The Pictish Nation:16 – Chapter 8


Owing to the loss or destruction of records and the indifference or jealousy of the Roman clergy of the middle ages, the names and history of hundreds of Celtic clerics who left Candida Casa, or its daughter-houses, to carry on the work of the Church in Pictland have passed into oblivion. Some of the names of these missionaryclerics who regarded Candida Casa as their mother-Church have, however, been preserved, attached to the Church-sites which they themselves selected, and at which they ministered; but for this we are indebted more frequently to the people than to the Roman clergy. There are instances in which the Roman clergy actually inhibited the parishioners from burying their dead in the Churchyards of these ancient Celtic Church-sites; in order that they might turn the people to the Roman Churches. Some of the clergy of the powerful Roman abbey of Aberbrothoc were not well-disposed to the Celtic Church-sites. One notable exception was George de Brana, who actually protected them and even restored a Church to the site of S. Ninian’s ancient Church near Arbroath. He also restored a Church to the site of S. Vigean’s original Church.  

Fortunately the ordinary folk of a district refused to withdraw their veneration from the names and sites of the earlier Church. Although the personal names borne by Church-sites of the Celts, even when taken along with their associated traditions, do not provide much information by themselves; they frequently provide enough to enable us to distinguish the Brito-Pictish clerics who were trained at Candida Casa,or one of its daughter-houses, from those trained at the centres of the Irish Picts; and in instances where these Brito-Pictish clerics happened to be connected with places outside Pictland of Alba, where information was preserved, we are enabled to procure dates for their work, and particulars about themselves more or less full. A selection from the personal names borne by Brito-Pictish Churchsites indicates how S. Ninian’s work was carried on continuously after his death in A.D.. 432.

S. Caranoc the Great, called also ‘the Elder,’ a Briton who lived c. 433, who was of the family of Ceredig ‘ Guletic,’ was one of S. Ninian’s first group of missionaries to Pictland.  His day is the l6th May. His name in the various dialects takes the forms Caranog, Carantoc, Caranoc, Carnoch, Carnech, Carniuch, and one scribe has achieved ‘ Gornias. ‘ There is a manuscript Life of S. Carantoc in the British Museum, and another in Trinity College, Dublin. S. Caranoc is introduced in the tales relating to Muircheartach mac Erca the Gaidheal. The hero goes to Britain to S. Caranoc to get his arms blessed, and invokes his help in punishing certain rebellious clansmen. The Gaidheals claimed S. Caranoc as their patron before the rise of S. Columba. See the author’s S. Ninian, etc. , Chap. xii. According to the tale Muircertachs Death (MS., H2, l6, Col. 312, Trin. Coll. Dublin), it is claimed that the ‘miosach’ of Caranoc or Carnech was given to the Gaidhealic Nialls of the north as a standard to be carried in battle.

A hand in the Book of Ballymote has preserved the information that he belonged to the ‘tiaigh Martain,’ house of Martin, among the Britons, that is the later Gaidhealic way of referring to Candida Casa. S. Caranoc is designated ‘Ab.’ Apparently he only held the presidency of Candida Casa until Ternan was appointed to S. Ninian’s seat; because, apart from seasons of retreat at the cave ‘Edilg,’ he spent most of his life on mission journeys in Britain and Ireland, where he organized various communities of converts. He was only a presbyter; but he baptized the historical S. Patrick, when the latter had grown up, as is recorded in the ancient poem enumerating S. Patrick’s friends which is preserved in the Books of Ballymote and of Lecan. He was martyred, and is referred to as ‘ the first martyr of Erin.’ His most northerly Church-site in Pictland of Alba is on the banks of the Deveron, near Turriff, Aberdeenshire.

One of S. Caranoc’s contemporaries was S.Ternan who founded the Bangor, which afterwards took his name, at Banchory-Ternan in Aberdeenshire. His day is the 12th June. Angus the Culdee writing in Ireland refers to him as ‘Toranan long-famed for exploits across the broad ship-laden sea.’ By an early scribe’s error Ternan’s name was sometimes written ‘Tervan.’ Lesley among others adopted the misspelling. In the De Origine, lib. iv. p. 137, among other fables invented to give a Roman origin to the Brito-Pictish Church, it is stated that Palladius destined ‘ S. Tervan to be Archbishop of the Picts,’ and S. Servan to be apostle to the ‘ Orkneys,’ the latter is a misreading of a contraction for Ochils. The early Roman Catholic writers, especially those of the Aberdeen historical group, had access to information about S. Ternan which is now no longer available. Unfortunately they glossed that information in the interests of their own Church. Knowing that S. Ternan succeeded to the control of S. Ninian’s work in Alba, they began their perversions by bestowing on him the unwarranted and anachronistic title ‘Archbishop of the Picts.’ Cressy, a later and different historian, was more careful when he referred to S. Ternan (Cressy, as quoted in Chronicles of the British Church, is made to adopt the misspelling ‘ Tervan.’)  as second Ab of Candida Casa, although he was strictly the third, if S. Caranoc’s short term be reckoned.

Camerarius, discarding the early Roman glosses, notes S. Ternan thus, ‘Sanctus Ternanus Episcopus et Confessor et post Ninianum Sanctum Pictorum australium (recte, orientalium) veluti Apostolus.’ The following details came from the original sources. He was a Pict of Mearns in Alba, he was converted during S. Ninian’s Pictish mission, he was educated at Candida Casa, he was baptized in early manhood by that disciple of S. Ninian whom the Roman Catholic writers confused with Palladius, whose native name, preserved in Perthshire and the Mearns, was ‘Paldoc’ or ‘Paldy,’ whose historical name is ‘Pawl Hén’ or Paul the Aged, a missionary who was a Briton, who worked with S. Ninian, who survived into the early years of the sixth century, who lived long enough to meet S. David in his childhood; he could not see him because he was blind through great age. S. Ternan’s manuscript of the Gospels in a case ornamented with gold and silver was preserved at Banchory-Ternan into the Roman Catholic period, and his bell ‘ Ronnecht ‘ until the Reformation.

Some of the writers of the Aberdeen group were more candid than others. One hand in the Martyrology of Aberdeen, which bears evidence of Moray origin, viewing S. Ternan’s position as S. Ninian’s successor calls him ‘ Archipraesul’ which in this instance means president of the chief and parent community at Candida Casa. Besides Banchory-Ternan, S. Ternan had Church-sites at Slains, Arbuthnot, and Findon, where is also his well. If any one wishes to understand how culture in Pictland suffered from the Viking invasions, he has only to visualize Banchory and other like places in the fifth century with their schools, manuscripts, and active missionary teachers, spreading the Gospel and Christian civilization; and then to think of the state of these places five hundred years later.

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