The Holy Spirit with a Scottish/Celtic Saint


THE LIFE OF ST KENTIGERN from THE BOOK OF GLASGOW CATHEDRAL, 
GLASGOW, 1898,
 
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 
involved. 
 
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 
northwards. 
 
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.) 
 
 

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