The Life of St. Declan of Ardmore

Dennis McCarthy
Atlanta, Georgia

Rev. P. Power. Life of St. Declan of Ardmore, and Life of
St. Mochuda of Lismore. London: Irish Texts Society.
[Manuscript 4190-4200, Royal (Burgundian) Library, Brussels]


(Edited from MS. in Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels).

Translated from the Irish
With Introduction


University College, Cork.


"If thou hast the right, O Erin,
to a champion of battle to aid thee
thou hast the head of a hundred
thousand, Declan of Ardmore"
(Martyrology of Oengus).

Five miles or less to the east of Youghal Harbour, on the southern
Irish coast, a short, rocky and rather elevated promontory juts, with
a south-easterly trend, into the ocean [about 51 deg. 57 min. N /
7 deg. 43 min. W]. Maps and admiralty charts call it Ram Head, but
the real name is Ceann-a-Rama and popularly it is often styled Ardmore
Head. The material of this inhospitable coast is a hard metamorphic
schist which bids defiance to time and weather. Landwards the shore
curves in clay cliffs to the north-east, leaving, between it and the
iron headland beyond, a shallow exposed bay wherein many a proud ship
has met her doom. Nestling at the north side of the headland and
sheltered by the latter from Atlantic storms stands one of the most
remarkable groups of ancient ecclesiastical remains in Ireland--all
that has survived of St. Declan's holy city of Ardmore. This embraces
a beautiful and perfect round tower, a singularly interesting ruined
church commonly called the cathedral, the ruins of a second church
beside a holy well, a primitive oratory, a couple of ogham inscribed
pillar stones, &c., &c.

No Irish saint perhaps has so strong a local hold as Declan or has
left so abiding a popular memory. Nevertheless his period is one of
the great disputed questions of early Irish history. According to
the express testimony of his Life, corroborated by testimony of the
Lives of SS. Ailbhe and Ciaran, he preceded St. Patrick in the Irish
mission and was a co-temporary of the national apostle. Objection,
exception or opposition to the theory of Declan's early period is
based less on any inherent improbability in the theory itself than on
contradictions and inconsistencies in the Life. Beyond any doubt the
Life does actually contradict itself; it makes Declan a cotemporary
of Patrick in the fifth century and a cotemporary likewise of St.
David a century later. In any attempted solution of the difficulty
involved it may be helpful to remember a special motive likely to
animate a tribal histrographer, scil.:--the family relationship, if
we may so call it, of the two saints; David was bishop of the Deisi
colony in Wales as Declan was bishop of their kinsmen of southern
Ireland. It was very probably part of the writer's purpose to call
attention to the links of kindred which bound the separated Deisi;
witness his allusion later to the alleged visit of Declan to his
kinsmen of Bregia. Possibly there were several Declans, as there
were scores of Colmans, Finians, &c., and hence perhaps the confusion
and some of the apparent inconsistencies. There was certainly a
second Declan, a disciple of St. Virgilius, to whom the latter
committed care of a church in Austria where he died towards close of
eighth century. Again we find mention of a St. Declan who was a
foster son of Mogue of Ferns, and so on. It is too much, as Delehaye
("Legendes Hagiographiques") remarks, to expect the populace to
distinguish between namesakes. Great men are so rare! Is it likely
there should have lived two saints of the same name in the same

The latest commentators on the question of St. Declan's period--and
they happen to be amongst the most weighty--argue strongly in favour
of the pre-Patrician mission (Cfr. Prof. Kuno Meyer, "Learning
Ireland in the Fifth Century"). Discussing the way in which letters
first reached our distant island of the west and the causes which led
to the proficiency of sixth-century Ireland in classical learning
Zimmer and Meyer contend that the seeds of that literary culture,
which flourished in Ireland of the sixth century, had been sown
therein in the first and second decades of the preceding century by
Gaulish scholars who had fled from their own country owing to
invasion of the latter by Goths and other barbarians. The fact that
these scholars, who were mostly Christians, sought asylum in Ireland
indicates that Christianity had already penetrated thither, or at any
rate that it was known and tolerated there. Dr. Meyer answers the
objection that if so large and so important an invasion of scholars
took place we ought have some reference to the fact in the Irish
annals. The annals, he replies, are of local origin and they rarely
refer in their oldest parts to national events: moreover they are
very meagre in their information about the fifth century. One Irish
reference to the Gaulish scholars is, however, adduced in
corroboration; it occurs in that well known passage in St. Patrick's
"Confessio" where the saint cries out against certain "rhetoricians"
in Ireland who were hostile to him and pagan,--"You rhetoricians who
do not know the Lord, hear and search Who it was that called me up,
fool though I be, from the midst of those who think themselves wise
and skilled in the law and mighty orators and powerful in
everything." Who were these "rhetorici" that have made this passage
so difficult for commentators and have caused so various
constructions to be put upon it? It is clear, the professor
maintains, that the reference is to pagan rhetors from Gaul whose
arrogant presumption, founded on their learning, made them regard
with disdain the comparatively illiterate apostle of the Scots.
Everyone is familiar with the classic passage of Tacitus wherein he
alludes to the harbours of Ireland as being more familiar to
continental mariners than those of Britain. We have references
moreover to refugee Christians who fled to Ireland from the
persecutions of Diocletian more than a century before St. Patrick's
day; in addition it is abundantly evident that many
Irishmen--Christians like Celestius the lieutenant of Pelagius, and
possibly Pelagius himself, amongst them--had risen to distinction or
notoriety abroad before middle of the fifth century.

Possibly the best way to present the question of Declan's age is to
put in tabulated form the arguments of the pre-Patrician advocates
against the counter contentions of those who claim that Declan's
period is later than Patrick's:--

For the Pre-Patrician Mission. Against Theory of Early
Fifth Century period.

I.--Positive statement of Life, I.--Contradictions, anachronisms,
corroborated by Lives of SS. &c., of Life.
Ciaran and Ailbhe. II.--Lack of allusion to Declan in
II.--Patrick's apparent avoidance the Lives of St. Patrick.
of the Principality of Decies. III.--Prosper's testimony to the
III.--The peculiar Declan cult and mission of Palladius as first
the strong local hold which bishop to the believing Scots.
Declan has maintained. IV.--Alleged motives for later
invention of Pre-Patrician story.

In this matter and at this hour it is hardly worth appealing to the
authority of Lanigan and the scholars of the past. Much evidence not
available in Lanigan's day is now at the service of scholars. We are
to look rather at the reasoning of Colgan, Ussher, and Lanigan than
to the mere weight of their names.

Referring in order to our tabulated grounds of argument, pro and
con, and taking the pro arguments first, we may (I.) discard as
evidence for our purpose the Life of St. Ibar which is very
fragmentary and otherwise a rather unsatisfactory document. The Lives
of Ailbhe, Ciaran, and Declan are however mutually corroborative and
consistent. The Roman visit and the alleged tutelage under Hilarius
are probably embellishments; they look like inventions to explain
something and they may contain more than a kernel of truth. At any
rate they are matters requiring further investigation and
elucidation. In this connection it may be useful to recall that the
Life (Latin) of St. Ciaran has been attributed by Colgan to Evinus
the disciple and panegyrist of St. Patrick.

Patrick's apparent neglect of the Decies (II.) may have no special
significance. At best it is but negative evidence: taken, however,
in connection with (I.) and its consectaria it is suggestive. We can
hardly help speculating why the apostle--passing as it were by its
front door--should have given the go-bye to a region so important as
the Munster Decies. Perhaps he sent preachers into it; perhaps there
was no special necessity for a formal mission, as the faith had
already found entrance. It is a little noteworthy too that we do not
find St. Patrick's name surviving in any ecclesiastical connection
with the Decies, if we except Patrick's Well, near Clonmel, and this
Well is within a mile or so of the territorial frontier. Moreover
the southern portion of the present Tipperary County had been ceded
by Aengus to the Deisi, only just previous to Patrick's advent, and
had hardly yet had sufficient time to become absorbed. The whole
story of Declan's alleged relations with Patrick undoubtedly suggests
some irregularity in Declan's mission--an irregularity which was
capable of rectification through Patrick and which de facto was
finally so rectified.

(III.) No one in Eastern Munster requires to be told how strong is
the cult of St. Declan throughout Decies and the adjacent territory.
It is hardly too much to say that the Declan tradition in Waterford
and Cork is a spiritual actuality, extraordinary and unique, even in
a land which till recently paid special popular honour to its local
saints. In traditional popular regard Declan in the Decies has ever
stood first, foremost, and pioneer. Carthage, founder of the tribal
see, has held and holds in the imagination of the people only a
secondary place. Declan, whencesoever or whenever he came, is
regarded as the spiritual father to whom the Deisi owe the gift of
faith. How far this tradition and the implied belief in Declan's
priority and independent mission are derived from circulation of the
"Life" throughout Munster in the last few centuries it is difficult
to gauge, but the tradition seems to have flourished as vigorously in
the days of Colgan as it does to-day. Declan's "pattern" at Ardmore
continues to be still the most noted celebration of its kind in
Ireland. A few years ago it was participated in by as many as
fourteen thousand people from all parts of Waterford, Cork, and
Tipperary. The scenes and ceremonies have been so frequently
described that it is not necessary to recount them here--suffice it
to say that the devotional practices and, in fact, the whole
celebration is of a purely popular character receiving no
approbation, and but bare toleration, from church or clergy. Even to
the present day Declan's name is borne as their praenomen by hundreds
of Waterford men, and, before introduction of the modern practice of
christening with foolish foreign names, its use was far more common,
as the ancient baptismal registers of Ardmore, Old Parish, and
Clashmore attest. On the other hand Declan's name is associated with
comparatively few places in the Decies. Of these the best known is
Relig Deaglain, a disused graveyard and early church site on the
townland of Drumroe, near Cappoquin. There was also an ancient
church called Killdeglain, near Stradbally.

