Posted by: anna | February 9, 2010

St Natalis of Ulster

Today (27 January) we commemorate St Natalis (Naal) of Ulster. From Hanlon (much cut):

THE study of holy men’s lives promotes solid instruction and kindly feeling ; it disarms rancour and dispels evil temper ; it exercises the mind in a love and reverence for religion ; it preserves the fear of God in our souls ; while it puts man in sweet relationship with himself and with mankind. Colgan professed to give the acts of this saint at the 27 th of January. Yet, he appears to have been under some mistake, by confounding this saint with a St. Natalis or Naal, Abbot of Kilmanagh, in the county of Kilkenny.” But the present holy man, similarly named, and whose locality was in the northern parts of Ireland, most probably had been quite a distinct person.

The life of Colum Cille states, that Naile came into the presence of Colum Cille for the first time at the Inbher, and that Colum Cille and Naile blessed the place. Thenceforward, it was from Naile this church has been named. It seems possible, too, that the present saint was identical with a Naal mentioned in the acts of St. Columba, and to whose church, it is said, a certain holy smith, named Senach, presented a bell. The Martyrology of Donegal states, likewise, that it was to St. Naal God gave water from the hard, stony rock, when great thirst had seized upon him and St. Maedhog of Ferns, with their monks. He made a distant cast of his crozier at it, so that a stream of pure spring water gushed therefrom, just as this spring is now to be seen at Gill Naile. Here, it is possible his first establishment had place. Not unlike many other ecclesiastical edifices scattered over Ireland, and which owe their erection to the piety and good taste of the monks of old, this little ruined church of St. Natalis is not exceptional, as regards its pretty and picturesque situation. It stands on the banks of the Eidhneach or Eany (the ivy-producing river) as it empties its placid waters into the Bay of Inver. A belt of stately elms throws shadow upon its shattered walls, and around it are conical mountains of yellow sand, sparkling in the summer’s sunshine. When the tide is at its full, the old ruin, with its quiet cemetery, is almost encircled with the briny water.

The people around retain but very few legendary tales or old folk-lore connected with this interesting building. Near the old ruined church is the Holy Well of St. Natalis, or Nathal, and not far distant are places associated with his name, such as Lugnaal. Among the popular traditions,still preserved by the peasantry, is one, that the River Eany was blessed by the saint, and that no plague was afterwards permitted to cross its waters.

It is stated, that St. Natalis was Abbot Cill-Naile and Daimhinis, in Feara-Manach. The present Kinawley, or Kilnawly, county of Fermanagh, is the place just mentioned. There is a popular tradition, that Kill Naile old church, now Kinnawly, in Fermanagh, was first built by St. Naile. In 1834, the handle of an old bell, belonging to him, had been preserved by one Bartley Drum, of Shanvally, whose family possessed it from a remote period. There is a holy well in the parish called Tober Naile. It is said, St. Naal succeeded St. Molaisse, at Devenish. Natalis of Kilmanagh, although well known about a.d. 520, might have lived until 564. The present saint was venerated in three placeswhere he exercised abbatial functions ; having had his solemn memorial festival, and being considered local patron of Inber-naile church, in the region of Tyrconnell, of Kill-naile church, in the district of Breffney, and in the monastery of Devenish, where he is said to have succeeded St. Molaisse. This latter holy man was an illustrious founder of monasticism in the northern parts of Ireland.


I haven’t included the footnotes, but you can read the entire thing (which is at least half footnotes, and some fetching sketches, here. The troparion and kontakion are from Under the Oak, where Brigid has lots of stories about Natalis.

Troparion of St Natalis tone 2
With Columba as thy guide/ thou didst learn the monastic disciplines, O Father Natalis,/ and by this example/ thou dost teach us the necessity of accepting spiritual direction,/ that pleasing God by our obedience/ we may be found worthy of great mercy.

Kontakion of St Natalis tone 5
Having submitted thyself to a master/ in pious humility, O Father Natalis and being renowned for the sanctity of thy life,/ thou wast deemed worthy to guide others into the way of Salvation./ Pray that we who hymn thee may be given grace/ to submit ourselves to direction, as Christ wills,/ that we may please Him in all things.

Holy St Naal, pray to God for us.


  1. Natalis is the Latinized version, and as often happens the spelling of Naile/Naal was not standardized.

  2. So St. Naile and St Natalis are the same people?


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