Posted by: anna | August 24, 2009

St Blaan

St. Blaan (Blane), bishop of Bute (Dunblane), Scotland (590)

David Farmer is very concise indeed about St Blane: ‘Blane (Blaan) (late 6th century), bishop. A native of Bute, he studied in Ireland for several years before returning home. He was then ordained priest and preached in Scotland. He founded a monastery at Kingarth (Bute), where he was buried. On the site of the monastery Dunblane cathedral was built, where a bell, reputed to be his, is still preserved. Feast: 11 or in some places 10 August.’ The Orthodox community of St Nicholas in Dunblane (named for the saint) also honours St Blane. Fr Peter-Michael Preble of the Romanian Orthodox Church somewhere in North America keeps the occasional eye on the British saints.

St Blane’s is not a particularly sympathetic character, or an easy story to absorb. (I’m drawing on the Isle of Bute web page information as by far the most informative). Folklore (what sources?) says that he was the illegitimate son Ertha (or Bertha), the sister of St Cattan (or Cathan) and wife of King Aidan of Dalriada (western Scotland plus Co Antrim). ‘It seems that Ertha herself attributed her pregnancy to a spirit living in a local fountain, which is now a well on the farm of Little Kilchattan.’ This brings up interesting echoes of the strong local pagan traditions the early Christian missionaries must have encountered throughout Britain – and how often does Christianity conveniently overlay those old associations, replacing, e.g. the ‘spirit of a local fountain’ with a miracle performed there by a saint. It is perhaps only in our own times – and in the west – that missionaries can imagine encountering a ‘spiritual vacuum.’ And scratch the surface – how many people really believe in nothing at all?

It seems that people have a deep need for not only a great big spirituality, whether it’s about Christ saving the world or the earth in relation to the cosmos, but a very small and local one: the memory of your own place, the land and the people there. I think I’ve quoted Fr Andrew Phillips on the veneration of the British saints before, and Met. Anthony also spoke about it: ‘We are no strangers in this land, thousands and thousands of men and women have shared our faith; we are strangers in no land because the oneness of the Church hundreds of years ago unbroken make us the kin of those who are their resplendence and their glory.’

His story brings up lots of other thoughts (what was his sainted uncle Cattan doing setting his own sister and nephew adrift in a currach?) but I’ll leave them for next year 😉

More about St Blane:

St Blane is one of the Scottish saints commemorated in the Aberdeen Breviary, an important source for their lives. More about it:

There is a LOT of scholarship going on in Scotland these days about early Christianity in Scotland and the Scottish saints, in every field from archaeology to musicology. Here’s a long quick overview.

Troparion of St Blane Tone 5
Drifting over the sea in a boat without oars
thou wast directed by God to the Island of Bute, O Hierarch Blane,
where thou didst devote thyself to apostolic labours.
O performer of miracles,
thou art worthy to be praised as Equal to the Apostles.
Wherefore we beseech thee pray to Christ our God
that He will raise up labourers to recultivate that northern part of His Vineyard,
so long overgrown with the weeds of heresy and apostasy,
which thou didst once tend with such care,
that again many may be led into the way of salvation.

Holy St Blane, pray to God for us.


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