Against the theory of the pre-Patrician or citra-Patrician mission
we have first the objection, which really has no weight, and which we
shall not stop to discuss, that it is impossible for Christianity at
that early date to have found its way to this distant island, beyond
the boundary of the world. An argument on a different plane is (I.),
the undoubtedly contradictory and inconsistent character of the Life.
It is easy however to exaggerate the importance of this point.
Modern critical methods were undreamed of in the days of our
hagiographer, who wrote, moreover, for edification only in a
credulous age. Most of the historical documents of the period are in
a greater or less degree uncritical but that does not discredit their
testimony however much it may confuse their editors. It can be urged
moreover that two mutually incompatible genealogies of the saint are
given. The genealogy given by MacFirbisigh seems in fact to disagree
in almost every possible detail with the genealogy in 23 M. 50 R.I.A.
That however is like an argument that Declan never existed. It
really suggests and almost postulates the existence of a second
Declan whose Acts and those of our Declan have become mutually

(II.) Absence of Declan's name from the Acts of Patrick is a
negative argument. It is explicable perhaps by the supposed
irregularity of Declan's preaching. Declan was certainly earlier
than Mochuda and yet there is no reference to him in the Life of the
latter saint. Ailbhe however is referred to in the Tripartite Life
of Patrick and the cases of Ailbhe and Declan are "a pari"; the two
saints stand or fall together.

(IV.) Motives for invention of the pre-Patrician myth are alleged,
scil.:--to rebut certain claims to jurisdiction, tribute or
visitation advanced by Armagh in after ages. It is hard to see
however how resistance to the claims in question could be better
justified on the theory of a pre-Patrician Declan, who admittedly
acknowledged Patrick's supremacy, than on the admission of a
post-Patrician mission.

That in Declan we have to deal with a very early Christian teacher
of the Decies there can be no doubt. If not anterior to Patrick he
must have been the latter's cotemporary. Declan however had failed
to convert the chieftain of his race and for this--reading between
the lines of the "Life"--we seem to hear Patrick blaming him.

The monuments proper of Declan remaining at Ardmore are (a) his
ORATORY near the Cathedral and Round Tower in the graveyard, (b) his
STONE on the beach, (c) his WELL on the cliff, and (d) ANOTHER STONE
said to have been found in his tomb and preserved at Ardmore for long
ages with great reveration. The "Life" refers moreover to the
saint's pastoral staff and his bell but these have disappeared for

The "Oratory" is simply a primitive church of the usual sixth
century type: it stands 13' 4" x 8' 9" in the clear, and has, or had,
the usual high-pitched gables and square-headed west doorway with
inclining jambs. Another characteristic feature of the early oratory
is seen in the curious antae or prolongation of the side walls.
Locally the little building is known as the "beannacan," in allusion,
most likely, to its high gables or the finials which once, no doubt,
in Irish fashion, adorned its roof. Though somewhat later than
Declan's time this primitive building is very intimately connected
with the Saint. Popularly it is supposed to be his grave and within
it is a hollow space scooped out, wherein it is said his ashes once
reposed. It is highly probable that tradition is quite correct as to
the saint's grave, over which the little church was erected in the
century following Declan's death. The oratory was furnished with a
roof of slate by Bishop Mills in 1716.

"St. Declan's Stone" is a glacial boulder of very hard conglomerate
which lies on a rocky ledge of beach beneath the village of Ardmore.
It measures some 8' 6" x 4' 6" x 4' 0" and reposes upon two slightly
jutting points of the underlying metamorphic rock. Wonderful virtues
are attributed to St. Declan's Stone, which, on the occasion of the
patronal feast, is visited by hundreds of devotees who, to
participate in its healing efficacy and beneficence, crawl
laboriously on face and hands through the narrow space between the
boulder and the underlying rock. Near by, at foot of a new
storm-wall, are two similar but somewhat smaller boulders which, like
their venerated and more famous neighbour, were all wrenched
originally by a glacier from their home in the Comeragh Mountains
twenty miles away.

"St. Declan's Well," beside some remains of a rather large and
apparently twelfth century church on the cliff, in the townland of
Dysert is diverted into a shallow basin in which pilgrims bathe feet
and hands. Set in some comparatively modern masonry over the well
are a carved crucifixion and other figures of apparently late
mediaeval character. Some malicious interference with this well led,
nearly a hundred years since, to much popular indignation and

The second "St. Declan's Stone" was a small, cross-inscribed
jet-black piece of slate or marble, approximately--2" or 3" x 1 1/2".
Formerly it seems to have had a small silver cross inset and was in
great demand locally as an amulet for cattle curing. It disappeared
however, some fifty years or so since, but very probably it could
still be recovered in Dungarvan.

Far the most striking of all the monuments at Ardmore is, of
course, the Round Tower which, in an excellent state of preservation,
stands with its conical cap of stone nearly a hundred feet high. Two
remarkable, if not unique, features of the tower are the series of
sculptured corbels which project between the floors on the inside,
and the four projecting belts or zones of masonry which divide the
tower into storeys externally. The tower's architectural anomalies
are paralleled by its history which is correspondingly unique: it
stood a regular siege in 1642, when ordnance was brought to bear on
it and it was defended by forty confederates against the English
under Lords Dungarvan and Broghil.

A few yards to north of the Round Tower stands "The Cathedral"
illustrating almost every phase of ecclesiastical architecture which
flourished in Ireland from St. Patrick to the Reformation--Cyclopean,
Celtic-Romanesque, Transitional and Pointed. The chancel arch is
possibly the most remarkable and beautiful illustration of the
Transitional that we have. An extraordinary feature of the church is
the wonderful series of Celtic arcades and panels filled with archaic
sculptures in relief which occupy the whole external face of the west

St. Declan's foundation at Ardmore seems (teste Moran's Archdall)
to have been one of the Irish religious houses which accepted the
reform of Pope Innocent at the Lateran Council and to have
transformed itself into a Regular Canonry. It would however be
possible to hold, on the evidence, that it degenerated into a mere
parochial church. We hear indeed of two or three episcopal
successors of the saint, scil.:--Ultan who immediately followed him,
Eugene who witnessed a charter to the abbey of Cork in 1174, and
Moelettrim O Duibhe-rathre who died in 1303 after he had, according
to the annals of Inisfallen, "erected and finished the Church" of
Ardmore. The "Wars of the Gaedhil and Gall" have reference, circa
824 or 825, to plunder by the Northmen of Disert Tipraite which is
almost certainly the church of Dysert by the Holy Well at Ardmore.
The same fleet, on the same expedition, plundered Dunderrow (near
Kinsale), Inisshannon (Bandon River), Lismore, and Kilmolash.

Regarding the age of our "Life" it is difficult with the data at
hand to say anything very definite. While dogmatism however is
dangerous indefiniteness is unsatisfying. True, we cannot trace the
genealogy of the present version beyond middle of the sixteenth
century, but its references to ancient monuments existing at date of
its compilation show it to be many centuries older. Its language
proves little or nothing, for, being a popular work, it would be
modernised to date by each successive scribe. Colgan was of opinion
it was a composition of the eighth century. Ussher and Ware, who had
the Life in very ancient codices, also thought it of great antiquity.
Papebrach, the Bollandist, on the other hand, considered the Life
could not be older than the twelfth century, but this opinion of his
seems to have been based on a misapprehension. In the absence of all
diocesan colour or allusion one feels constrained to assign the
production to some period previous to Rathbreasail. We should not
perhaps be far wrong in assigning the first collection of materials
to somewhere in the eighth century or in the century succeeding. The
very vigorous ecclesiastical revival of the eleventh century, at
conclusion of the Danish wars, must have led to some revision of the
country's religious literature. The introduction, a century
and-a-half later, of the great religious orders most probably led to
translation of the Life into Latin and its casting into shape for
reading in refectory or choir.

Only three surviving copies of the Irish Life are known to the
writer: one in the Royal Library at Brussels, the second in the Royal
Irish Academy Collection (M. 23, 50, pp. 109-120), and the third in
possession of Professor Hyde. As the second and third enumerated are
copies of one imperfect exemplar it has not been thought necessary to
collate both with the Brussels MS. which has furnished the text here
printed. M. 23, 50 (R.I.A.) has however been so collated and the
marginal references initialled B are to that imperfect copy. The
latter, by the way, is in the handwriting of John Murphy "na
Raheenach," and is dated 1740. It has not been thought necessary to
give more than the important variants.

The present text is a reproduction of the Brussels MS. plus
lengthening of contractions. As regards lengthening in question it
is to be noted that the well known contraction for "ea" or "e" has
been uniformly transliterated "e." Otherwise orthography of the MS.
has been scrupulously followed--even where inconsistent or incorrect.
For the division into paragraphs the editor is not responsible; he
has merely followed the division originated, or adopted, by the
scribe. The Life herewith presented was copied in 1629 by Brother
Michael O'Clery of the Four Masters' staff from an older MS. of Eochy
O'Heffernan's dated 1582. The MS. of O'Heffernan is referred to by
our scribe as "seinleabar," but his reference is rather to the
contents than to the copy. Apparently O'Clery did more than
transcribe; he re-edited, as was his wont, into the literary Irish of
his day. A page of the Brussels MS., reproduced in facsimile as a
frontispiece to the present volume, will give the student a good idea
of O'Clery's script and style.

