Text: Collectanea (Tíreachan)

Tíreachan was an bishop Irish alive in the 7th century who had probably been a clerical student at Ardbraccan during the 650s. He wrote a Latin account about the life of St Patrick known as Collectanea, dated between 664 and 684, which was copied into the Book of Armagh.

Tíreachan begins his account by noting that he has used information from a book in the possession of his mentor, Ultán, although he also mentions now and again about recording anecdotes that he heard from oral sources.

The following text was adapted by Michael Newton from the translation by L. Bieler (available online here) and uses his numbering scheme.


Bishop Tírechán has written this, based on the words and the book of bishop Ultán, whose fosterling and pupil he was.

§ 9: On the first day [of Easter] he came to Tailtiu, where a royal assembly is held …

§ 12: And he proceeded to the settlement at Tara to Loíguire son of Níall, because he promised him that he should not be killed within his domain; but Loíguire could not accept the Christian faith, saying, “My father Níall did not allow me to accept the faith, but commanded that I be buried on the ridges of Tara, along with the sons of Dúnlang in Maistiu in Mag Liphi, all of us facing each other, just like men at war’ for the pagans, are armed in their tombs and have their weapons ready until the day of erdathe (as the druids call it, that is, the end of the world), because we bear such intense hostility to one another.”

§ 15: Six sons of Amolngid came to Loíguire seeking his judgement; they were opposed by just Énde and his young son and Patrick. They made an appeal about their inheritance, and the verdict of Loíguire and Patrick was that they should divide their inheritance into seven parts.

Énde said: “I offer my son and my share in the inheritance to Patrick’s God and to Patrick.”

This is why, as some people say, we are servants of Patrick to the present day.

Patrick and the sons of Amolngid, with their lay vassals and holy bishops, concluded a contract, with Loíguire son of Níall as guarantor, that they would travel (together) to Mons Aigli …

§ 26: Then Patrick went at sunrise to the well called Cliabach on the side of Cruachan. The priests sat down by the well. The daughters of King Loegaire – Ethne the fair-haired and Fedelm the red-headed – went early to the well to wash their hands as is women’s custom. The maidens found the groups of priests beside the wel. And they gazed at the priests, not knowing where they came from or what kind of people they were, thinking that they might be ghosts or sìdhe [fairy-folk].

And the maidens asked them, “Where are you from, and where have you just come from?”

And Patrick said to them, “It would be better for you to believe in God than to ask about our origins.”

The older girl said, “Who is your god and where does he live? Does he have sons or daughters, gold and silver? Is he immortal and beautiful? Have many people fostered his son? Do earthly men think his daughters are dear and beautiful? Does he live in the sky or in the earth or in the water, in rivers, in mountains, in valleys? Tell us about him: how can he be seen, how is he adored, how is he found? Is he found by the young, by the old?”

Then holy Patrick, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered: “Our God is the God of all men, the God of heaven and earth and sea and river, the God of sun and moon and all the stars, the God of the high mountains and low valleys; the God over heaven and in heaven and under heaven. He has a home both in heaven and earth and sea and everything. He inspires all things, he brings all things to life, he excels all things, he sustains all things. He kindles the light of the sun and the moon; he made springs in dry lands and dry islands in the ocean; he assigned stars to serve the greater lights. He has a son as immortal as Himself and like Himself. But the Son is not younger than the Father, nor is the Father older than the Son. And the Holy Spirit breathes in them. There is no separation between Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it is my desire to marry you to the Son of the Heavenly King, for you are daughters of an earthly king, if you accept the faith.”

And the maidens replied as though with one mouth and one heart: “Teach us earnestly how we can believe in the heavenly king so that we can see him face to face. Teach us the way and we will do whatever you say.”

And Patrick said, “Do you believe that baptism will cleanse you of your mother’s and father’s sin?”

They answered, “We do.”

“Do you believe in repentance after sin?”

“We do.”

“Do you believe in life after death? Do you believe in the resurrection on the day of judgement?”

“We do.”

“Do you believe in the unity of the church?”

“We do.”

And they were baptized and Patrick put a white veil over their heads. They demanded to see Christ, face to face. Patrick said to them, “You cannot see Christ unless you first die and have received Christ’s body and blood (as sacrament).”

And the maidens replied, “Give us the sacrament so that we can see our spouse.” Then they received the sacrament and fell asleep in death. Their friends put them in one bed and covered them with their clothing, and keened them sorely.

The druid Caplait, who had fostered one of them, came and wept. Patrick preached to him and converted him, and Patrick shaved his head [gave him the “tonsure” of religious service].

Then his brother, Moel, came and said, “My brother believes Paatrick but I do not; I convert him back to paganism.” And he was insulting Mathonus and Patrick. Patrick preached to him and converted him and gave him a tonsure in druidic fashion. Thus is the origin of the most famous of Irish proverbs, “Moel is like Caplait,” meaning that they agreed about their belief in God.

When the days of mourning for the king’s daughters were over, the girls were buried next to the well of Clébach, and they made a round ditch after the manner of a ferta, because this is what the pagan Irish used to do. We [Christians], however, call it relic, that is, the remains of the maidens. And the ferta was devoted to Patrick with the bones of the holy virgins, and to his heirs after him for ever, and he made an earthen church in that place.

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