Saint of the Day – 12 July – Saint Colmán of Cloyne (522-600) Priest, (possibly Bishop), Monk, Founder, Poet, known as the Royal Poet of Munster. Born on 15 October 522 at Munster, Ireland and died on 24 November in the year 600 (aged 78). Patronage – Diocese of Cloyne and of its Cathedral in Cóbh. Also known as Colm, Colmán of Conpriest, Colmán mac Léníne. St Colmán is also venerated on 24 November.
No hagiographical Life is known to have been written for Colmán but various aspects of his life are presented in different types of sources, such as Irish annals, genealogies and martyrologies.
Irish genealogies generally agree that Colmán had a father called Lénín. Through his father, Colmán appears to have been descended from the Rothrige, an obscure people who are known elsewhere as a subject people of the Déisi of Munster.
Colmán is remembered as the Founder of the Monastery at Cluain Uama, now Cloyne (Co. Cork, Ireland), in Munster. Cloyne appears to have been his earliest settlement. The Cathedral and round tower are situated on a limestone eminence in the midst of the valley, surrounded by rich meadows. In the rock is the cave extending in various branches underground to a great distance, from which the Town derives its name. Here it is that Colman took up his abode as a place of security and the remains of his primitive Oratory, known as Colman’s Chapel were still to be seen in 1813. Colmán also founded a Monastery, at what would become Killagha Abbey in County Kerry.
Further details of his life are not documented in writing but the connection of many places in counties Cork and Limerick with his name to this day proves the reality of his labours. The tenth-century Triads describes Cloyne as an important schoo of learning.
Colmán is credited with extraordinary poetic powers, being styled by his contemporaries ‘royal poet of Munster. Several of his Irish poems are still extant, notably a metrical panegyric on Saint Brendan.
It is unclear whether he was brought up as a Christian but what is sure ,is that he was educated and became a bard, which required a special education – (in order to reach the highest level (12 years of study were required.) As a member of the class of bard, he became attached to the Court of Cashel where he remained until about the age of 48 years. In 570 he and Saint Brendan of Clonfert were said to have settled a dispute between rivals to the throne of Cashel and Aodh Caomh was acknowledged as King – the first Christian king of Cashel. The King was installed by Saint Brendan. During the time of the coronation Colmán discovered the lost Shrine of Ailbhe of Emly. Brendan said that it was not right that the hands which had held this sacred relic should be defiled henceforth, thus it was that the son of Leinin offered himself to God. Brendan blessed him and gave him the name Colmán, which is a diminutive of Colm. The Gaelic word Colm corresponds to the Latin Columba meaning dove.
Colmán then went to the school of Saint Iarlaithe of Tuam and after his studies he is next mentioned as preaching to the heathen population in the east of County Cork. He is described as a “religious and holy presbyter, who afterwards became a famous Bishop”. The Prince of Déise, in the present County of Waterford, presented his child to Colmán for Baptism. Colmán Baptised him Declan and urged his parents to educate him well in his faith. This child became Saint Declan.
Colmán was given Churches in Erry and Killenaule (4 and 10 miles from Cashel respectively) by the King of Munster (Cashel), as well as lands in Cloyne, Co. Cork. It may well be that the lands in Cloyne (Cluain Uama, the lawn of the cave), were conquered lands and to prevent the possibility of reconquest, were given to the Church. The Cloyne estate was large and contained some of the best land in the area.
St Colmán died in 600 and his probable place of burial is Cloyne.