Occasional notes on Declan in the martyrologies and elsewhere give
some further information about our saint. Unfortunately however the
alleged facts are not always capable of reconciliation with
statements of our "Life," and again the existence of a second,
otherwise unknown, Declan is suggested. The introduction of rye is
attributed to him in the Calendar of Oengus, as introduction of wheat
is credited to St. Finan Camm, and introduction of bees to St.
Modomnoc,--"It was the full of his shoe that Declan brought, the full
of his shoe likewise Finan, but the full of his bell Modomnoc" (Cal.
Oeng., April 7th). More puzzling is the note in the same Calendar
which makes Declan a foster son of Mogue of Ferns! This entry
illustrates the way in which errors originate. A former scribe
inadvertently copied in, after Declan's name, portion of the entry
immediately following which relates to Colman Hua Liathain.
Successive scribes re-copied the error without discovering it and so
it became stereotyped.


1. The most blessed Bishop Declan of the most noble race of the
kings of Ireland, i.e., the holy bishop who is called Declan was of
the most noble royal family of Ireland--a family which held the
sceptre and exacted tribute from all Ireland at Tara for ages. Declan
was by birth of noble blood as will appear from his origin and
genealogy, for it was from Eochaidh Feidhleach, the powerful Ardrigh
of Ireland for twelve years, that he sprang. Eochaidh aforesaid, had
three sons, scil.:--Breas, Nar, and Lothola, who are called the three
Finneavna; there reigned one hundred and seven kings of their race
and kindred before and after them, i.e. of the race of Eremon, king
of Ireland,--before the introduction of Christianity and since.
These three youths lay one day with their own sister Clothra,
daughter of the same father, and she conceived of them. The son she
brought forth as a consequence of that intercourse was marked by
three red wavy lines which indicated his descent from the three
youths aforesaid. He was named Lugaidh Sriabhdearg from the three
lines [sriabaib] in question, and he was beautiful to behold and of
greater bodily strength in infancy than is usual with children of his
age. He commenced his reign as king of Ireland the year in which
Caius Caesar [Caligula] died and he reigned for twenty-six years.
His son was named Criomthan Nianair who reigned but sixteen years.
Criomthan's son was named Fearadach Finnfechtnach whose son was
Fiacha Finnolaidh whose son again was Tuathal Teachtmhar. This
Tuathal had a son Felimidh Reachtmhar who had in turn three
sons--Conn Ceadcathach, Eochaidh Finn, and Fiacha Suighde. Conn was
king of Ireland for twenty years and the productiveness of crops and
soil and of dairies in the time of Conn are worthy of commemoration
and of fame to the end of time. Conn was killed in Magh Cobha by the
Ulstermen, scil.:--by Tiopruid Tireach and it is principally his seed
which has held the kingship of Ireland ever since. Eochaidh Finn was
second son to Felimidh Reachtmhar and he migrated to the latter's
province of Leinster, and it is in that province his race and progeny
have remained since then. They are called Leinstermen, and there are
many chieftains and powerful persons of them in Leinster. Fiacha
Suighde moreover, although he died before he succeeded to the chief
sovereignty, possessed land around Tara. He left three sons--Ross,
Oengus, and Eoghan who were renowned for martial deeds--valiant and
heroic in battle and in conflict. Of the three, Oengus excelled in
all gallant deeds so that he came to be styled Oengus of the
poisonous javelin. Cormac Mac Art Mac Conn it was who reigned in
Ireland at this time. Cormac had a son named Ceallach who took by
force the daughter of Eoghan Mac Fiacha Suighde to dwell with him,
i.e. Credhe the daughter of Eoghan. When Oengus Gaebuaibhtheach ("of
the poisonous javelin") heard this, viz., that the daughter of his
brother had been abducted by Ceallach he was roused to fury and he
followed Ceallach to Tara taking with him his foster child,
scil.:--Corc Duibhne, the son of Cairbre, son of Conaire, son of
Mogha Lamha whom Cormac held as a hostage from the Munstermen, and
whom he had given for safe custody to Oengus. When Oengus reached
Tara he beheld Ceallach sitting behind Cormac. He thrust his spear
at Ceallach and pierced him through from front to back. However as he
was withdrawing the spear the handle struck Cormac's eye and knocked
it out and then, striking the steward, killed him. He himself
(Oengus) with his foster child escaped safely. After a time Cormac,
grieving for the loss of his son, his eye and his steward at the
hands of Oengus of the poisonous javelin and of his kinsmen, ordered
their expulsion from their tribal territory, i.e. from the Decies of
Tara, and not alone from these, but from whole northern half of
Ireland. However, seven battles were fought in which tremendous loss
was inflicted on Cormac and his followers before Oengus and his
people, i.e. the three sons of Fiacha Suighde, namely, Ross and
Oengus and Eoghan, as we have already said, were eventually defeated,
and obliged to fly the country and to suffer exile. Consequent on
their banishment as above by the king of Ireland they sought
hospitality from the king of Munster, Oilill Olum, because Sadhbh,
daughter of Conn Ceadcathach was his wife. They got land from him,
scil.: the Decies of Munster, and it is to that race, i.e. the race
of Eoghan Mac Fiacha Suighde that the kings and country of the Decies
belong ever since.

2. Of this same race of Eoghan was the holy bishop Declan of whom I
shall speak later scil.: Declan son of Eirc, son of Trein, son of
Lughaidh, son of Miaich, son of Brian, son of Eoghan, son of Art
Corp, son of Moscorb, son of Mesgeadra, son of Measfore, son of Cuana
Cainbhreathaigh, son of Conaire Cathbuadhaigh, son of Cairbre, son of
Eoghan, son of Fiacha Suighde, son of Felimidh Reachtmhar, son of
Tuathal Teachtmhar. The father of Declan was therefore Erc Mac Trein.
He and his wife Deithin went on a visit to the house of his kinsman
Dobhran about the time that Declan's birth was due. The child she
bore was Declan, whom she brought forth without sickness, pain or
difficulty but in being lifted up afterwards he struck his head
against a great stone. Let it be mentioned that Declan showed proofs
of sanctification and power of miracle-working in his mother's womb,
as the prophet writes:--"De vulva sanctificavi te et prophetam in
gentibus dedi te" [Jeremias 1:5] (Before thou camest forth out of the
womb I sanctified thee and made thee a prophet unto the nations).
Thus it is that Declan was sanctified in his mother's womb and was
given by God as a prophet to the pagans for the conversion of
multitudes of them from heathenism and the misery of unbelief to the
worship of Christ and to the Catholic faith, as we shall see later
on. The very soft apex of his head struck against a hard stone, as
we have said, and where the head came in contact with the stone it
made therein a hollow and cavity of its own form and shape, without
injury of any kind to him. Great wonder thereupon seized all who
witnessed this, for Ireland was at this time without the true faith
and it was rarely that any one (therein) had shown heavenly Christian
signs. "Declan's Rock" is the name of the stone with which the
Saint's head came into contact. The water or rain which falls into
the before-mentioned cavity (the place of Declan's head) dispels
sickness and infirmity, by the grace of God, as proof of Declan's

3. On the night of Declan's birth a wondrous sign was revealed to
all, that is to the people who were in the neighbourhood of the
birthplace; this was a ball of fire which was seen blazing on summit
of the house in which the child lay, until it reached up to heaven
and down again, and it was surrounded by a multitude of angels. It
assumed the shape of a ladder such as the Patriarch, Jacob saw
[Genesis 28:12]. The persons who saw and heard these things wondered
at them. They did not know (for the true faith had not yet been
preached to them or in this region) that it was God who (thus)
manifested His wondrous power (works) in the infant, His chosen
child. Upon the foregoing manifestation a certain true Christian,
scil.:--Colman, at that time a priest and afterwards a holy bishop,
came, rejoicing greatly and filled with the spirit of prophecy, to
the place where Declan was; he preached the faith of Christ to the
parents and made known to them that the child was full of the grace
of God. He moreover revealed to them the height of glory and honour
to which the infant should attain before God and men, and it was
revealed to him that he (Declan) should spend his life in sanctity
and devotion. Through the grace of God, these, i.e. Erc and Deithin,
believed in God and Colman, and they delivered the child for baptism
to Colman who baptised him thereupon, giving him the name of Declan.
When, in the presence of all, he had administered Baptism, Colman
spoke this prophecy concerning the infant "Truly, beloved child and
lord you will be in heaven and on earth most high and holy, and your
good deeds, fame, and sanctity will fill all (the four quarters of)
Ireland and you will convert your own nation and the Decies from
paganism to Christianity. On that account I bind myself to you by
the tie of brotherhood and I commend myself to your sanctity."

