most high, the son of Tulchán, descended from the Uí Néill, from the Cenél Conaill. His mother, whose name was Fedelm, was of the Cenél Maini, of the Uí Néill. The house in which holy Fintán was born had been built on a large rock. The house being long gone, that rock continues to be held in great esteem by all; and to this day no snow has fallen on this rock because of the grace of the holy baby, who was born on the same rock.


One day, when Saint Colum Cille (Columba) had come in a chariot to the plain where Fintán was, [he] told his charioteer:
“Get down and bring the fair boy to my chariot”.
And Columba asked:
“Whose boy is this”?
And he was told:
“He is the son of Tulchán”.
Then Columba exclaimed:
“My great little man! Thanks to him, Tulchán will be a famous man”.


And so Fintán, when he was a boy, used to keep watch over his father's flocks alone in the woods. But the boy, leaving the flocks to themselves, would go every day to read with a man named Cruimther Grellan, who dwelled in Achad Broan. Taking notice of this, Tulchán berated the boy, saying:
“Why did you set free the flocks among the wolves in the woods”?
And his mother gently pleaded for him, saying:
“Thus far no [animal] from among our flocks died”.
Then Fintán said to his father:
“Have no fear, for as long as you shall be in this world no [animal] from among your flocks will be killed by wolves or by any other beast, so long as you let me [go] to the servants of God to read”.  199

And on the following day Tulchán saw two wolves watching over his flocks as if they were ordinary dogs. Since that day Tulchán's flocks were, at all times, always watched over by wolves, and the boy was sent away to read.


One day Saint Mochoma came from the province of Connacht and found the boy Fintán at Uisnech of Meath (Uisnech Hill) and blessed the boy. But the boy wanted to go to read with Comgall and left with him. As they walked along the way and celebrated the third hour of the day (Terce) by Ath Féne the boy Fintán asked for a drink of water in the great heat of the sun. Comgall said to him:
“Wait until the middle of the day”.

For on that day Comgall and his company were very hungry on their journey and no one offered them hospitality. When they celebrated the hour of midday (Sext) by Glaisi Aisil, again the boy asked for a drink of water, and Comgall said to him: “Wait a little, until Nones”.

They celebrated Nones by Comar da Glas, and Comgall told Fintán to wait without drink until Vespers. When it was Vespers Comgall came upon a great feast prepared for him on the road by the Lord, and the best liquor. Then Comgall said:
“What we have done today was fortunate for us, that we chastised Christ's Amiable by thirst, for thanks to the thirst of this very [boy] this excellent feast has been sent to us by Christ after a great hunger. Now fill my cup and give [it] to the boy, who occasioned this feast for the hungry”.

Then the boy Fintán read with Comgall and studied the rule.


After this Fintán arrived at the school of Saint Colum Cille, which was in Cell Mór Díthrib, and there he read the Holy Scripture with Columba. One day Saint Columba, as was his custom, was filled by the grace of the Holy Spirit and sang for much of the day about all the things that the Holy Spirit dictated to him. And, when he was finished, Columba said:
“Who was nearest to me when I sang the words of the Holy Spirit”?
Baíthéne replied to him:
“That boy, the son of Tulchán, was nearest to you by your right-hand side”.
Then Columba said:
“He will be a spiritual teacher and most learned, surpassing everyone from this school”.


Thereafter Fintán departed to read with the wisest man in the whole of Ireland and Britain who was a strict abbot of a church by the lakes of Erne, and he stayed with him for 19 years, reading the Scripture, and there were nine other young men with him. And they were under a very strict [monastic] rule, such that they were not permitted to sieve the flour, but the flour with its chaff used to be mixed with water in a bowl and cooked over stones heated by fire, and this was their daily meal.


After this Fintán set off to the island of Iona,  200 to become a monk with Colum Cille, but before his arrival Columba passed away to Heaven. However, he left his instructions with Baíthéne, saying:
“After my death a fair and curly-headed, red-cheeked man shall come from Ireland, Fintán, the son of Tulchán, whom I have seen more frequently in Heaven than on Earth. He himself shall come here to become a monk, and you should not receive him. And he shall not be happy with this, for that man is harsh by nature. But you shall tell him that he himself shall be an abbot and the head of a community, and he shall not be subordinate to anyone. He shall go to the south of Leinster, near the sea, for his honour and resurrection are there. And although I have a greater share of the earth, nevertheless my love and power are not greater with God than his”.


