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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Then we are told of another strange event, which throws more light on St. Patrick’s sojourn in Armagh. It probably happened some years after his first sojourn there, when his name and fame had spread far and wide over Christendom;—“Once on a time there came nine daughters of the King of the Lombards, and a daughter of the King of Britain on their pilgrimage to Patrick. They stayed at the east of Armagh in the place where Coll na n-Ingen (the Maidens’ Hazel) stands to-day. They sent to Patrick to ask if they might go to see him (to Armagh). Patrick said to the messengers, ‘Three of the virgins will go to heaven, and do ye bury them in the place where they are—namely, at Coll na n-Ingen. Let the rest of the virgins go to Druim Fendeda (or the Champion’s Ridge), and let one of them go as far as the hillock in the east.’—and this thing was done.”

The story is a strange one, but by no means improbable. It was an age of pilgrimage, when companies, both of men and maidens, left their homes to go and find some place of penance where they might dwell alone with God. ‘Seven daughters’ of a British King went all the way to the Aran Islands in the Bay of Galway on pilgrimage, and their memory is still revered, and their graves and holy well are still pointed out to the visitor by the islanders. There were kings of the Lombards—Longobardi—beyond the Rhine, long before they conquered for themselves that territory in the north of Italy which still bears their name. There is some evidence that one of St. Patrick’s sisters was married to a Lombard, and that many of his family settled in Ireland. We are not to be surprised, therefore, if the daughters of a regulus of the Longobardi, hearing that Patrick had become a great saint, and had now settled at Armagh in the North of Ireland, should seek out the Apostle, who may have been a relative, in order to live near him on their earthly pilgrimage, and thus ensure for themselves a place nigh to him in heaven.

But the monastic rules regarding the admission of women to the monastic cities were very strict, although at that time, under the first order of saints, they were not so rigorous as they afterwards became.

“Three of them,” said Patrick, “will die and go to heaven from the place where they are”—for no doubt they were worn out after their long journeys by land and sea to find out their guide and spiritual father. The others cannot come here to his sacred city on the Hill—it was for men only—but let them go to the Champions’ Ridge near Armagh, and settle there in their own convent. One, however, he directed to go as far as the hillock to the east of Armagh—and it was, so far as we can learn, near to the City—and settle there.

This was the virgin Cruimtheris, who set up at Cengoba, the hillock to the east; and Benen used to carry food to her every evening from Patrick. Benen’s virtue had been proved, so that Patrick might well entrust this charitable mission to him. Moreover, Patrick planted for her an apple-tree, which he had taken from a field to the north of that place, in a fertile field near the holy virgin’s cell, called Achad inna Elta, the Field of the Doe; and hence that field afterwards came to be called Aball Patraic, or Patrick’s Orchard, in Cengoba. The milk of the doe, with the apples from the orchard, fed the holy virgin and the little lapdog that remained with her in Cengoba. We may fairly ask, was that Field of the Doe the spot where the doe hunted from the Hill of the Willows found rest; where the holy virgin Cruimtheris had her little cell; and where that other milk-white Hind hunted from old Armagh has at last found a refuge and a home? It is surely passing strange that the hunted doe should have fled to the north-east, where Tulach na Licce stand to-day; strange that the royal maiden should have been bidden by Patrick to remain alone at the hillock towards the east; that a doe should give her milk; and that Patrick and Benen should feed her during all the years of her pilgrimage at Armagh. It was surely the royal hill where the hunted doe, the Spouse of Christ, so long the nursling of the woods, and the outcast of men, has found at last a refuge and a home.






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