Natus est Ergo Hic beatus Columbanus



Some of the works of Columbanus provide access to a body of knowledge and learning in ancient Ireland going back many centuries before the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century.

Columbanus’ Links to Leinster Clans & Intelligentsia, with an Expansion on his Connections with Sinell.


As the great 17th century genealogogist and historian Dubhaltach MacFirbisigh has indicated, the Ó Corcráin's were located on Claoininish, now Cleenish,  which, together with Baile Biadhtach and Aireadh Brosca which is now called Derrybrusk, ‘were granted to Sinell son of Manacus by the king of Airghialla to found a church’ sometime in the 6th century, according to old registers in the Diocese of Clogher, thereby earning the description of 'Monks-Land' or 'Tír-Manach' which is contracted as Termon. Edenamanaghan, or ‘Edhan-Manach', is alongside Derrybrusk a mile east of Cleenish. Columbanus of Bobbio, as was mentioned earlier, learned his Latin, Greek, and Hebrew at these foundations before he set out on his European mission around 589 AD. Munna of Taghmon in Wexford has also been cited as one of this Sinell’s students.


Sinell’s father, ‘Manacus’ in Latin,  sounds like the man named Manach in Irish who came up from Kilkenny. The manuscript Rawlinson B 506 in the Bodleian Library in Oxford was copied by the Co Cavan scribe Seán Ó Cianán who died in 1373 for Ághamh Ó Cianán, no doubt from some of the old parchments which  were in the possession of breitheamh Breslin three centuries later. These extracts bear a similarity to the Book of Glendalough but are not exactly the same. The Bodleian have now published this manuscript on the internet from which these images have been downloaded. In folio 3v column ‘a’ it says ‘Manach of Ulster, inter-woven people they all are, they conquered the kindred of Araide of Monach. Three sons Fec son of Daire Bairaid son of Cathair Mór; Breacan, Monach, Breon; from these the sons of Bairrice ... [were] Manach of Ulster; from them are the Manachs of Lough Erne, etc’





The earlier genealogical tracts of the Book of Glendalough corroborate Manach’s Uí Bairrice pedigree, where folio 128 b has


The Clan of Aillella Mór Mac Breccáin is of the Manach’s of Lough Erne and the Manachs of Ulster i.e. Manach son of Ailella Mór son of Féicc son of  Breccáin son of Dáire Barraich son of Cathair. ... They came out of their own country because Énna [Kinsella] son of the king of Leinster wounded Eochaid Gunnat of Ulster. Of Ailella’s family was Columcille’s mother, i.e. Eithne daughter of Óengus (otherwise Dimma) son of Nóe son of Fechin son of Carpre the File [Poet] son of Aillella Mór.


Since Columcille’s ancestor Cairpre was a ‘file’, a person embracing the learning of  historians and judges as well as druids, his attitude in their favour is more understandable.


The following chart drawn from these references should go towards clarifying the time, spatial, and relationship aspects.


                                Cathair Mór


Fiachach                                                              DáireBarrach(UíBairriche*)

       |                                                                                        |

Bresail Bélaig (K.Leinster, AU + 435)                         Fiacc

       |                                                                         ______|____________________

Labrada                                                               Breccáin#(UíBreccáin)            AilillMór$

       |____________________                                      |________                            |

ÉnnaCeinselaig##(+489)   Drón                   MacErcca*   Coirpre#                  Manach

       |                                                                               |__________                       |

Crimthind##                                                         Oengusa*           Fiacc**,         Sinell of

       |                                                                               |                  of Sletty        Cleenish

Náth Í                                                                     Eachach Guinich*

       |                                                                                        |

Cormac Camshróin                                                          Diarmata

      _____|_______________                                                 |

Náth Í                                     Coluim                                  Cormac

|                                               |                                               |

Senaig                                  Echach Clithair                   Brocáin

|                                               |                                               |

Ségíne of                             Falbe of                Epscop Aed of Sletty (AT + 698)

Gabú                                     Rathvilly


#The Breccáin and Coirpre whose Rath at Clar that Patrick stayed at according to the Tripartite Life of Patrick, were in fact father and son, and Fíacc of Sletty was Breccáin's grandson. Breccán’s name is remembered in the placename of Clarabreckan, near Churchclara where the site of the church Patrick founded on his visit there is still to be seen, between the towns of Gowran and Kilkenny.

(##, *, are cited separately in a memo in the Book of Armagh, see Thes Vol II p.364).

**Author of Fíacc’s Hymn. He is said to have composed it after Patrick died (493 AD) and during the reign of Lugaid, who died in 507 AD. Within 200 years after Patrick ordained Fíacc, it is said in the Book of Leinster that his kinsman, Bishop Aed of Sletty, dictated those events to Muirchú, and the latter's account was transcribed into the Book of Armagh in 807 AD.