Fintán therefore returned to Ireland, and lived on the island of Cuinrige, and founded there a locus called Áth Caín. One day he departed to the tall hill on the same island to pray, and there he heard the shouting of men from hell on the day on which the battle of Slane was fought. Then Fintán left that island, saying:
“I shall not dwell in a place in which I heard the shouting of men from hell”.


As he was walking along the way, he came upon a rich man called Énán Mac Nisse; and the flocks of the same rich man had the plague. Then Fintán blessed a certain stream, and by its water the rich man's flocks were cured, and until the end of the rich man's life this stream continued to cure men and flocks. And that rich man offered an estate to Saint Fintán. And he founded a church there, namely Achad Liac, and left there seven men of his familia.


Fintán came to his own people, [to the place] where he was born, but he did not see that land, except only the path that his feet were walking, nor did he greet anyone there: neither his father, nor his mother, nor his brothers, nor his sisters, who were then all alive there.


After this he came to the region of Éle and founded a church there, which is now called Tech Tailli mac Ségéni, and stayed there five years. His mother sent word to him there to say that she would come to that place to greet him. He replied to her:
“Come to the locus called Lugmad and do not proceed further, and I will go forth to the same locus, towards you”.

Then his mother came with the three daughters of Tulchán, namely two penitent women and one virgin. While the mother awaited the arrival of Fintán in the ciuitas of Lugmad, her virgin daughter, struck by pain, died and was buried there. Fintán, however, arrived the following day. When he had seen the new grave he recognised it, saying:
“This is Conchenn's”.
Then the sorrowful mother came to him, saying: “I ask you in the name of the Lord to revive my daughter for me”.  201
Fintán said to her:
“Depart and tomorrow come to me”.

Then Fintán dismissed everyone from his presence and prayed alone that night. On the following day she returned healthy to her home with his mother. And Fintán said to his mother:
“Be careful not to come to me again. For if you come another time, I will go from the province in which I will be and cross the sea to Britain”.


He revived another dead man in Cell Bicsiche. For one day, when Fintán came to that place, the inhabitants of that place cunningly said to him:
“O holy man, behold there is a sick man with us, lying in the house and not responding. Come, therefore, and bless him”.
The men, however, concealed [the matter of] his death and were silent [about it]. Then Fintán departed towards that house, and not knowing that that man was dead, blessed him simply with the sign of the cross, and the dead man arose at once, healthy, blessing God.


When Saint Fintán had lived for five years in that locus in the region of Éle, Ciar, a hand-maiden of God, came to him one day, together with five other hand-maidens of God. The guest master went out to greet her. The hand-maiden of God said to him:
“Go to the powerful man, who lives here, and tell him to give me that locus, [and] to build a new locus for himself, for he is stronger with his fifty youths than I am with my five hand-maidens”.
Hearing this, Fintán said to his brethren:
“The hand-maiden of God speaks the truth. Arise, let us depart from this locus, for our resurrection will not be here and now there is no idleness. Let us leave our labours with the hand-maidens of God, and take nothing with you from the locus, except your axes and books and your anointing oils, and your communal clothing, and let there be only two oxen under the cart with the books”.
When the hand-maiden of God had asked him for a blessing, he replied to her:
“Let the blessing of the Lord be upon this locus, and it will be blessed before God and men. But you did not deserve a blessing from me. And although I cannot shut heaven before you, your name and epithet will not be given to this place, and few will know your tomb”.
And she said: “Who, then, will live in this place”?
Fintán said:
“The man who, today, proclaims three jubilations over the road of Midlúachair”.
This is Tailli mac Ségéni, who later came to that place.


Thereafter Fintán departed for the edge of Leinster. And one night he stayed by the crosses of Mag Méide, and in the same night a certain leader of the Fotharta named Dímma mac Áeda Croin, came to that place with nine men. Fintán said to them:
“Eat one of the oxen that pulls the cart with the books”.
The brigands could not resist him and ate the ox. The same Dímma is the one who offered Fintán the place in which he now is. On the following day  202 a single ox pulled the cart. When they were walking along the way a man met them with his flocks and untamed bulls. He said to them:
“Hold one of these young bulls under your cart”.
And, placed under the yoke, that young bull at once became subdued and tame.