4. Colman thereupon returned to his own abode; he commanded that
Declan should be brought up with due care, that he should be well
trained, and be set to study at the age of seven years if there could
be found in his neighbourhood a competent Christian scholar to
undertake his tuition. Even at the period of his baptism grace and
surpassing charity manifested themselves in the countenance of Declan
so that it was understood of all that great should be the goodness
and the spiritual charm of his mature age. When Dobhran had heard
and seen these things concerning his kinsman Erc he requested the
latter and Deithin to give him the child to foster, and with this
request Erc complied. The name of the locality was "Dobhran's Place"
at that time, but since then it has been "Declan's Place." Dobhran
presented the homestead to Declan and removed his own dwelling thence
to another place. In after years, when Declan had become a bishop,
he erected there a celebrated cell in honour of God, and this is the
situation of the cell in question:--In the southern part of the
Decies, on the east side of Magh Sgiath and not far from the city of
Mochuda i.e. Lismore. For the space of seven years Declan was
fostered with great care by Dobhran (his father's brother) and was
much loved by him. God wrought many striking miracles through
Declan's instrumentality during those years. By aid of the Holy
Spirit dwelling in him he (Declan)--discreet Christian man that he
was--avoided every fault and every unlawful desire during that time.

5. On the completion of seven years Declan was taken from his
parents and friends and fosterers to be sent to study as Colman had
ordained. It was to Dioma they sent him, a certain devout man
perfect in the faith, who had come at that time by God's design into
Ireland having spent a long period abroad in acquiring learning. He
(Dioma) built in that place a small cell wherein he might instruct
Declan and dwell himself. There was given him also, to instruct,
together with Declan, another child, scil., Cairbre Mac Colmain, who
became afterwards a holy learned bishop. Both these were for a
considerable period pursuing their studies together.

6. There were seven men dwelling in Magh Sgiath, who frequently saw
the fiery globe which it has been already told they first beheld at
the time of Declan's birth. It happened by the Grace of God that
they were the first persons to reveal and describe that lightning.
These seven came to the place where Declan abode and took him for
their director and master. They made known publicly in the presence
of all that, later on, he should be a bishop and they spoke
prophetically:--"The day, O beloved child and servant of God, will
come when we shall commit ourselves and our lands to thee." And it
fell out thus (as they foretold), for, upon believing, they were
baptised and became wise, devout (and) attentive and erected seven
churches in honour of God around Magh Sgiath.

7. Declan remained a long time with Dioma, the holy man we have
named, and acquired science and sanctity and diversity of learning
and doctrine, and he was prudent, mild, and capable so that many who
knew his nobility of blood came when they had heard of the fullness
of his sanctity and grace. Moreover they submitted themselves to him
and accepted his religious rule. Declan judged it proper that he
should visit Rome to study discipline and ecclesiastical system, to
secure for himself esteem and approbation thence, and obtain
authority to preach to the (Irish) people and to bring back with him
the rules of Rome as these obtained in Rome itself. He set out with
his followers and he tarried not till he arrived in Rome where they
remained some time.

8. At the same period there was a holy bishop, i.e. Ailbe, who had
been in Rome for a number of years before this and was in the
household of Pope Hilary by whom he had been made a bishop. When
Declan with his disciples arrived in Rome Ailbe received him with
great affection and gladness and he bore testimony before the Roman
people to his (Declan's) sanctity of life and nobility of blood. He
(Declan) therefore received marks of honour and sincere affection
from the people and clergy of Rome when they came to understand how
worthy he was, for he was comely, of good appearance, humble in act,
sweet in speech, prudent in counsel, frank in conversation, virtuous
in mien, generous in gifts, holy in life and resplendent in miracles.

9. When Declan had spent a considerable time in Rome he was ordained
a bishop by the Pope, who gave him church-books and rules and orders
and sent him to Ireland that he might preach there. Having bidden
farewell to the Pope and received the latter's blessing Declan
commenced his journey to Ireland. Many Romans followed him to
Ireland to perform their pilgrimage and to spend their lives there
under the yoke and rule of Bishop Declan, and amongst those who
accompanied him was Runan, son of the king of Rome; he was dear to

10. On the road through Italy Bishop Declan and Patrick met. Patrick
was not a bishop at that time, though he was (made a bishop)
subsequently by Pope Celestinus, who sent him to preach to the Irish.
Patrick was truly chief bishop of the Irish island. They bade
farewell to one another and they made a league and bond of mutual
fraternity and kissed in token of peace. They departed thereupon
each on his own journey, scil.:--Declan to Ireland and Patrick to

11. Declan was beginning mass one day in a church which lay in his
road, when there was sent him from heaven a little black bell, (which
came) in through the window of the church and remained on the altar
before Declan. Declan greatly rejoiced thereat and gave thanks and
glory to Christ on account of it, and it filled him with much courage
to combat the error and false teaching of heathendom. He gave the
bell for safe keeping and carriage, to Runan aforesaid, i.e. son of
the king of Rome, and this is its name in Ireland--"The Duibhin
Declain," and it is from its colour it derives its name, for its
colour is black [dub]. There were manifested, by grace of God and
Declan's merits, many miracles through its agency and it is still
preserved in Declan's church.

12. When Declan and his holy companions arrived at the Sea of Icht
[English Channel] he failed, owing to lack of money, to find a ship,
for he did not have the amount demanded, and every ship was refused
him on that account. He therefore struck his bell and prayed to God
for help in this extremity. In a short time after this they saw
coming towards them on the crest of the waves an empty, sailless ship
and no man therein. Thereupon Declan said:--"Let us enter the ship
in the name of Christ, and He who has sent it to us will direct it
skilfully to what harbour soever He wishes we should go." At the
word of Declan they entered in, and the ship floated tranquilly and
safely until it reached harbour in England. Upon its abandonment by
Declan and his disciples the ship turned back and went again to the
place from which it had come and the people who saw the miracles and
heard of them magnified the name of the Lord and Declan, and the
words of the prophet David were verified:--"Mirabilis Deus in Sanctis
Suis [Psalm 67(68):36] (God is wonderful in His Saints)."

13. After this Declan came to Ireland. Declan was wise like a
serpent and gentle like a dove and industrious like the bee, for as
the bee gathers honey and avoids the poisonous herbs so did Declan,
for he gathered the sweet sap of grace and Holy Scripture till he was
filled therewith. There were in Ireland before Patrick came thither
four holy bishops with their followers who evangelized and sowed the
word of God there; these are the four:--Ailbe, Bishop Ibar, Declan,
and Ciaran. They drew multitudes from error to the faith of Christ,
although it was Patrick who sowed the faith throughout Ireland and it
is he who turned chiefs and kings of Ireland to the way of baptism,
faith and sacrifice and everlasting judgment.

14. These three, scil.:--Declan, Ailbe and Bishop Ibar made a bond
of friendship and a league amongst themselves and their spiritual
posterity in heaven and on earth for ever and they loved one another.
SS. Ailbe and Declan, especially, loved one another as if they were
brothers so that, on account of their mutual affection they did not
like to be separated from one another--except when their followers
threatened to separate them by force if they did not go apart for a
very short time. After this Declan returned to his own country--to
the Decies of Munster--where he preached, and baptized, in the name
of Christ, many whom he turned to the Catholic faith from the power
of the devil. He built numerous churches in which he placed many of
his own followers to serve and worship God and to draw people to God
from the wiles of Satan.

15. Once on a time Declan came on a visit to the place of his birth,
where he remained forty days there and established a religious house
in which devout men have dwelt ever since. Then came the seven men
we have already mentioned as having made their abode around Magh
Sgiath and as having prophesied concerning Declan. They now dedicated
themselves and their establishment to him as they had promised and
these are their names:--Mocellac and Riadan, Colman, Lactain,
Finnlaoc, Kevin, &c. [Mobi]. These therefore were under the rule and
spiritual sway of bishop Declan thenceforward, and they spent their
lives devoutly there and wrought many wonders afterwards.

16. After some time Declan set out to visit Aongus MacNatfrich, king
of Cashel, to preach to him and to convert him to the faith of
Christ. Declan however had two uterine brothers, sons of Aongus,
scil.: Colman and Eoghan. The grace of the Holy Ghost inspiring him
Colman went to Ailbe of Emly and received baptism and the religious
habit at the latter's hands, and he remained for a space sedulously
studying science until he became a saintly and perfect man. Eochaid
however remained as he was (at home)--expecting the kingdom of
Munster on his father's death, and he besought his father to show due
honour to his brother Declan. The king did so and put no obstacle in
the way of Declan's preaching but was pleased with Declan's religion
and doctrine, although he neither believed nor accepted baptism
himself. It is said that refusal (of baptism) was based on this
ground: Declan was of the Decies and of Conn's Half, while Aongus
himself was of the Eoghanacht of Cashel of Munster--always hostile to
the Desii. It was not therefore through ill will to the faith that
he believed not, as is proved from this that, when the king heard of
the coming to him of Patrick, the archbishop of Ireland, a man who
was of British race against which the Irish cherished no hate, not
only did he believe but he went from his own city of Cashel to meet
him, professed Christianity and was immediately baptised.

17. After this Declan, having sown the word of God and preached to
the king (although the latter did not assent to his doctrines),
proceeded to his own country and they (the Desii) believed and
received baptism except the king alone and the people of his
household who were every day promising to believe and be baptised.
It however came about through the Devil's agency that they hesitated
continually and procrastinated.

