The Holy Spirit with a Scottish/Celtic Saint
THE LIFE OF ST KENTIGERN from THE BOOK OF GLASGOW CATHEDRAL,
Meanwhile, during Kentigern's absence from Glasgow, the
people of that neighbourhood relapsed into paganism, and, at the
same time, it is to be gathered, the kingdom fell into confusion.
Reading between the lines, it is evident that the strife of the
period was between the influences of the old Druidism and the
newer Christianity. At first, apparently, to judge from the flight
of Kentigern, the Druid faction carried all before it, and the old
victories of Arthur, thirty years before, seemed likely to be
reversed. Presently, however, there arose a new king, Rhydderch,
son of Tothail, 2 who had been baptized in Ireland, and who
turned the tide of fortune in favour of Christianity. The
strife culminated in a great battle, fought in the year 573 (" Annales Cambrite.") at
Ardderyd, now Arthuret, near Carlisle. In this encounter the
pagan faction was commanded by Gwendolew, and the Christian
by Rhydderch Hael.
A secondary interest belongs to the battle from the fact
that upon that occasion the careers were directly opposed of
two such famous persons as Merlin and Kentigern. Merlin, a
prince and chief bard of the Druid tribes, was himself present
in the battle, and though Kentigern was not personally there,
his interests, and the interests of the Christian cause in
North Britain to which he was attached, were not less vitally
The fortunes of the day were with Rhydderch Hael.
Gwendolew, the pagan leader, was slain in the battle, and among
its most immediate issues were the flight of Merlin to the wilds
of the Caledonian Forest about the springs of Ettrick and Tweed,
and the recall of Kentigern by the victorious Rhydderch to resume
his northern charge.
The names of the culminating battle and of those engaged in
it are not mentioned in Kentigern's Life. For these the historian
has to rely upon the Cymric annalists. But the success of the
Christian faction is stated by Jocelyn, with the invitation to
Kentigern to return as its chief consequence.
Committing his new church in Wales to the charge
of his disciple, the holy Asaph, Kentigern betook himself
The Cambrian, or northern Cymric kingdom, as has been
already stated, extended as far southwards as the Derwent, and
shortly after he had entered it, apparently, the saint was met by
Rhydderch, with a great multitude of people. By them he was
enthusiastically welcomed, and they conveyed him as far as
Hodelm, or Hoddam, north of the Sol way. Possibly his old
seat at Glasgu was too near the headquarters of Druidism on
Craigmaddie Moor, to be a safe residence while the pagan tribes
were still chafing under their late defeat. At any rate, Kentigern
remained at Hoddam for a time, building a church and
temporarily establishing his see. Here, according to Jocelyn,
Rhydderch did him homage, and submitted the civil power to
him as suzerain, thus fulfilling the name given to him by
Servanus, of Cwn Tyern, or " head-lord."
Eight years later Kentigern returned to Glasgu, which from
that time forth remained his home.
From Glasgu he is stated to have made missionary journeys
throughout Albania (the country beyond the Forth), and to
have sent missionaries to the Orkneys, Norway, and Iceland.
Of his own journeyings in the north there exists proof in
the fact that dedications to Kentigern still exist in the Dee
valley ; but the statement as to his sending envoys to other
countries may be doubted. Dicicul, the Irish geographer of the
ninth century, whose account is older and more reliable than
Jocelyn's writing, states that the early Christian missionaries to
Iceland were all anchorites of the Irish Church.
Not the least interesting feature of the life of Kentigern is
the number and variety of miracles attributed to him, and the
special intervention of heaven again and again on his behalf.
Sinners whom he condemns meet with sudden death at the
hands of Providence. Kings who oppress him are stricken with
gout, blindness, and madness. People are cured by his shadow
passing over them. And his clothes, it is narrated, were never
wet by rain. Among other miracles wrought by his prayers, he
induced heaven to give an heir to Rhydderch the king, whose
wife Languoreth had previously been childless. But his most
famous supernatural performances were three, which, according to
tradition, are perpetuated in the arms of the city of Glasgow at
the present day.
Of these miracles, the first two occurred while Kentigern was
still a student at the cell of Servanus. The aged saint, it
appears, had among other animal pets a tame robin. This bird
was one day killed by the other lads, and they, to screen
themselves, laid the blame on Kentigern. He, however, taking
the bird, made over it the sign of the cross, and forthwith it
was restored to life.
On another occasion the same youths, out of jealousy,
extinguished the lire which Kentigern had been appointed to
keep. The latter then took a green hazel bough, and, blessing-
it and breathing on it, produced the flame required.
The third miracle belongs to the later life of the saint,
when he had been restored to his church at Glasgu.
Queen Lauguoreth, (In the life of Kentigern in the Aberdeen Breviary, the heroine
of the story is termed the Queen of Cadzow.) it appears, had cast amorous eyes on a
certain youth, a soldier at her husband's court, who was of
comely looks. The two, by reason of long immunity, became
foolhardy in their sinful relationship, and at last Languoreth went
so far as to bestow on her lover a ring which had been given her
by the king. With equal infatuation the young man placed it
on his finger, and the sight of the well-known jewel thus
displayed at once confirmed the suspicion and whisperings of the
Court. At last the scandal reached the ear of Rhydderch himself,
and when he refused to listen to his wife's dishonour, his own
ring was pointed out to him on the young man's finger. By
this apparently he was convinced, and he prepared to bring
guilt home to Languoreth. He appointed a day of hunting,
and on the field, having given each courtier his station, he took
his wife's lover with himself. At noon they rested from the heat
on the bank of the Clyde. There the young soldier, suspecting no
danger, fell asleep, and the king, waiting his opportunity, drew
the ring from his finger and threw it into the river.
Presently, as the huntsmen returned home, Languoreth came
forth from her bower to meet her lord. To her surprise and
confusion, however, her kisses were met by a storm of reproaches
as fierce as they were unexpected. Rhydderch accused her of
unfaithfulness, and on her denying his charge, demanded to see
the ring he had given hei'. It was, she said, laid up in a casket
in her chamber, and, hastening thither, she sent a messenger hot
haste to her lover for the jewel. On the discovery that he had
lost it, the latter, terrified for the consequences of his folly, fled
from the Court. Languoreth was then forced to tell Rhydderch
that she had lost his gift, whereupon, with many bitter reproaches,
he threw her into prison, giving her only three days to produce
the ring. In her distress the queen at last sent a messenger to
Kentigern confessing her whole misfortune, and beseeching his
interposition with the king. The saint, when he heard the story,
told the messenger to go with a hook to the Clyde, and to
bring him straightway the first fish he should catch. The man,
says Jocelyn, obeyed, and presently brought back a large salmon.
On this being gutted the lost ring appeared, and Kentigern
forthwith sent it by the messenger to Lauguoreth, admonishing her
at the same time to lead a better life. From that time forth, the
narrative adds, she remained a faithful wife and queen.
(An account of the ordeal by hot iron, to which Languoreth had become liable,
to prove her innocence, may be read in the old British romance of "Sir Tristrem," edited
by Scott in 1804, and by Mr G. P. M'Neill in 1886. See "Early Scottish Poetry,"
Abbotsford Series, p. 46.)