After this Fintán departed for the south of Leinster, to the sea, according to the word of Colum Cille, and he was there, by the sea, in a locus called Ard Crema, among the Uí Bairrche. In the same place was the familia of Saint Comgall, abbot of Bangor, and a foster son of Comgall, whose name was Áed Gophan, was airchinnech of that locus. When he went into exile, he left Fintán in his place until he returned from exile. Fintán was in that locus twelve years, and God gave him an abundance of fruit of both sea and land, and great prosperity, which that locus never had before or since.


One day Guaire mac Éogain arrived, wishing to claim the kingdom of the Leinstermen. He harried the laypeople who were around Saint Fintán, and carried off their flocks and livestock with him. Then the widows and orphans of the lay community came to Fintán and cried before him. And Fintán, calling four men to him, said to them:
“Go and greet Guaire and tell him, in the name of the Lord, to free the flocks that he seized. If he should heed our request, tell him that he will be king unto old age and he will not be slain, and his lineage will hold the kingdom of the Uí Chennselaig unto the day of judgement. But I know that the same man is obstinate, and he will not listen to you nor release the flocks of this people. And at that hour in which you will greet him his head will be tonsured in your presence, and you will say to him: “If you do not release to us the flocks of the people that you have seized, your head will not be tonsured again, but you will be slain before the hairs of your head grow, and you will be beheaded, and you will not be king”.”

These messengers left and greeted Guaire. And it happened just as Fintán said, and Guaire did not free the flocks, and he himself was slain on the fifth day.


It happened after the death of Saint Comgall, abbot of Bangor, that his familia came to Saint Fintán and said to him:
“You are given three choices, to wit: come with us and be the abbot of Bangor after Comgall”.
Fintán replied to them: “I shall not encroach on the place of another, nor on the fruit of his labour. I shall be in the place that the Lord will give me, with my monachi, living off the labour of our hands”.
And, again, they said to him:
“This place will be given to you, and you shall be a monachus of Saint Comgall”.
Fintán said:
“So long as Colum Cille has not received me, I shall not have another abbot but the Lord”.
The third time the familia of Comgall said to him: “If you do not accept all these, go away from this place”.
Fintán said to them:
“I will do that when I will commit this place to the man who entrusted it to me, namely Áed Gophan”.
They said:
“You fetch that man,  203 but from Rome, and in the meantime we shall stay put until you come back again”.

Then Fintán arose with five men and set out on the road to go to Rome to fetch Áed Gophan. When he had gone out a little while from the locus across one field, they saw Áed Gophan coming towards them after twelve years in exile, and at the same hour they returned at once to their home. Then Fintán said to them:
“After our departure your locus will not grow greater, nor will it have a parrochia, and the sea will not give it its fruit”.


Then an angel of the Lord came to Fintán, saying:
“Arise and take your monachi and go to that place called Achad Liac Echdruimm in the provinces of the Fotharta, for there is your pre-eminence and your resurrection”.
Fintán therefore set off to that place and stayed there.


One day when Saint Fintán was there alone in the woods, labouring with his hands, he saw three men in white garments coming towards him and he asked them for a blessing.
They said to him: “Come with us a little while”.
When he had walked a little while with them, they said to him:
“Your ciuitas will be in this place”.
And in his presence they indicated seven places in which afterwards principal ciuitates were built, and he put up crosses in these places.


One night, Fintán and his company shouted out to the Lord with raised voices beside the cross. And, by contrast, in the same night, a leader of the Fotharta, living in a nearby place, namely Dímma mac Áeda Croin, with his retainers celebrated around the head of a dead brigand. Then that leader, with a contrite heart, said:
“These two celebrations cannot take place at one and the same time, namely our celebration around the [severed] head for the will of the Devil and Fintán's celebration of the Psalms for the will of God”.

On the following day that leader, Dímma, came and offered him an estate, in which his ciuitas now stands, and said:
“What will you give me in return for this offering”?
Fintán replied to him:
“The kingdom of heaven will be given to you in return for your land”.
Dímma said:
“That is not enough for me, unless you will [also] give me a long life in all my desires, and let my body not be slain, and may you [not] exhort me unto the clergy until I myself shall want it, and after death let me be buried among your monachi in a holy place”.
Fintán said to him:
“All of these will be granted to you. Where you are now, there you will be buried”.
Fintán therefore built [a ciuitas] there, just as the angels instructed him.