18. Other authorities declare that Declan went many times to Rome,
but we have no written testimony from the ancient biographers that he
went there more than three times. On one of these occasions Declan
paid a visit to the holy bishop of the Britons whose name was David
at the church which is called Killmuine [Menevia] where the bishop
dwelt beside the shore of the sea which divides Ireland from Britain.
The bishop received Declan with honour and he remained there forty
days, in affection and joy, and they sang Mass each day and they
entered into a bond of charity which continued between themselves and
their successors for ever afterwards. On the expiration of the forty
days Declan took leave of David giving him a kiss in token of peace
and set out himself and his followers to the shore of the sea to take
ship for Ireland.

19. Now the bell which we have alluded to as sent from heaven to
Declan, was, at that time, in the custody of Runan to carry as we
have said, for Declan did not wish, on any account, to part with it.
On this particular day as they were proceeding towards the ship Runan
entrusted it to another member of the company. On reaching the shore
however the latter laid the bell on a rock by the shore and forgot it
till they were half way across the sea. Then they remembered it and
on remembrance they were much distressed. Declan was very sorrowful
that the gift sent him by the Lord from heaven should have been
forgotten in a place where he never expected to find it again.
Thereupon raising his eyes heavenward he prayed to God within his
heart and he said to his followers:--"Lay aside your sorrow for it is
possible with God who sent that bell in the beginning to send it now
again by some marvellous ship." Very fully and wonderfully and
beautifully the creature without reason or understanding obeyed its
creator, for the very heavy unwieldy rock floated buoyantly and
without deviation, so that in a short time they beheld it in their
rear with the bell upon it. And when his people saw this wondrous
thing it filled them with love for God and reverence for their
master. Declan thereupon addressed them prophetically:--"Permit the
bell to precede you and follow it exactly and whatsoever haven it
will enter into it is there my city and my bishopric will be whence I
shall go to paradise and there my resurrection will be." Meantime
the bell preceded the ship, and it eased down its great speed
remaining slightly in advance of the ship, so that it could be seen
from and not overtaken by the latter. The bell directed its course
to Ireland until it reached a harbour on the south coast, scil.:--in
the Decies of Munster, at an island called, at that time, High Sheep
Island [Aird na gCcaorac] and the ship made the same port, as Declan
declared. The holy man went ashore and gave thanks and praise to
God that he had reached the place of his resurrection. Now, in
that island depastured the sheep belonging to the wife of the
chieftain of Decies and it is thence that it derives its Irish
name--Ard-na-Ccaorac, scil.:--there was in it a high hill and it was
a promontory beautiful to behold. One of the party, ascending the
summit of the hill, said to Declan:--"How can this little height
support your people?" Declan replied:--"Do not call it little hill,
beloved son, but 'great height' [ard mor]," and that name has adhered
to the city ever since, scil.:--Ardmore-Declain. After this Declan
went to the king of the Desii and asked of him the aforesaid island.
Whereupon the king gave it to him.

20. Declan next returned to Ait-mBreasail where, in a haven at the
north side, were the shipping and boats of the island, plying thither
and backwards. The people of the island hid all their boats not
willing that Declan should settle there; they dreaded greatly that if
Declan came to dwell there they themselves should be expelled.
Whereupon his disciples addressed Declan:--"Father," said they, "Many
things are required (scil.: from the mainland) and we must often go
by boat to this island and there will be (crossing) more frequently
when you have gone to heaven and we pray thee to abandon the place or
else to obtain from God that the sea recede from the land so that it
can be entered dry shod, for Christ has said:--'Whatsoever you shall
ask of the Father in my name He will give it to you' [John 15:16];
the place cannot be easily inhabited unless the sea recede from it
and on that account you cannot establish your city in it." Declan
answered them and said:--"How can I abandon the place ordained by God
and in which He has promised that my burial and resurrection shall
be? As to the alleged inconvenience of dwelling therein, do you wish
me to pray to God (for things) contrary to His will--to deprive the
sea of its natural domain? Nevertheless in compliance with your
request I shall pray to God and whatever thing be God's will, let it
be done." Declan's community thereupon rose up and said:--"Father,
take your crosier as Moses took the rod [Exodus 14:16] and strike the
sea therewith and God will thus show His will to you." His disciples
prayed therefore to him because they were tried and holy men. They
put Declan's crosier in his hand and he struck the water in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost and made the sign
of the cross over the water and immediately, by command and
permission of God, the sea commenced to move out from its accustomed
place--so swiftly too that the monsters of the sea were swimming and
running and that it was with difficulty they escaped with the sea.
However, many fishes were left behind on the dry strand owing to the
suddenness of the ebb. Declan, his crosier in his hand, pursued the
receding tide and his disciples followed after him. Moreover the sea
and the departing monsters made much din and commotion and when
Declan arrived at the place where is now the margin of the sea a
stripling whose name was Mainchin, frightened at the thunder of the
waves and the cry of the unknown monsters with gaping mouths
following the (receding) water, exclaimed:--"Father, you have driven
out the sea far enough; for I am afraid of those horrid monsters."
When Declan heard this and (saw) the sea standing still at the word
of the youth it displeased him and turning round he struck him a
slight blow on the nose. Three drops of blood flowed from the wound
on to the ground in three separate places at the feet of Declan.
Thereupon Declan blessed the nose and the blood ceased immediately
(to flow). Then Declan declared:--"It was not I who drove out the sea
but God in His own great power who expelled it and He would have done
still more had you not spoken the words you have said." Three little
wells of clear sweet water burst forth in the place where fell the
three drops of blood at the feet of Declan, and these wells are there
still and the colour of blood is seen in them occasionally as a
memorial of this miracle. The shore, rescued from the sea, is a mile
in width and is of great length around (the island) and it is good
and fertile land for tillage and pasture--lying beneath the monastery
of Declan. As to the crosier which was in Declan's hand while he
wrought this miracle, this is its name--the Feartach Declain, from
the miracles and marvels [fertaib] wrought through it. I shall in
another, subsequent, place relate some of these miracles (narrated).

21. After the expulsion of the sea by this famous Saint, scil.:
Declan, whose name and renown spread throughout Erin because of his
great and diverse miracles, he commenced to build a great monastery
by the south side of the stream which flows through the island into
the sea. This monastery is illustrious and beautiful and its name is
Ardmor Declain, as we have said. After this came many persons to
Declan, drawn from the uttermost parts of Ireland, by the fame of his
holy living; they devoted themselves, soul and body to God and
Declan, binding themselves beneath his yoke and his rule. Moreover
he built himself in every place throughout the territory of the
Decies, churches and monasteries and not alone in his own territory
(did he build) but in other regions of Ireland under tribute to him.
Great too were the multitudes (thousands) of men and women who were
under his spiritual sway and rule, in the places we have referred to,
throughout Ireland, where happily they passed their lives. He
ordained some of his disciples bishops and appointed them in these
places to sow the seed of faith and religion therein. Gentleness and
charity manifested themselves in Declan to such an extent that his
disciples preferred to live under his immediate control and under his
direction as subjects than to be in authority in another monastery.

22. After this the holy renowned bishop, head of justice and faith
in the Gaelic island came into Ireland, i.e. Patrick sent by
Celestinus, the Pope. Aongus Mac Nathfrich went to meet him soon as
he heard the account of his coming. He conducted him (Patrick) with
reverence and great honour to his own royal city--to Cashel. Then
Patrick baptised him and blessed himself and his people and his city.
Patrick heard that the prince of the Decies had not been baptised and
did not believe, that there was a disagreement between the prince and
Declan and that the former refused to receive instruction from the
latter. Patrick thereupon set out to preach to the prince aforesaid.
Next, as to the four bishops we have named who had been in Rome:
Except Declan alone they were not in perfect agreement with Patrick.
It is true that subsequently to this they did enter into a league of
peace and harmonious actions with Patrick and paid him fealty.
Ciaran, however, paid him all respect and reverence and was of one
mind with him present or absent. Ailbe then, when he saw the kings
and rulers of Ireland paying homage to Patrick and going out to meet
him, came himself to Cashel, to wait on him and he also paid homage
to him (Patrick) and submitted to his jurisdiction, in presence of
the king and all others. Bear in mind it was Ailbe whom the other
holy bishops had elected their superior. He therefore came first to
Patrick, lest the others, on his account, should offer opposition to
Patrick, and also that by his example the others might be more easily
drawn to his jurisdiction and rule. Bishop Ibar however would on no
account consent to be subject to Patrick, for it was displeasing to
him that a foreigner should be patron of Ireland. It happened that
Patrick in his origin was of the Britons and he was nurtured in
Ireland having been sold to bondage in his boyhood. There arose
misunderstanding and dissension between Patrick and Bishop Ibar at
first, although (eventually), by intervention of the angel of peace,
they formed a mutual fellowship and brotherly compact and they
remained in agreement for ever after. But Declan did not wish to
disagree at all with Patrick for they had formed a mutual bond of
friendship on the Italian highway and it is thus the angel commanded
him to go to Patrick and obey him:--

