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E06264: Muirchú, in his Life of *Patrick (missionary and bishop of Ireland, 5th c., S01962), relates how *Monesan (virgin of Britain, 5th c., S02344) died immediately after being baptised by him in Ireland; and how twenty years later her relics were translated to a nearby cell, where they are still venerated. Written in Latin, probably at Armagh (Ireland), 661/700, probably after c. 675/80.

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posted on 2018-08-29, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Muirchú, Life of Patrick (BHL 6497)

For an overview of the Life of Patrick, see E06132.

I.27 (26)
[...] (2) Quodam igitur tempore cum tota Britannia incredulitatis algore rigesceret cuiusdam regis egregia filia, cui nomen erat Monesan, Spiritu Sancto repleta, cum quidam eius expeterent amplexus coniugalis non adquieuit cum aquarum multis irrigata esset undis ad id quad nolebat et deterius erat conpelli potuit. (3) Nam illa cum inter uerbera et aquarum irrigationes solita esset interrogabat matrem et nutricem utrum conpertum haberet rotae factorem qua totus illuminatur mundus, et cum responsum acciperet per quod conpertum haberet solis factorem esse eum cui caelum sedes est, cum acta esset frequenter ut coniugali uinculo copularetur, luculentissimo Spiritus Sancti illustrata "nequaquam", inquit, "hoc faciam". (4) Querebat namque per naturam totius creaturae factorem in hoc patriarchae Abraham secuta exemplum.(5) Parentes eius inito consilio adō iusti tributo audito Patricio uiro ab aeterno Deo uisitato septimo semper die Scotias partes cum filia pulsauere Patriciumque tanto labore quaesitum reperire; qui illos nouicos percunctari caepit. (6) Tunc illi uiatores clamare ceperunt et dicere: "cupidissimae filiae uidendi Deum causa coacti ad te uenire facti sumus". (7) Tunc ille repletus Spiritu Sancto eleuauit uocem suam et dixit ad eam: "si in Deum credis?" Et ait: "credo". Tunc sacro Spiritus et aquae lauacro eam lauit.

(8) Nec mora, post ea solo prostrata spiritum in manus angelorum tradidit. Ubi moritur ibi et adunatur. (9) Tunc Patricius prophetauit quod post annos uiginti corpus illius ad propinquam cellulam de illo loco tolleretur cum honore. Quod postea ita factum est. Cuius transmarinae reliquiae ibi adorantur usque hodie.

'...(2) At a time, then, when all Britain was still frozen in the cold of unbelief, the illustrious daughter of some king—her name was Monesan—was full of the Holy Spirit. Assisted by Him, although many desired to marry her, she accepted no proposal. Not even when floods of water were frequently poured over her could she be forced to do what she did not want and what was less valuable. (3) When, in between beatings and soakings with water, she was insistently urged (to do so) she kept asking her mother and her nurse whether they knew the maker of the wheel by which the world is illumined, and when she received the answer that the maker of the sun was he whose throne was in heaven, she, frequently urged to enter into the bond of marriage, said, enlightened by the luminous counsel of the Holy Spirit: 'I shall never do that.' (4) For through nature she searched the maker of all that is created, following in this the example of Abraham the patriarch. (5) Her parents, deliberating in their great sorrow, on hearing that Patrick, a just man, was visited by eternal God every seventh day, went with their daughter to Ireland and after such a great effort met Patrick. He asked his visitors why they had come. (6) Then the travellers told him in excited tones: 'The ardent desire of our daughter to see God has forced us to come to you.'(7) He then, full of the Holy Spirit, raised his voice and said to her: 'Do you believe in God?' And she said: 'I do believe.' Then he bathed her in the bath of the Holy Spirit and the water.

(8) Immediately afterwards she fell to the ground and gave up her spirit into the hands of the angels. She was buried on the spot where she died. (9) Then Patrick prophesied that after twenty years her body would be conveyed to a nearby cell with great ceremony. This was done afterwards, and the relics of the maiden from across the sea are there an object of worship to the present day.'

Text and translation: Bieler 1979, 98-101, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Patrick, missionary and bishop of Ireland, 5th c. : S01962 Monesan, virgin of Britain, 5th c. : S02344

Saint Name in Source

Patricius Monesan

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Armagh St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Relatives of the saint Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians)

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Muirchú maccu Machteni’s Life of Patrick survives through imperfect copies in three manuscripts, most completely in the 9th century Book of Armagh (Trinity College Dublin MS 52), where it is almost immediately followed by Tírechán’s Collectanea (E06131). In view of the centrality of the site in his text, we can probably locate Muirchú himself at Armagh. He states in his preface that he wrote on the request of Bishop Áed of Sléibte/Sletty (ob. c. 700): since we know that Áed had gone to Armagh to incorporate his church into the Patrician paruchia during the time of Bishop Ségéne (661-88), we can broadly date the Life’s composition to 661/700 (Bieler 1979). Moreover, seeing as Muirchú appears to refer a few lines earlier to Cogitosus' Life of Brigit (E06130), we can probably date the text more narrowly to the final quarter of the 7th century.


Aspects of this story echo Tírechán's account of the conversion, death and veneration of the princesses Ethne and Fedelm (E06254).


Edition and translation: Bieler, L., The Patrician Texts of the Book of Armagh (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 10; Dublin, 1979), 61-123. Further reading: MacNeill, E., "The Earliest Lives of St Patrick," Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 58 (1928), 1-21. Sharpe, R., Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives: An Introduction to Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford, 1991).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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