These are the requests of Saint Fintán, which the Lord has granted him, namely, that no younger [brother] of his community will die before an elder, but [they will die] by order of age; that no one of his lineage will be alive seven years before the day of judgement; that anyone who will be buried in his cemetery, Fintán himself will personally speak on his behalf, and he will have eternal life; and as long as the sound of his bell is heard, he who has always been in his company will not be struck down except on the soul's departure,  204 whoever will be buried in that termonn, hell will not be closed on him after the day of judgement. He therefore commanded that his monachi should not be buried in other loca.


There was a man doing penance with Fintán named Béccán son of Blathán. That man lived with the other penitents, fifty in number, who used to eat bread and drink water mixed with a measure of milk. Fintán, however, took pity on the weak Béccán and blessed his cup; and from that day for seven years there used to be fresh milk in his cup even though clear water used to be poured from the same vat for him and the other penitents.


A youth from among the monachi named Fintán mac Éogain asked Fintán to let him go to visit his country.
Fintán said to him:
“Go and take care not to drink anything but water until we greet each other [again]”.
And he blessed young Fintán's cup. Afterwards, the youth set out on the way [and] Fintán having died went to heaven. The youth heard of Fintán's death and so returned to his familia and refused to drink anything but water, for Fintán told him that he should not drink anything but water until they would greet each other [again]. The youth was therefore content with water for thirty years. One day, the abbot of the community whose name was Mo Chóemóc inadvertently tasted the water that was in that youth's cup and saw that it was most excellent wine, and that liquor stirred him from head to toe. And the abbot declared this to the youth. On hearing this that youth was confused and said to the abbot:
“Give me the sacrament for on the third day I shall go to heaven, since another man on earth has revealed this. For my water tasted like this for thirty years since the day in which Fintán departed to heaven”; because Fintán blessed his cup.


A king of the Fotharta named Dímma Camchoss had two sons: one named Cellacán, who was fostered in Airbre with the anchorite Cuanu; the other named Cillíne, who was fostered in Tech Munnu with Fintán. One day, king Dímma came with the nobles of the Fotharta, sixty in number, to Cuanu of Airbre, and there they saw Cellacán son of Dímma in a blue hooded cloak with purple pointed styluses, having a wax tablet trimmed in bronze [strapped] over his shoulders, and on his feet he had shoes decorated with Parthian leather and bronze. And the boy's appearance pleased them, and they said:
“Our son is well fostered here”.

Then the Fotharta came with the king to Tech Munnu and they sat before the gate of the locus. Carts arrived alongside them, and boys before the carts singing Psalms with loud voices, and their writing tablets had been attached to the yokes. And they saw Cillíne son of Dímma before the cart in a black hooded cloak, the colour of sheep, and in a tunic, short and white, with a black edge and in cheap shoes. And that appearance displeased them, and they said:
“The extent of love for us in these two loca  205 is revealed in the way the two sons are fostered”.
Then Dímma said to them: “There will be great retribution for what you say because Fintán hears all our words in his dwelling place”.
Then Fintán said to the guest master:
“Go and admit the Fotharta into the [guest] house, and treat them well, even though the manner in which their son is fostered by us does not please them. The son in Airbre is fostered better. Therefore, say to them that the beloved son who is in Airbre will not possess heaven and earth, and all the lay people of Leinster will slay him. But the son who is fostered here will be the lord of a church, and a wise scribe, and a bishop, and an anchorite, and he will possess the kingdom of God”.
And this was fulfilled.


After this the same king Dímma required a small gift from Saint Fintán, and Fintán gave him his flaxen tunic, in which Fintán has slept for one night, and said to the king:
“Watch over this tunic diligently for there will come a day when this tunic will be of use to you and will deliver you from great danger”.

After this the aforesaid Cellach son of Dímma became a brigand and slew Áed Sláne, son of Crundmáel, king of the Leinstermen. Then Crundmáel, having gathered an army of all the Leinstermen, came and beset the Fotharta in Inis Barri on Loch Edidach. But Dímma Camchoss got away from the island on his horse, and he got away past the multitude of all the Leinstermen, and no one saw him because Fintán's tunic concealed him. But his familia, namely eighty men of the nobles of the Fotharta, were held in captivity on the isle of Tobairri, and every day two men from among them were slain, and Cellach son of Dímma was slain. And Dímma mac Áeda Croin, Fintán's friend, was held captive with them. Then Fintán said to his company:
“Arise, let us go, for the man who has offered us this locus is held in captivity [and] is to be slain tomorrow”.

