Saturday, February 2, 2019

Saint Odran

Waterford is a port town in the south eastern part of Ireland. In the 900's Viking raiders took control of the area and settled. The Irish managed to dislodge them, a couple of years later the Vikings were back and what with one thing an another, this time they remained and in many ways Waterford became a bulwark for the Norman kings of the English in their avaricious schemes to occupy Ireland. "Bang the drum, why don't you!" I hear the call. Well the Vikings, many of whom were by the late 900's paying lip service to The Beatitudes cast about for a Patron Saint for Waterford. They chose the genuine medieval Saint Odran. Certainly the region in Ireland between Limerick and Waterford, called Tipperary had a claim to Odran who'd spent 40 years of his life building a church in a mining area called Silvermines, a little west of Limerick, and it's possible the Vikings just said "why not this Odran character." Nor am I a big fan of Vikings, suspect that of the collections of genes in my own gene pool the Viking part is to blame for foul temper, intemperance around vanilla ice cream, blind intolerance and so on, but I'd still like to think that even the Vikings would have put a little more thought into their choice of Patron Saint for Waterford. The point being that Odran was a great deal more than a fine and diligent priest in a small mining town. And fair warning to those who might be drifting off, this is a long complicated story with hundred's of footnotes, and yet it is the central argument for a Gormenghast Bridge being called Saint Odran. The man was a pillar of Medieval Saints and while some might argue he may have been a little slow, there's no question in my mind that Saint Odran was amongst the brightest of  stars in the often very ugly firmament of ambition and intrigue so many of the infinitely less worthy so called saints fell prey to.

Iona is a small island in the southern Inner Hebrides, and when Saint Columba led a mission of 12 Celtic priests from Ireland to save the souls of the incredibly pagan Picts and the Scots they chose the Island of Iona as their base of operations. If you're interested, the mission, which included Saint Adran, crossed the choppy seas between Ireland and the Inner Hebrides in a wicker currach, which is the Irish version of a Welsh Coracle, and rather sweetly there's another Irish name for currach which has the feminine diminutive and translates into English as "little holy one" or "little girl saint." Either way, Columba had his priests were having a few initial problems with the foundations of their mission's headquarters. Every morning the previous days work had crumbled to the ground. Saint Columba suggested that Odran, who'd already spent forty years of his life building a church in Tipperary might give consideration to the old Celtic tradition of Foundation Sacrifice. To cut to the chase, foundation sacrifice was all about killing someone and burying them under the foundations of new stone buildings. With the Christian Church, some might argue, this was truly Picts and Scots type behavior, and anyone who suggested such a thing was expressing some very un-saintly views. But apparently not, in the interest of doing his bit, and possibly he was just tired and emotional from the stress of dealing with the Moses like attitude of Saint Columba, Odran agreed to be buried alive under the foundations. It was like a miracle, week after week work proceeded a pace. Then one day Odran poked his head out of the ground and he said, "there is no hell as you suppose or heaven that people talk about." Always dispute around these things, by some accounts Saint Columba ordered Odran to be dug up and buried in consecrated ground. By other accounts,  removing Odran's corpse would have rather defeated the whole point of a Foundation Sacrifice, so Saint Columba directed others to simply cover Saint Odran with more earth. Damn right Saint Odran deserves a bridge, and to be Patron Saint of a Viking Town.

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