Saint Fingar & Saint Piala


There was a prince named Corotic of Cornwall or South Wales, who was a pirate and a persecutor at once. In, or about, a.d. 450, but certainly just before S. Patrick left Munster, in 452, Corotic landed with a party of his armed followers, many of whom were Christians, at a season of solemn baptism, and set about plundering a district in which S. Patrick had just baptized and confirmed a great many converts, and on the very day after the holy chrism was seen shining on the brows of the white-robed neophytes.

Having murdered several persons, these marauders carried off a considerable number of people, whom they sold as slaves to the Scots and Picts. S. Patrick wrote a letter, now extant, which he sent to these pirates, requesting them to restore the baptized captives, and some part of the booty. The letter was received with scorn, and S. Patrick was under the necessity of issuing a circular epistle against them and their chief Corotic, in which he proclaimed that he excommunicated and cut off from Christ those same robbers and murderers, and forbade Christian people receiving them and giving them meat or drink. He re-quested the faithful to read the epistle everywhere, and before Corotic himself, and to communicate it to his soldiers, in the hope that they and their master might return to God. It is probable that S. Fingar was one of the sufferers in this expedition. He and his sister Piala were probably carried to Cornwall, and there put to death. But all this is very uncertain. The life by Anselm tells the story thus : Fingar or Guigner, the son of the Irish king Clito, and a convert to Christianity through the preaching of S. Patrick, fled his country to avoid the consequences of his father's wrath, together with several young nobles to Brittany, where he was kindly received by the chief of the province, and having got ample possessions from him, erected an oratory. Afterwards he returned to Ireland, and there collected nearly eight hundred faithful, among whom were seven bishops and his sister Piala. Leaving Ireland they arrived at the port of Hayle, in Cornwall, anciently called Pen-dinas, but now called Hayle, after S. Hija, an Irish virgin, who had set out after them, on a leaf of a tree which had been blown into the sea, and on which she was wafted to the Cornish coast. S. Hija received them hospitably, and forwarded them on their way. At night they reached the hut of a pious woman who invited them all in, and as there were not beds enough for the whole company, pulled the thatch off her roof, and strewed it on the floor. Then she killed her only cow, and served its meat to the holy comrades, who satisfied themselves thereon, and then S. Fingar took the skin, put the bones inside it, and having prayed, the cow rose up whole, and began to low. Theodoric—this is Anselm's version of the name Corotic—the earl of Cornwall, hearing of the passage through his lands of this large party of saints, waylaid and massacred them. S. Fingar planted his staff at his side, and stretched forth his neck, and his head was smitten off at one blow. Then a spring bubbled up from the ground moistened by his blood, and his staff grew and put forth leaves beside the holy well. It is almost needless to point out the utter worthlessness of this fable. That there was a S. Fingar, and that he suffered under Corotic is likely enough. The violence and murders committed by this piratical prince are established historical facts. But if S. Fingar had been a king's son, he would certainly have been mentioned in some of the lives of S. Patrick, which he is not. Anselm says that his father, Clito, was the most noble and powerful of the seven Irish kings who received S. Patrick. Now there is nothing better authenticated than that the head king at that time was Leogaire. The chief difficulty according to Colgan, consists in the name Theodoric ; but the name was not unknown among the Britons. A Teudric, or Theodoric, was king of Glamorgan, about the latter end of the sixth century,

 But Albertus Magnus maintains (De Sanctis Britan. Armor), that the Cornubia spoken of in Fingar's Acts was Cornouaille, in Brittany, and informs us that Fingar's festival is celebrated at Vannes, on December 13th. Lobineau, in his History of Brittany, mentions a Theodoric son of Budic, and count of Cornouaille, but he lived late in the sixth century. But probably Theodoric is a mistake for Corotic, made by some copyist.

Lives of saints by REV. S. BARING-GOULD, M.A.

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