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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Then Patrick had also three smiths, Mac Cecht, Laeban of Domnach Laebain, and Fortchern in Rath Adine. It was Laeban, we are told, who made Patrick’s famous bell, called the Findfaidech or sweet-sounding, but apparently different from the Bell of the Will. We speak of the latter elsewhere. Rath Adine, where he dwelt, is called in the Book of Lecan Rath Semne, which was a famous dun on the western shore of the Bay of Larne, called in later times Island Magee. These smiths would also find much occupation in building churches for Patrick as well as in making bells, cauldrons, and other heavy work of a similar character, and generally of iron.

For more delicate metal work in gold, silver, and bronze, Patrick had three other ‘artisans,’ Essa, Bite, and Tassach. Essa appears to be the same person as Assicus, Bishop of Elphin, who was a most skilful artificer; Bite was his nephew and assistant at Elphin; and Tassach was no doubt the holy bishop who gave the Viaticum to Patrick in his dying hour. His church of Raholp was only two miles from Saul; and it is likely that Patrick placed him over that church that he might be near at hand to execute necessary works for his churches—such as chalices, patens, altar-stones, reliquaries, and book-covers.

Last of all are mentioned Patrick’s three embroideresses, Lupait, Erc (or Ercnat), daughter of Daire, and Cruimtheris of Cengoba. Lupait, of whom we have spoken before, was Patrick’s sister, and was sold as a slave into Ireland with her holy brother, when she was quite a child. Of Ercnat we have already spoken. When she was healed by Benen from her sore sickness she devoted her life ever after to the service of God’s altar. Cruimtheris was, as we have seen, one of the nine daughters of a king of the Lombards, who came to Armagh on a pilgrimage. She dwelt at Cengoba, not far from the cathedral, for it is described as a hillock to the east of the city, and there she and her nuns spent all their days in the service of God and His Church.

Such was the ‘familia’ or household which Patrick kept employed in the service of the Church. Many of them dwelt far from Armagh towards the end of Patrick’s life; but they were always ready to carry out his wishes in working for God. It would appear that a somewhat similar staff was maintained at Armagh in later times, for the Primate was a great spiritual prince, and needed the service of them all. Hence, the writer in the Tripartite observes that an equal number of high officials sat down at the table of the King of Cashel in the time of Feidlimid Mac Crimthann, and we know that then, and long after, every Irish ri, or kinglet, had a similar staff of high officials to serve him both in peace and in war, who had ample domains at home, but were entitled to the hospitality of the King, when they came on state occasions, to render their official service to their royal master.

It will also be observed that this household of Patrick in Armagh was self-sufficing. They produced everything that was needed for domestic purposes, as well as for the service of the Church. They had no need to buy anything, except the wine for the use of the altar; everything else was their own work—churches, vestments, books, bells, food, clothing, fire, bronze and iron utensils; beer and mead for drink; fruit, corn, vegetables, fish—they procured everything of their own, and, in this respect, showed themselves far wiser and better Irishmen than their descendants in our own time.






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