23. The angel of God came to Declan and said to him "Go quickly to
Patrick and prevent him cursing your kindred and country, for
to-night, in the plain which is called Inneoin, he is fasting against
the king, and if he curses your people they shall be accursed for
ever." Thereupon Declan set out in haste by direction of the angel
to Inneoin, i.e. the place which is in the centre of the plain of
Femhin in the northern part of the Decies. He crossed Slieve Gua
[Knockmaeldown] and over the Suir and arrived on the following
morning at the place where Patrick was. When Patrick and his
disciples heard that Declan was there they welcomed him warmly for
they had been told he would not come. Moreover Patrick and his
people received him with great honour. But Declan made obeisance to
Patrick and besought him earnestly that he should not execrate his
people and that he should not curse them nor the land in which they
dwelt, and he promised to allow Patrick do as he pleased. And
Patrick replied:--"On account of your prayer not only shall I not
curse them but I shall give them a blessing." Declan went thereupon
to the place where was the king of Decies who was a neighbour of his.
But he contemned Patrick and he would not believe him even at the
request of Declan. Moreover Declan promised rewards to him if he
would go to Patrick to receive baptism at his hands and assent to the
faith. But he would not assent on any account. When Declan saw
this, scil.:--that the king of the Decies, who was named Ledban, was
obstinate in his infidelity and in his devilry--through fear lest
Patrick should curse his race and country--he (Declan) turned to the
assembly and addressed them:--"Separate yourselves from this accursed
man lest you become yourselves accursed on his account, for I have
myself baptised and blessed you, but come you," said he, "with us, to
Patrick, whom God has sent to bless you, for he has been chosen
Archbishop and chief Patron of all Erin; moreover, I have a right to
my own patrimony and to be king over you as that man (Ledban) has
been." At this speech they all arose and followed Declan who brought
them into the presence of Patrick and said to the latter:--See how
the whole people of the Deisi have come with me as their Lord to thee
and they have left the accursed prince whose subjects they have been,
and behold they are ready to reverence you and to obey you for it is
from me they have received baptism." At this Patrick rose up with
his followers and he blessed the people of the Deisi and not them
alone, but their woods and water and land. Whereupon the chiefs and
nobles of the Deisi said:--"Who will be King or Lord over us now?"
And Declan replied:--"I am your lord and whomsoever I shall appoint
offer you as lord, Patrick and all of us will bless, and he shall be
king over you all." And he whom Declan appointed was Feargal
MacCormac a certain young man of the nation of the Deisi who was a
kinsman of Declan himself. He (Declan) set him in the midst of the
assembly in the king's place and he was pleasing to all. Whereupon
Patrick and Declan blessed him and each of them apart proclaimed him
chieftain. Patrick moreover promised the young man that he should be
brave and strong in battle, that the land should be fruitful during
his reign. Thus have the kings of the Deisi always been.

24. After these things Declan and Feargal Mac Cormac (king of the
Deisi) and his people gave a large area of land to Patrick in the
neighbourhood of Magh Feimhin and this belongs to his successors ever
since and great lordship there. And the place which was given over
to him is not far from the Suir. There is a great very clear
fountain there which is called "Patrick's Well" and this was dear to
Patrick. After this, with blessing, they took leave of one another
and Patrick returned to Cashel to Aongus Mac Natfrich and Declan went
with him.

25. A miracle was wrought at that time on Declan through the
intercession and prayers of Patrick for as Declan was walking
carelessly along he trod upon a piece of sharp iron which cut his
foot so that blood flowed freely and Declan began to limp. Ailbe of
Emly was present at this miracle and Sechnall a bishop of Patrick's
and a holy and wise man, and he is said to be the first bishop buried
in Ireland. The wound which Declan had received grieved them very
much. Patrick was informed of the accident and was grieved thereat.
He said:--"Heal, O Master (i.e. God), the foot of your own servant
who bears much toil and hardship on your account." Patrick laid his
hand on the wounded foot and made over it the sign of the cross when
immediately the flow of blood ceased, the lips of the wound united, a
cicatrix formed upon it and a cure was effected. Then Declan rose up
with his foot healed and joined in praising God. The soldiers and
fighting men who were present cried out loudly, blessing God and the

26. As Patrick and the saints were in Cashel, i.e. Ailbe and Declan
with their disciples, in the territory of Aongus Mac Nathfrich, they
made much progress against paganism and errors in faith and they
converted them (the pagans) to Christianity. It was ordained by
Patrick and Aongus Mac Natfrich in presence of the assembly, that the
Archbishopric of Munster should belong to Ailbe, and to Declan, in
like manner, was ordained (committed) his own race, i.e. the Deisi,
whom he had converted to be his parish and his episcopate. As the
Irish should serve Patrick, so should the Deisi serve Declan as their
patron, and Patrick made the "rann":--

"Humble Ailbe the Patrick of Munster, greater than any saying,
Declan, Patrick of the Deisi--the Decies to Declan for ever."

This is equivalent to saying that Ailbe was a second Patrick and that
Declan was a second Patrick of the Decies. After that, when the king
had bidden them farewell and they had all taken leave of one another,
the saints returned to their respective territories to sow therein
the seed of faith.

27. Declan and Ferghal Mac Cormac, king of the Deisi, with his army
and followers, met one another at Indeoin and they made still more
strong on the people the bond of Christian obligation. The king we
have already mentioned, scil.:--Ledban, the recusant to the Christian
name, was rejected of all and he came to nothing, leaving no
knowledge (memory) of his history, as is written of the enemies of
the faith:--"Their memory perisheth like a sound" [Psalm 9:7].
Moreover Declan and Fergal and the chief men of the Deisi decreed
this as the place where the king of the Deisi should be inaugurated
for ever thenceforward, because it was there Patrick and Declan
blessed the king, Fergal; moreover tradition states that it was there
the kings were crowned and ruled over the Deisi in pagan times.

28. At that time there broke out a dreadful plague in Munster and it
was more deadly in Cashel than elsewhere. Thus it affected those
whom it attacked: it first changed their colour to yellow and then
killed them. Now Aongus had, in a stone fort called "Rath na
nIrlann," on the western side of Cashel, seven noble hostages. It
happened that in one and the same night they all died of the plague.
The king was much affected thereat and he gave orders to have the
fact concealed lest it should bring disgrace or even war upon him,
for the hostages were scions of the strongest and most powerful
families in Munster. On the morrow however Declan came to Cashel and
talked with Aonghus. The king welcomed him heartily and addressing
him said to him in presence of persons of his court, "I pray you,
Declan, servant of God, that in the name of Christ you would raise to
life for me the seven hostages whom I held in bondage from the
chieftains of Munster. They have died from the plague of which you
hear, and I fear their fathers will raise war and rebellion against
me, for they are men of strength and power, and indeed we are ashamed
of their death, for they will say that it is we ourselves who killed
them." Declan answered the king, saying to him:--"Such a matter as
this--to raise one to life from death--belongs to Omnipotence
alone--but I shall do whatever is in my power. I go where the bodies
lie and pray to God for them and let Him do in their regard what
seems best to Him." Next, Declan, with a multitude and his disciples
together with the king's councillors, went to the place where the
corpses of the young men lay. The king followed after them until he
came in sight of the bodies. Declan, full of divine faith, entered
the house wherein they lay and he sprinkled holy water over them and
prayed for them in the presence of all, saying:--"O Lord Jesus
Christ, only Son of the living God, for thine own name's sake wake
the dead that they may be strengthened in the Catholic faith through
our instrumentality." Thereupon, at Declan's prayer, the group (of
corpses) revived and they moved their eyelids and Declan said to them
"In the name of Christ, our Saviour, stand up and bless and glorify
God." And at his words they rose up immediately and spoke to all.
Declan then announced to the king that they were alive and well.
When people saw this remarkable miracle they all gave glory and
praise to God. The fame of Declan thereupon spread throughout Erin
and the king rejoiced for restoration of his hostages.

29. After this the people of Cashel besought Bishop Declan to bless
their city and banish the plague from them and to intercede with God
for those stricken with sickness who could not escape from its toils.
Declan seeing the people's faith prayed to God and signed with the
sign of Redemption the four points of the compass. As he concluded,
there was verified the saying of Christ to His disciples when leaving
them and going to heaven:--"Super aegros imponent manus et bene
habebunt" [Mark 16:18] ("I shall place my hands on the sick and they
shall be healed"). Soon as Declan had made the sign of the cross
each one who was ill became well and not alone were these restored to
health but (all the sick) of the whole region round about in
whatsoever place there were persons ailing. Moreover the plague was
banished from every place and all rejoiced greatly thereat as well as
on account of the resurrection of the dead men we have narrated. The
king thereupon ordered tribute and honour to Declan and his
successors from himself and from every king who should hold Cashel
ever after. Upon this the glorious bishop Declan blessed Aongus
together with his city and people and returned back to his own place.

