Posted by: anna | February 18, 2010

St Indract of Glastonbury

Today (5 February) we commemorate St Indract, martyr at Glastonbury. From Baring-Gould & Fisher vol 3:

The story as given by Wilham of Malmesbury is to this effect : — Indract was the son of an Irish King, and he, with his sister Dominica, and nine companions, started on a pilgrimage across the sea. They got as far as the mouth of the Tamar, where they settled, and lived together for some time in prayer and strictness of life. Indract planted his staff in the ground, and it took root, and became a mighty oak.

He also made a pond, from which he daily drew fish, probably salmon, for his little community.

One day he discovered that a member of his society had privily carried off a fish for his private consumption, in addition to the regular meals. After this the supply failed, and Indract deemed it advisable to leave. What apparently took place was a quarrel among the members over the weir in the Tamar, which grew so hot that the congregation separated into factions, and one under Indract left. He went on to Rome, visited the tombs of the apostles, and then retraced his steps, and in course of time reached the neighbourhood of Glastonbury.

The little party lodged at Shapwick, when one of the officials of King Ina, named Horsa, supposing that the pilgrims had money, fell on them by night, murdered the entire party, and carried off whatever he could lay hands on.

King Ina at the time had his court at ” Pedrot.” Being unable to sleep during the night, he went forth, and saw a column of light standing over Shapwick. Probably Horsa had set fire to the cottage of wattles in which were his victims.

Next day Ina heard of the tragedy and ordered the removal of the bodies to Glastonbury, which he was refounding. Whether the murderer was punished we are not told. According to this legend the event took place about 710.

There are difficulties in the story. How could the early part of the history of the slaughtered men become known, as all had been massacred ? No such a person as Indract, son of a King in Ireland, is known in Irish history. The name is, however, found as that of the twenty-first abbot of lona, who was in office in 849, in which year he transported the relics of S. Columba to Ireland. The Annals of Ulster state that he was killed by the Saxons on March 12, 854. We are not informed where he was slain, and it is probable that this is the Indract of William of Malmesbury’s legend. Nothing more likely than that after having been abbot for a while, the desire came on him to visit the holy sites, and that for this purpose he traversed Wessex, and halted in Cornwall, where the British tongue was spoken. The massacre cannot bave been complete ; some of the pilgrims must have escaped, and the matter was brought to the ears, not of Ina, but of Ethelwulf , the father of Alfred the Great.

That Indract did visit Cornwall is shown by the church of Landrake bearing his name (Lan Indract) , and by the existence of his chapel and holy wellat Halton, in his sister’s foundation, S.Dominick on the Tamar. Some fragments of the chapel remain with fine ilex trees by it, conceivably scions of that tree which William of Malmesbury tells us existed, in his day, and was held to have originated out of the staff of the saint. The Holy Well is in good order, and, though possessing no architectural beauty, is picturesquely situated under a large cherry tree. The water is of excellent quality and is unfailing. Water for baptisms in S. Dominick is drawn from this well, although situated at a considerable distance from the parish church.

Dr. Oliver gives the chapel as dedicated to S. Ilduict. This is one of his many blunders. The MS. of Bishop Stafford’s Register, from, which he drew his information, gives the chapel as that ” Sancti. Ildracti.” Ildract is, of course, Indract (March 6, 1418-9), but in this, entry the mistake is made by the Registrar of making the Saint a Confessor instead of a Martyr.

Landrake in Bishop Stapeldon’s Register, 1327, is Lanracke. In Domesday it is Riccan. It is now popularly called Larrick. The church, is supposed to be dedicated to S. Peter, and the village feast is held on June 29, S. Peter’s day. The name, however, and the situation, near S. Dominick, favour the idea that it was a foundation of S. Indract.

The day of SS. Indract and Dominica, according to Whytford and Wilson, is May 8. William of Worcester says, ” Sanctus Indractus martir et confessor die 8 Maii, jacet apud Shepton per 5 milaria de Glastynbery cum sociis suis centum martiribus.”

The Bollandists give February 5, on the worthless authority of Challoner. But May 8 is the day in the Altemps thirteenth century Martyrology, and in the fifteenth century Norwich Martyrology [Cotton. MS. Julius B vii), and in Capgrave.

In Art, Indract should be figured as a pilgrim with a salmon in his hand, and a staff that is putting forth oak leaves.

Holy St Indract, pray to God for us.

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