$Ailill Mór migrated north and his son Monach established the Manaigh of Lough Erne and of the Ulaid; this was Sinell’s father. Eithne, Columcille's mother, was a descendent of his. Another son, Cairpre the File, settled in Mágh Réin in Leitrim, whose people, with the MasRaighe, slew Columcille's grandfather Conall Gulban at Fenagh in 464 AD. Obviously Aillill Mór's branch of the Uí Barraiche were allies of the Connachta in their 5th century campaign in the north west.


To amplify these circumstances further, there is another piece in the Book of Leinster on 'Etsecht Luin Garad'. Apparently on the night of the disappearance of Lon Garad Cosfinn (Cosfinn’s Provisioning Store), the libraries of Ireland, its gospels and learned books, disappeared from Dysert Garad in Maigh Garad in hUí Fairchellaig in north Ossary, and from Cill Gabra in Slievemargy, below which is Mágh Léne where Cummian held his synod in 630 (both in north Kilkenny). It seems that the disappearance of the learned books of Ireland from Cill Gabra, could well have been connected with Ailill Mór and his descendants' relocation to the north west and Sinell’s new establishment on Cleenish. As shown above, he was a near relative of Fíacc of Sletty, which is beside Mág Léne. In the glosses on Fíacc’s Hymn the story is told that Patrick approached the chief druid Dubhthach, whom he had baptised, ‘for a man of good family and of good character, with only one wife and child’ for ordination. Dubhtach recommends his brightest pupil: ‘Fíacc is the man and he has gone on a circuit in Connacht. Fíacc turned up forthwith, and he was ordained a bishop there and then due to his high druidic learning ! To ‘go on a circuit’ meant to afirm jurisdiction over a territory, and since Fíacc was a near relative of Aillill Mór, he was most likely part of the Uí Bairrice retinue carrying out this task in their new acquisitions. One can draw the conclusion that it was at this time that Aillill became the new king of the area which included Cleenish. The territories then being colonised were to later form part the new kingdom of Breifne which itself became part of Connacht. From the context, Fíacc could not have been older than his mid twenties at this time, which was shortly after the arrival of Patrick’s mission in April 456. His father Cairpre and his grandfather Breccán, Aillill’s brother who was Sinell’s grandfather, were still alive. The record of the grant of Cleenish states that it was made by the king to Monach’s son which implies that Monach was not yet the king, and that Aillill was still alive when it was made. Fíacc’s  later establishment of a school at Dinn Gabla near his own home might also have been linked to the disappearance of the books, and this is where he wrote his hymn during the reign of the High King Lughaid who died in 507, so Fíacc would have been about 80 when he died, and the texts do assert that he was quite old. Sinell is on the same level of the parallel generational line, so that it was unlikely that his death could have been more than 50 years later, or about 557 at the latest, giving his birth about 480. The Cleenish grant could then have been about 505, when Aillill would have had to have been near his 80’s in order for him to be on a circuit of his new territories at about 30 years of age in the late Spring of  456 AD.


In a poem attributed to Columbanus which he wrote to Fidolius he says he had reached his ‘eighteenth Olympiad’. Walker preferred to take this period to mean the four year periods of the Greeks rather than the five used by Columbanus’ fellow Latin poets. According to himself he had reached either his 68th or 85th year (i.e. either 17 X 4 or 17 X 5) when he composed the poem, and as he emphasises his advanced age in those lines, and was more likely to be using the Latin convention, 85 seems preferable. That makes him born by 530 AD, and would give him an age of up to 27 when Jonas says he was composing instructional poems under Abbott Sinell’s direction at about the time of Sinell’s death, the event which may have prompted him to further his education under Comgall who founded his monastery at Bangor in 559 according to the Annals of Ulster. I am grateful to Dr Aiden Breen for pointing out (email Apr 2012) that of the earliest surviving manuscripts of Jonas’ Life of Columbanus “only three MSS read 'trigesimum'. The rest quite definitely read the totally impossible 'vigesimum'”, i.e. he was in his thirtieth ('trigesimum'), or alternatively his twenthieth ('vigesimum'), year when he left Ireland for the Continent. I don’t believe neither age could be plausible chronologically. Jonas was able to interview some of Columbanus' fellow travellers a full generation after Columbanus died, which would suggest that those who survived him until then would have been teenagers had they been with a Columbanus in his forties when leaving Ireland. However, one of them, Gall, is said to have been in his nineties when he died about 645, so I reckon he was in his forties when they emigrated. I suggest Jonas' Irish informant is very likely to have used some Hiberno-Latin version of the Old Irish 'trí fichit' (i.e. ‘three twenties’ = 60), something like 'tres vicesima', which may have confused either Jonas or those who later copied him. Columbanus was very probably 60 years of age when he arrived in Gaul about 589.




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Codici Bobbiesi is a work published in Milan in 1907. There are two Volumes, the second has approx 100 plates of MSS brought from Columbans' monastery at Bobbio to Turin in the 17th cent. 175 copies of the Codici were printed, and it is now very rare indeed. Up until now, it has been the only place to see images of some these MSS.

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