30. One night Declan was a guest at the house of a wealthy man who
dwelt in the southern part of Magh Femhin; this is the kind of person
his host was, scil.:--a pagan who rejected the true faith, and his
name was Dercan. He resolved to amuse himself at the Christians'
expense; accordingly he ordered his servants to kill a dog secretly,
to cut off its head and feet and to bury them in the earth and then
to cook the flesh properly and to set it before Declan and his
company as their meal. Moreover he directed that the dog should be
so fat that his flesh might pass as mutton. When, in due course, it
was cooked, the flesh, together with bread and other food, was laid
before Declan and his following. At that moment Declan had fallen
asleep but he was aroused by his disciples that he might bless their
meal. He observed to them:--"Indeed I see, connected with this meat,
the ministry of the devil." Whereupon he questioned the waiters as
to the meat--what kind it was and whence procured. They replied:
"Our master ordered us to kill a fat ram for you and we have done as
he commanded." Declan said, "Our Master is Jesus Christ and may He
show us what it is that connects the ministry of Satan with this meat
and preserve thy servants from eating forbidden food." As he spoke
thus Declan saw in the meat the claw of a dog, for, without intending
it, they had boiled one quarter of the dog with its paw adhering;
they thought they had buried it (the incriminating limb) with the
other paws. Declan exclaimed, "This is not a sheep's but a dog's
foot." When the attendants heard this they went at once to their
master and related the matter to him. Then Dercan came to Declan,
accepted his faith and received Baptism at his hands, giving himself
and his posterity to Declan for ever. Moreover he gave his homestead
to Declan and his people were baptised. After this Dercan requested
that Declan should bless something in his homestead which might
remain as a memorial of him (Dercan) for ever. Then Declan blessed a
bell which he perceived there and its name is Clog-Dhercain
("Dercan's Bell"); moreover, he declared: "I endow it with this
virtue (power) that if the king of Decies march around it when going
to battle, against his enemies, or to punish violation of his rights,
he shall return safely and with victory." This promise has been
frequently fulfilled, but proud (men) undertaking battle or conflict
unjustly even if they march around it do not obtain victory but
success remains with the enemy. The name of that homestead was
Teach-Dhercain ("Dercain's House") and its name now is Coningean,
from the claw [con] of the hound or dog aforesaid. To this place
came the saintly concourse, scil:--Coman and Ultan, MacErc and Mocoba
and Maclaisren, who dedicated themselves to (the service of) God and
placed themselves under the spiritual rule and sway of Declan.

31. Thereupon Declan established a monastery in that place,
scil.--in Coningin--and he placed there this holy community with a
further band of disciples. Ultan however he took away with him to
the place whither he went.

32. On another (subsequent) occasion Declan visited Bregia, i.e.
the original territory which belonged to his race previous to the
expulsion of his ancestors. There he was treated with particular
honour by the king of Tara and by the chieftains of Meath by whom he
was beloved, since it was from themselves (their tribe and territory)
that his forbears had gone out, for that region was the patrimony of
his race and within it lies Tara. Declan instituted therein a
monastery of Canons, on land which he received from the king, and it
is from him the place is named. Moreover he left therein a relic or
illuminated book and a famous gospel which he was accustomed to carry
always with him. The gospel is still preserved with much honour in
the place and miracles are wrought through it. After this again he
turned towards Munster.

33. Declan was once travelling through Ossory when he wished to
remain for the night in a certain village. But the villagers not
only did not receive him but actually drove him forth by force of
arms. The saint however prayed to God that it might happen to them
what the Sacred Scripture says, "Vengeance is mine I will repay"
[Deuteronomy 32:35]. The dwellers in the village, who numbered
sixty, died that same night with the exception of two men and ten
women to whom the conduct of the others towards the saint had been
displeasing. On the morrow these men and women came humbly to the
place where Declan was and they told him--what he himself
foreknew--how miserably the others had died. They themselves did
penance and they bestowed on Declan a suitable site whereon he built
a monastery and he got another piece of land and had the dead buried
where he built the monastery. The name of that monastery is
Cill-Colm-Dearg. This Colm-Dearg was a kind, holy man and a disciple
of Declan. He was of East Leinster, i.e. of the Dal Meiscorb, and it
is from him that the monastery is named. When he (Declan) had
completed that place he came to his own territory again, i.e. to the

34. On a certain day Declan came to a place called Ait-Breasail and
the dwellers therein would not allow him to enter their village;
moreover they hid all their boats so that he could not go into his
own island, for they hated him very much. In consideration however
of the sanctity of his servant, who prayed in patience, God the
All-Powerful turned the sea into dry land as you have already heard.
Declan passed the night in an empty stable out in the plain and the
people of the village did not give him even a fire. Whereupon,
appropriately the anger of God fell on them, who had not compassion
enough to supply the disciple of God with a fire. There came fire
from heaven on them to consume them all [together with their]
homestead and village, so that the place has been ever since a
wilderness accursed, as the prophet writes: "civitates eorum
destruxisti" [Psalm 9:7], i.e. the dwellings of the unmerciful are
laid waste.

35. On yet another occasion Declan was in his own region--travelling
over Slieve Gua in the Decies, when his horse from some cause got
lame so that he could proceed no further. Declan however, seeing a
herd of deer roaming the mountain close to him, said to one of his
people: "Go, and bring me for my chariot one of these deer to replace
my horse and take with you this halter for him." Without any
misgiving the disciple went on till he reached the deer which waited
quietly for him. He chose the animal which was largest and therefore
strongest, and, bringing him back, yoked him to the chariot. The
deer thereupon obediently and without effort carried Bishop Declan
till he came to Magh Femhin, where, when he reached a house of
entertainment, the saint unloosed the stag and bade him to go free as
was his nature. Accordingly, at the command of the saintly man and
in the presence of all, the stag returned on the same road back (to
the mountain). Dormanach is the name of the man aforesaid who
brought the stag to Declan and him Declan blessed and gave him a
piece of land on the north of Decies close by the Eoghanacht and his
posterity live till now in that place.

36. On another occasion, Declan, accompanied, as usual, by a large
following, was travelling, when one member of the party fell on the
road and broke his shin bone in twain. Declan saw the accident and,
pitying the injured man, he directed an individual of the company to
bandage the broken limb so that the sufferer might not die through
excess of pain and loss of blood. All replied that they could not
endure to dress the wound owing to their horror thereof. But there
was one of the company, Daluadh by name, who faced the wound boldly
and confidently and said: "In the name of Christ and of Declan our
patron I shall be surgeon to this foot"; and he said that jestingly.
Nevertheless he bandaged the foot carefully and blessed it aright in
the name of God and Declan, and in a little while the wound healed
and they all gave praise to God. Then Declan said to Daluadh: "You
promised to be surgeon to that foot in Christ's name and in mine and
God has vouchsafed to heal it at these words: on this account you
will be a true physician for ever and your children and your seed
after you for ever shall also possess the healing art, and whomsoever
they shall practise healing upon in God's name and mine, provided
there be no hatred [in their hearts] nor too great covetousness of a
physician's fee to him, God and myself shall send relief." This
promise of Declan has been fulfilled in the case of that family.

37. On another occasion, as Declan was travelling in the northern
part of Magh Femhin beside the Suir, he met there a man who was
carrying a little infant to get it baptised. Declan said to the
people [his "muinntear," or following]: "Wait here till I baptise
yonder child," for it was revealed by the Holy Ghost to him that he
[the babe] should serve God. The attendant replied to him that they
had neither a vessel nor salt for the baptism. Declan said: "We have
a wide vessel, the Suir, and God will send us salt, for this child is
destined to become holy and wonderful [in his works]." Thereupon
Declan took up a fistful of earth and, making prayer in his heart to
God, he signed the clay with the sign of the cross of redemption. It
(the handful of earth) became white, dry salt, and all, on seeing it,
gave thanks and honour to God and Declan. The infant was baptised
there and the name of Ciaran given him. Declan said: "Bring up my
spiritual son carefully and send him, at a fitting age, for education
to a holy man who is well instructed in the faith for he will become
a shining bright pillar in the Church." And it was this child,
Ciaran Mac Eochaidh, who founded in after years a famous monastery
(from which he migrated to heaven) and another place (monastery)
besides. He worked many miracles and holy signs and this is the name
of his monastery Tiprut [Tubrid] and this is where it is:--in the
western part of the Decies in Ui Faithe between Slieve Grot [Galtee]
and Sieve Cua and it is within the bishopric of Declan.

38. On another day there came a woman to Declan's monastery not far
from the city where she dwelt. She committed a theft that day in
Declan's monastery as she had often done previously, and this is the
thing she stole--a "habellum" [possibly an item of tribute]; she
departed homewards taking it with her and there met her a group of
people on the highway, and the earth, in their presence, swallowed
her up, and she cast out the tabellum from her bosom and it was
quickly turned into a stone which the wayfarers took and brought with
them to Declan. Declan himself had in supernatural vision seen all
that happened to the woman in punishment of her theft, and the name
of Declan was magnified owing to those marvels so that fear took
possession of all-those present and those absent. The stone in
question remains still in Declan's graveyard in his own town of
Ardmore-Declain, where it stands on an elevated place in memory of
this miracle.

39. A rich man named Fintan was childless, for his wife was barren
for many years. He himself, with his wife, visited Declan and
promised large alms and performance of good works provided he
(Declan) would pray that they might have children: they held it as
certain that if Declan but prayed for them God would grant them
children. Declan therefore, praying to God and blessing the pair,
said: "Proceed to your home and through God's bounty you shall have
offspring." The couple returned home, with great joy for the
blessing and for the promise of the offspring. The following night,
Fintan lay with his wife and she conceived and brought forth twin
sons, scil.: Fiacha and Aodh, who, together with their children and
descendants were under tribute and service to God and Declan.

40. When it was made known to a certain holy man, scil.:--Ailbe of
Emly Iubar, chief bishop of Munster, that his last days had come, he
said to his disciples: "Beloved brethren, I wish, before I die, to
visit my very dear fellow worker, scil.:--Declan." After this Ailbe
set out on the journey and an angel of God came to Declan notifying
him that Ailbe was on his way to visit him. On the angel's
notification Declan ordered his disciples to prepare the house for
Ailbe's coming. He himself went to meet Ailbe as far as the place
which is called Druim Luctraidh [Luchluachra]. Thence they came home
together and Ailbe, treated with great honour by Declan and his
people, stayed fourteen pleasant days. After that the aged saint
returned home again to his own city, scil.:--to Emly Iubar. Declan
came and many of his people, escorting Ailbe, to Druim Luchtradh, and
Ailbe bade him return to his own city. The two knew they should not
see one another in this world ever again. In taking leave of one
another, therefore, they shed plentiful tears of sorrow and they
instituted an everlasting compact and league between their successors
in that place. Ailbe moreover blessed the city of Declan, his clergy
and people and Declan did the same for Ailbe and they kissed one
another in token of love and peace and each returned to his own city.