Then Fintán, having taken twelve men with him, came to the kings' camp. When the kings had seen the chariot and the clerics from far off, they knew that it was Fintán, and that he had come to free Dímma mac Áeda Croin. Then Crundmáel said:
“Take the man and hide him, and slay him before Fintán arrives, and meanwhile celebrate as though he had [already] been slain”. Hearing the celebration, Fintán said:
“What is that song”?
Someone replied to him:
“This is a celebration following the slaying of a man”.
Fintán said:
“I have not heard this voice before today. From this day, the kings of this people—except Crundmáel and another man after him—will never ever hold the kingship longer than seven years”.
Crundmáel was summoned to Fintán, who said to him:
“Release to us Dímma, who is held captive by you”.
“He has been slain”.
And Fintán said: “This cannot be, for that man will never be slain”.
Indeed the men who have been sent to slay him were not able to raise their hands, neither swords nor spears could wound him. Hearing this, Crundmáel offered that man along with his [own] inheritance and offspring to Saint Fintán forever.  206


There was a layman, a monachus of Saint Fintán, named Máel Mairc, who, in the service of Cellach son of Dímma, slayed Áed Sláne. This layman was held captive by Crundmáel on the island of Liacc hAin. Then Fintán said:
“Go and free your monachus Máel Mairc, who is in danger”.

Five holy clerics from among his monachi stood upon the port of the island of Liacc hAin; and the king knew that it was the familia of Fintán. And king Crundmáel said: “Take the captive man in a boat over the sea and slay him there before the clerics arrive”.

When they had led him over the sea for a little while, the boat stood in one place and it could not be moved one way or the other, and the hands of the men withered around their weapons, and thus in the middle of the day they stood fixed without motion. Then the king did penance and released the man to the clerics.


A certain woman, suffering from bleeding, was brought to Fintán's ciuitas on a pallet. Then Finian, the guest master, went out to Fintán to ask him to bless water for the woman. Fintán said to him:
“Do you want to make me an exorcist for the women of Leinster”?
Then Finian the [guest] master departed from him and secretly took with him [Fintán's] hood, which was on his bed, and placed it over the woman. And she was cured at once and returned to her home on her own feet in good health.


An angel of the Lord always used to come to greet Saint Fintán twice a week, namely on Sundays and on Thursdays. It happened that on a certain Thursday the angel did not come to him, until he arrived on Sunday. Fintán said to him:
“Tell me what is my offence, on account of which you did not come on the usual day”.
The angel replied:
“It is not on account of a failure of yours that I did not come, but in these days a most beloved guest entered into heaven, namely Lugaid moccu Óche of Cluain Ferta, at whose arrival all the angels were overcome with much exultation and rejoicing [and] they did not come to greet the saints of Ireland this week”.
Fintán said to him:
“It clearly appears that he alone truthfully fulfilled the commandments of God. Go, therefore, and come back to me again with an answer, so that I may know why it was more dear to rejoice at the arrival of Lugaid than to come to greet me.” The angel came to him, saying: “Because no man's face blushed before Lugaid and there will be no fewer monachi of his in heaven than of yours. But you correct your monks by shaming”. Then Fintán said: “I know what I should do *** ” “ *** 1 you will not go into exile; but on Thursday night a messenger will come to you from God, so that the joy in heaven at the arrival of Lugaid will not be greater than at your arrival on the day of your death”.

That night, therefore,  207 Fintán was struck by a great affliction of leprosy, and it stayed with him for 24 years. And during that time, as the learned say, Saint Fintán neither scratched his body with his hands nor washed in a bath, except on one day alone, namely on the Lord's Supper.


One time there was in Mag nAilbe a great council of the peoples of Ireland, among whom there was great contention throughout the year between the new Easter and the old Easter. Laisrén of Lethglinn and his followers advocated the new Easter and new rite, but the remaining elders of Ireland praised the old Easter and old rite. Saint Fintán did not immediately arrive at this council, and all the peoples were waiting for him. For he was the leader and chief of those who advocated the old Easter. Then Suibne son of Domnall, king of the Uí Bairrche, [said]:
“Why are you waiting so long for that leprous cleric? Even if he comes, Laisrén's Easter will prevail until Judgement Day”.
Laisrén said to him:
“Be quiet, for Fintán hears what you say in the place in which he is, and you will be punished by him”.

