St. Comgall

comgallOne of the most illustrious founders of monastic orders in Ireland. He was born of noble parents in the north of Ulster, in 516, and was brought up under St. Fintan, in his monastery of Cluain-Aidhnech, at the foot of the Bladmahills, from whence arise two rivers the Barrow and Nore, in the Queen”s County.

He came out of that school of piety and monastic discipline an accomplished master, and founded, about the year 550, the great abbey of Benchor or Bangor, in the county of Down, which was the most numerous and most celebrated of all monasteries of Ireland, as that of Bangor, in North Wales, was the most considerable among the Britons, which was in a flourishing condition soon after the death of St. Dubritius, about the middle of the sixth century.

Camden is mistaken when he writes that St. Comgall first instituted monks in Ireland; it being certain that Saint Patrick himself had founded monasteries there, having perhaps learned the monastic rule of St. Martin in France. But St. Comgall exceedingly propagated that state in Ireland. He is said to have governed in Benchor and other houses three thousand monks: all which religious men were employed in tillage or other manual labor. Colomban, who was his disciple at Benchor, settled his rule in Britain, France, and Italy; and many other abbots, bishops, and saints, came out of his nursery.

All the holy men of that age fought his friendship and acquaintance, and the ancient writers highly extol his sanctity and prudence. Notker says, he was, in an extraordinary manner, the heir of the virtues and merits of St. Columba, or Columbkill. Jonas, in the life of St. Columban, and St. Bernard in that of St. Malachi, are very profuse in his commendations. The latter says, that the monastery of Benchor having been long before destroyed by pirates, St. Malachi restored it, because the bodies of many saints reposed there. Usher thinks St. Comgall to have been the same with St. Congellus.

Seven years after he had founded Benchor, he went to Wales, and there built a monastery, in a place then called the Land of Heth. On his return to Ireland he founded another monastery, called Cell-Comgail, now Saynkille, at present annexed to the archbishopric of Dublin. He died on the 10th of May, in 601.

(Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints)

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