41. On a certain day the Castle of Cinaedh, King of the Deisi, took
fire and it burned violently. It happened however that Declan was
proceeding towards the castle on some business and he was grieved to
see it burning; he flung towards it the staff to which we have
referred in connection with the drying up of the sea, and it (the
staff) flew hovering in the air with heavenly wings till it reached
the midst of the flame and the fire was immediately extinguished of
its own accord through the grace of God and virtue of the staff and
of Declan to whom it belonged. The place from which Declan cast the
staff was a long mile distant from the castle and when the king, i.e.
Cinaedh, and all the others witnessed this miracle they were filled
with amazement and gave thanks to God and to Declan when they came to
know that it was he who wrought it. Now the place where the castle
stands is not far from the Suir, i.e. on the south side of it and the
place from which Declan cast the staff is beside a ford which is in
the Suir or a stream which flows beside the monastery called Mag Laca
[Molough] which the holy virgins, daughters of the king of Decies,
have built in honour of God. There is a pile of stones and a cross
in the place to commemorate this miracle.

42. On another occasion there approached a foreign fleet towards
Declan's city and this was their design--to destroy and to plunder it
of persons and of cattle, because they (the foreigners) were people
hostile to the faith. Many members of the community ran with great
haste to tell Declan of the fleet which threatened the town and to
request him to beg the assistance of God against the invaders.
Declan knew the man amongst his own disciples who was holiest and
most abounding in grace, scil., Ultan, already mentioned, and him he
ordered to pray to God against the fleet. Ultan had pity on the
Christian people and he went instantly, at the command of Declan, in
front of the fleet and he held his left hand against it, and, on the
spot, the sea swallowed them like sacks full of lead, and the drowned
sailors were changed into large rocks which stand not far from the
mouth of the haven where they are visible (standing) high out of the
sea from that time till now. All Christians who witnessed this
rejoiced and were glad and they gave great praise and glory to God
and to Declan their own patron who caused the working of this miracle
and of many other miracles besides. Next there arose a contention
between Ultan and Declan concerning this miracle, for Ultan
attributed it to Declan and Declan credited it to Ultan; and it has
become a proverb since in Ireland when people hear of danger or
jeopardy:--"The left hand of Ultan against you (the danger)." Ultan
became, after the death of Declan, a miracle-working abbot of many
other holy monks.

43. The holy and glorious archbishop, i.e. Patrick, sent one of his
own followers to Declan with power and authority (delegation) from
the archbishop. And proceeding through the southern part of Decies
he was drowned in a river [the Lickey] there, two miles from the city
of Declan. When Declan heard this he was grieved and he said:
"Indeed it grieves me that a servant of God and of Patrick who sent
him to visit me, having travelled all over Ireland, should be drowned
in a river of my own territory. Get my chariot for me that I may go
in haste to see his corpse, so that Patrick may come to hear of the
worry and the grief I have undergone because of his disciple's
death." The body had been recovered before the arrival of Declan by
others who were close at hand and it had been placed on a bier to be
carried to Ciaran for interment. Declan however met them on the way,
when he ordered the body to be laid down on the ground. They
supposed he was about to recite the Office for the Dead. He (Declan)
advanced to the place where the bier was and lifted the sheet
covering the face. It (the face) looked dark and deformed as is
usual in the case of the drowned. He prayed to God and shed tears,
but no one heard aught of what he said. After this he commanded:--"In
the name of the Trinity, in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Ghost whose religious yoke I bear myself, arise to us for
God has given your life to me." He (the dead man) rose up
immediately at the command and he greeted Declan and all the others.
Whereupon Declan and his disciples received him with honour. At
first he was not completely cured but (was) like one convalescent
until (complete) health returned to him by degrees again. He however
accompanied Declan and remained some time with him and there was much
rejoicing in Declan's city on account of the miracle and his
(Declan's) name and fame extended over the country generally. This
disciple of Patrick was named Ballin; he returned with great joy and
he told him (Patrick) that Declan had raised him from the dead. To
many others likewise he related what had happened to him. Patrick,
in presence of many persons, hearing of the miracle gave glory and
thanks to God and the name of Declan was magnified.

44. With this extraordinary miracle wrought by Declan we wish to
conclude our discourse. The number of miracles he wrought, but which
are not written here, you are to judge and gather from what we have
written. And we wish moreover that you would understand that he
healed the infirm, that he gave sight to the eyes of the blind,
cleansed lepers, and gave "their walk" to cripples; that he obtained
hearing for the deaf, and that he healed many and various diseases in
many different places throughout Ireland--(things) which are not
written here because of their length and because they are so numerous
to record, for fear it should tire readers to hear so much said of
one particular person. On that account we shall pass them by.

45. When Declan realised that his last days were at hand and that
the time remaining to him was very short he summoned to him his own
spiritual son, scil., MacLiag (residing) in the monastery which is on
the eastern side of the Decies close to the Leinstermen in order
that, at the hour of death, he might receive the Body and Blood of
Christ and the Sacraments of the Church from his hands. Thereupon he
foretold to his disciples the day of his death and he commanded them
to bring him to his own city, for it was not there he dwelt at the
time but in a small venerable cell which he had ordered to be built
for him between the hill called Ardmore Declain and the ocean--in a
narrow place at the brink of the sea by which there flows down from
the hill above a small shining stream about which are trees and
bushes all around, and it is called Disert Declain. Thence to the
city it is a short mile and the reason why Declan used go there was
to avoid turmoil and noise so that he might be able to read and pray
and fast there. Indeed it was not easy for him to stay even there
because of the multitude of disciples and paupers and pilgrims and
beggars who followed him thither. Declan was however generous and
very sympathetic and on that account it is recorded by tradition that
a great following (of poor, &c.), generally accompanied him and that
moreover the little cell was very dear to him for the reason we have
given, and many devout people have made it their practice to dwell

46. When Declan fell ill and became weak in body, but still strong
in hope and faith and love of God, he returned to his own city--his
people and disciples and clergy surrounding him. He discoursed to
them on the commands of God and he enjoined on them to live holily
after his death, to be submissive to authority and to follow as
closely as possible the way he had marked out and to preserve his
city in a state of piety and under religious rule. And when they had
all heard the discourse it grieved them greatly to perceive, from
what he had said, he realised that in a short time he would go away
to heaven from them. But they were consoled by his gentle words and
then there came to him the holy man, to wit, MacLiag, at his own
request, already referred to. He [Declan] received the Body and
Blood of Christ and the Sacraments of the Church from his [MacLiag's]
hand--surrounded by holy men and his disciples, and he blessed his
people and his dependents and his poor, and he kissed them in token
of love and peace. Thus, having banished images and the sacrifices
to idols, having converted multitudes to the true faith, having
established monasteries and ecclesiastical orders in various places,
having spent his whole life profitably and holily, this glorious
bishop went with the angels to heaven on the ninth day of the Kalends
of August and his body was blessed and honoured with Masses and
chanting by holy men and by the people of the Decies and by his own
monks and disciples collected from every quarter at the time of his
death. He was buried with honour in his own city--in Declan's
High-Place--in the tomb which by direction of an angel he had himself
indicated--which moreover has wrought wonders and holy signs from
that time to now. He departed to the Unity of the Father and the Son
and the Holy Ghost in Saecula Saeculorum; Amen. FINIS.

The poor brother, Michael O'Clery originally copied this life of
Declan in Cashel, from the book of Eochy O'Heffernan. The date,
A.D., at which that ancient book of Eochy was written is 1582. And
the same life has now been re-written in the Convent of the Friars at
Druiske, the date, A.D., 27th February, 1629.

And this Life of St. Declan was transcribed electronically for the
public domain by Dennis McCarthy, a layman, in the city of Atlanta in
Georgia of the United States of America. He copied this life from
the 1914 translation from the Irish to the English tongue by Rev. P.
Power of University College, Cork. Dennis has completed this work on
February 27 in the year of Our Lord 1997, and prayerfully dedicated
it to the memory of his deceased siblings.


The Irish text of the "rann" from paragraph 26 reads:

Ailbe umal; Patraicc Muman, mo gacrath,
Declan, Patraicc na nDeisi: na Deisi ag Declan gan brat.

And the Latin rendering:

Albeus est humilis dixit Caephurnia proles;
Patriciusque esto hinc Ailbee Momonia.
Declanus pariter patronus Desius esto;
Inter Desenses Patriciusque suos.

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| /~ Tara \ |
| \ * | |
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The source for this text includes an introduction, Irish text &
English translation on facing pages, and notes. The introduction and
the notes are quite lengthy and should take longer to transcribe than
the English text. Except for the part of the introduction specific
to the "Life of Declan" and a few notes transplanted in brackets to
the body of the text I have not transcribed them. Due to inexperience
with the Irish language and its alphabet/font I have decided not to
attempt to transcribe the Irish text. Hopefully someone with the
appropriate talent and interest will undertake that task some day.
I have corrected the errata as indicated in the source and a few
obvious printer errors. Please note that this text is full of
variant spellings of names and words sometimes inconsistently


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