On that day, before evening, Fintán arrived at the council, and he and Laisrén exchanged greetings. When king Suibne had asked Fintán for a blessing, Fintán said to him:
“Why do you ask for a blessing from a leprous cleric? When you uttered an insult against me Christ, [sitting] on the right of God the Father, blushed with shame, because I am a true limb of Christ. You will therefore die before the harvest is gathered, and your brothers will slay you, and your blood will be mixed with buttermilk, and your head will be cast into the river Barrow and will never be seen again”.

And this was fulfilled. For in that month his nephew slew him by the little river called Blathach, and his head was left behind in the river Barrow.


On the following day, however, Fintán said to Laisrén in the presence of all the people:
“It is now time for this council to come to an end and for all to return to their loca. Therefore, I briefly say three things to Laisrén, namely: let our two books be cast into the fire, the book of the old rite and of the new rite, that we may see which book will escape the flames. Or let two of our monks be shut in a single house, and let the house be set alight, that we may see which of the two will be saved from the flames. Or let us both together, I and Laisrén, go to the grave of a long-dead just monk, and revive him, that he may reveal to us what Easter is celebrated this year in heaven”.
Laisrén said to him:
“I will not go to judgement against the strong man of God. For, on account of the magnitude of your [good] works, if you were to command that Slíab Mairge change places with Mag nAilbe and that Mag nAilbe change places with Slíab Mairge, God would do this for you”.
Then Fintán said: “Therefore, let each and every one do as he believes and what seems right to him”.


One day very early in the morning, Saint Fintán came to  208 the house of a holy anchorite of the Britons, who used to live with Fintán on the edge of the ciuitas, making carts for the brethren. And there was a fire burning in his house for drying the wood of the carts. When he had seen Fintán unexpectedly coming towards the house, he bent his knee and said to him:
“Sit a little while in the chair so that your feet will be warmed”.
When Fintán had sat by the fire, that man held his [sc. Fintán's] hairless shoes and saw on them wet sand, and removing it he wrapped it in his handkerchief and said:
“O holy Fintán, I beg you to tell me what is this sand on your shoes”?
Fintán said to him: “Promise me that you would not tell this to anyone while I am alive”.
And, he having promised, Fintán said to him:
“I have now arrived from the promised land, in which the four of us gathered [and] established our loca, to wit: Colum Cille and I, our two loca stand together beside a ford; and Cainnech and Brendan moccu Altai, their loca stand beside another ford. The name of Colum Cille's locus is Ath Cáin, and the name of my locus is Port Subai, the name of Cainnech's locus is Séd Bethad, and the name of Brendan's locus is Aur Phardus. If a temptation will come to you, which you are not able to contain, you shall go forth to that holy land. And it is lawful for you always to have in this locus twelve new carts and twelve bronze cauldrons for preparing for the journey. You shall therefore go forth to the Mount of Stones—Slíab Líac in Glenn Choluim Chille—in the province of the Cenél mBóguine to the assembly place that extends into the sea, and there you shall begin to sail, killing your oxen. And it is lawful for you to eat the flesh of the oxen—for perhaps, on account of the hasty departure, you could not prepare provisions—and in the skins of your oxen you shall successfully sail to the holy land of promise”.
That anchorite told this story after the death of Fintán, and he showed the sand that was on Fintán's shoes.


Fintán had this gift that he used to know the death day of every man of his community, and he said to a strong man whose death was approaching:
“Behold, the time has arrived for you to go to heaven”.
And thus, on the third day, that man went to heaven. And Fintán said to a man who was lying in bed for a long time:
“Arise and do the work of that man who has died”.
And that sick man arose at once, strong and healthy, and went to work with the brethren.


Fintán also had this gift that he knew the thoughts of all the brethren, and he revealed to each and every one that which was in their hearts, and he himself administered their confessions. Likewise, Fintán revealed to the brethren the number of guests who were about to come and their character before they have arrived. Likewise, he used to hear every word that would be said in his absence as if he were present.


