« Juvencus, C. Vettius Aquilinus Kentigern Lactantius »

Kentigern

Kentigern (Conthigernus, Cyndeyrn, Kentegernus, Quentagern, Mongah, Munghu, Mungo, bp. of Glasgow and confessor). St. Kentigern shares, with St. Ninian and St. Columba, the highest honour among the early evangelizers of Scotland. The time, extent, and sphere of St. Kentigern's missionary enterprise are sufficiently recognized. Strictly speaking, there is only one Life of St. Kentigern known, that by Joceline of Furness, written probably c. 1180, for bp. Joceline of Glasgow (A.D. 1174–1199), from two earlier memoirs, but there is an older fragment which was probably one of the two used by him. From these all others are derived.

St. Kentigern, perhaps better and more popularly known as St. Mungo, was a Strathclyde Briton. His parentage is doubtful. He was born at Culross in Perthshire. From his master there he secretly departed, and travelling westward, crossing the Forth probably near Alloa, arrived at Carnock near Stirling, and thence was led by the oxen which carried the corpse of Fregus to Cathures, now Glasgow, where St. Ninian had already consecrated a cemetery. There he took up the unfinished work of St. Ninian. The picture presented of the time and field of his labour is a deplorable one. He was consecrated by a single bishop, called for the purpose from Ireland (c. 11). He was raised to the episcopate in his 25th year (c. 12), but all we know of the date is that it was before his departure to Wales. Ussher places it in 540, which is accepted by Stubbs (Reg. Sacr. Angl. 157). At Glasgow he formed a monastic school, and a beautiful account is given (cc. 12–18) of the man, his austere life and humble piety. He had a wide province, which he traversed mostly on foot, and his message was to the lapsed from the faith and to the morally degraded, as well as to the ignorant pagans. The disorders in the kingdom, and probably the increasing power of the pagan faction, induced the bishop to leave his see and find refuge in Wales a few years after his consecration (A.D. 543, Ussher). On his way he spent some time in Cumberland, where his work is marked by churches still dedicated to him (c. 23); thence he advanced as far as Menevia, where he visited St. David, and then appears to have returned northwards, settling for a time on the banks of the Clwyd and building his church at its confluence with the Elwy, at Llanelwy, now St. Asaph's, in Flintshire (cc. 23–25), c. 545 (Stubbs). The monastery which he erected at Llanelwy was soon filled. Old and young, rich and poor, prince and peasant, flocked to it, and we have a very graphic picture of how monasteries were raised in ancient days before stone was used for such erections, and how the laus perennis was carried out in large communities, such as this must have been with its 965 brethren in their "threefold division of religious observance" (cc. 24–25).

Meanwhile the sovereign had changed, and, as a direct consequence, the religious feeling of the kingdom of Strathclyde. Rhydderch Hael, son of Tudwal Tudglud, had come to the throne, and at the battle of Ardderyd, (now Arthuret, on the Esk near Carlisle), had defeated (573) the heathen party under Gwendolen, at Ceidio, whereby his kingdom was made to extend from the Clyde to the Mersey, and thus to the confines of St. Kentigern's Welsh see. The first-fruit of this battle was the recall of St. Kentigern to his Cumbrian diocese by Rhydderch, who, himself of Irish extraction, had received the Christian faith during his exile in Ireland. This date is of importance, giving one fixed point in St. Kentigern's chronology. Rhydderch's call he at once obeyed; and consecrating his disciple St. Asaph to fill his place in N. Wales, returned to Strathclyde, but went no farther than Holdelm (now Hoddam, Dumfriesshire), where for some years (probably eight) he had his episcopal seat. His leaving Llanelwy was a cause of much lamentation, and a great number of the monks accompanied him. At Hoddam a joyous welcome was given to the saint by king Rhydderch, who is represented (cc. 31–33) as going out with his people to meet him and as conceding to him all power over himself and his posterity. At Glasgow the still more famous meeting took place between St. Columba and St. Kentigern. The districts they evangelized were contiguous. Their meeting was typical of the two currents of Christian faith and practice running alongside and overflowing the land—viz. the Irish and the Welsh—which were to come in contact again at the great rampart of the Grampian range and give their character to the Scotic and the Pictish churches. The dedications to the N. of Glasgow, and on Deeside in Aberdeenshire, make it probable that St. Kentigern had extended his labours into the regions of the South Picts, and up, at least, to the dividing line between them and the Northern. His death is variously dated from 601 to 614; the Welsh authorities generally giving 612, as in Annales Cambriae; but the true date is probably 603 (Skene, Celt. Scot. ii. 197 n.; Bp. Forbes, Lives, etc., 369–370). He died on Sun., Jan. 13, and was buried where the cathedral of Glasgow now stands. The favourite name in dedications is St. Mungo. There are none to him in Wales, but there are in Cumberland at Aspatria, Bromfield, Caldbeck, Crosfeld (in Kirkland), Crosthwaite, Grinsdale, Lethington, Mungrisedale (in Greystock), and Sowerby. His chief dedication and episcopal seat, which, as in like cases, was near, but not quite at the ancient civil capital, Alclwyd or Dumbarton, is the cathedral church of Glasgow; and there appears to have been a Little St Mungo's kirk outside the city walls.

[J.G.]

« Juvencus, C. Vettius Aquilinus Kentigern Lactantius »





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