Likewise, if Fintán had blessed the heart of a monachus, every vice that happened deeply in his heart, from that hour and until the day of his death this  209 vice would not come upon him. Likewise, if Fintán had greeted a guest with a harsh and impetuous word, he would never take food before that guest had been gently placated, and he used to say:
“Earlier I was the son of Tulchán according to the flesh, but now I am the son of God according to the spirit”.
Every word of Saint Fintán was a prophecy and every step of his and every deed of his was virtue.


When the day of his death had arrived, he summoned his community to him and blessed them. And, having received the body and blood of Christ, he slept, and a multitude of innumerable angels came towards him. When a crowd of demons had encountered him in the air, Saint Fintán looked to the heavens. Seeing Fintán's face, the demons fled this way and that with great fear, and there was no strength left in them until the end of the week, and they were not able to wage war against anyone. At Fintán's arrival all the familia of heaven rejoiced; where, in the sight of the eternal king, he remains without end in the rule of our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu (Taghmon, Co. Wexford)

Title (original, Latin): Vita prior S. Fintani seu Munnu abbatis de Tech Munnu

Editor: W. W. Heist

Responsibility statement

Translated by: Roy Flechner

Electronic edition rendered in TEI-XML by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: College of Arts and Humanities, UCD

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 7170 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2021

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T201046

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT Project for purposes of academic research and teaching.

Notes statement

We are very grateful to Dr Roy Flechner for donating the English translation of this Saint's Life to CELT, based on Heist's Latin edition, and for supplying the relevant codicological and bibliographical details. For more information, please see the Credits in the Introduction.

Source description

Primary Manuscript

  • 'Codex Salmanticensis', now Brussels, Bibliothèque royale Albert 1er, MS 7672–7674, fols. 110–123.

Edition of Latin original

  • W. W. Heist, ed., Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae e Codice Salmanticensi nunc Bruxellensi, Subsidia Hagiographica 25 (Brussels 1965), 198–209.

Selected Literature

  1. Richard Sharpe, Medieval Irish Saints' Lives: An Introduction to the Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford 1991), 297–339.
  2. Rachel Butter, 'St Munnu in Ireland and Scotland', in: The Cult of Saints and the Virgin Mary in Medieval Scotland, eds. Steve Boardman and Eila Williamson (Woodbridge 2010), 21–41.
  3. Judyta Aleksandra Szacillo, 'Irish hagiography and its dating: a study of the O'Donohue group of Irish saints' lives', Unpublished PhD Thesis, Queens University of Belfast, 2012.
  4. Pádraig Ó Riain, 'The O'Donohue Lives of the Salamancan Codex: the earliest collection of Irish saints' lives?', in: Gablánach in scélaigecht: Celtic studies in honour of Ann Dooley, eds. Sarah Sheehan, Joanne Findon, and Westley Follett (Dublin 2013), 38–52.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu (Taghmon, Co. Wexford)’ (2021). In: ed. by Roy Flechner. Cork: CELT.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Roy Flechner},
  title 	 = {Life of Saint Fintán, alias Munnu, abbot of Tech Munnu (Taghmon, Co. Wexford)},
  address 	 = {Cork},
  publisher 	 = {CELT},
  date 	 = {2021}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text represents a translation of pp. 198–209 of Heist's edition. The Latin original is still in copyright.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been checked and proofread by the editor.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. A lacuna in the text has been marked ***.

Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q.

Hyphenation: Soft hyphens are silently removed. Words containing a hard or soft hyphen crossing a page-break or line-break have been placed on the line on which they start.

Segmentation: div0=the Life; div1=the Chapter; page-breaks of the printed edition are encoded als milestones, mls unit="WWH ed p" n=""/.

Standard values: Dates are standardized in the ISO form yyyy-mm-dd. (There are no dates in the text.)

Reference declaration

A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “Chapter”, eg Chapter 1.

Profile description

Creation: Translation by Roy Flechner (and his associates?)

Date: 2020

Language usage

  • The translation is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: religious; prose; medieval; Saint's Life; St Fintan; Taghmon, Co. Wexford; Tech Munnu; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2021-03-24: Minor changes made to header; file parsed; new HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2021-02-22: New HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2021-02-19: Additions and modifications applied to file; file reparsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2021-02-15: Header created; file parsed; preliminary SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2021-02: File converted to XML; basic structural and content encoding applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2020-10: File donated. (donation Roy Flechner, UCD)


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  1. There is a lacuna in the actual manuscript: some text is omitted in the manuscript on fol. 122v but it is impossible to say how much. 🢀


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