GREAT BRITAIN OF MY HEART
Saint Palladius 1st Bishop of Ireland & Scotland,
from France (+450)
Saint Palladius was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick.
The Palladii were thought to be amongst the most noble families of Gaul, and several of them held high ranks in the Church of Gaul. Saint Palladius was the son of Exuperantius of Poitiers.
Saint Palladius held the (higher) rank of Deacon of Rome.
Saint Palladius was married and had a young daughter. In Rome, he kissed his family goodbye in the manner of the Apostles, and lived as an ascetic in Sicily around 408-409, giving his daughter to a convent on that island. He seems to have been ordained as a priest around 415. He lived in Rome between 418–429, and appears to be the “Deacon Palladius”, responsible for urging Pope Celestine I to send the bishop Germanus to Britain, where he guided the Britons back to the Orthodox faith.
In 431, he have been sent as the first bishop to the Christians of Ireland: Palladius, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, is sent as first bishop to the Irish believing in Christ. Palladius landed at Hy-Garchon, where the town of Wicklow now stands.
Irish writers that chronicled the life of St. Patrick state that St. Palladius preached in Ireland before St. Patrick, although he was soon banished by the King of Leinster, and returned to North Britain. According to Muirchu (who lived two centuries later) in the Book of Armagh, God hindered him…and neither did those fierce and cruel men receive his doctrine readily, nor did he himself wish to spend time in a strange land, but returned to him who sent him. Palladius was accompanied by four companions: Sylvester and Solinus, who remained after him in Ireland, and Augustinus and Benedictus, who followed him to Britain but returned to their own country after his death. Palladius is most strongly associated with Leinster, particularly with Clonard, County Meath.
According to St. Prosper, Palladius arrived among the Scots in North Britain (in the consulate of Bassus and Antiochus) after he left Ireland in 431. Scottish church tradition holds that he presided over a Christian community there for about 20 years.
St Palladius’s Chapel
5th century shrine is among the earliest Christian sites in Scotland.
Fordoun was the site of a chapel founded by the 5th century saint, Palladius, who is said to have preached and died here.
The saint’s relics were preserved in a silver shrine with the chapel that he built at Fordoun.
The chapel – also known as Paldy Kirk – was the mother church for the Mearns region. The ruins of a 13th century chapel built on the site of the original 5th century building can still be seen beside the later church and there is still a well known as St Palladius’s Well in the grounds of the manse.
The ancient ruins were rebuilt in the 16th century and again in 1788. In 1828 the roof collapsed and the chapel was finally abandoned in favour of the new and much grander building we see today. Within the ruined 13th century building is a holy water stoup and an aumbry in the north wall. The three large lancets are a 17th century addition.
The most intriguing feature in the chapel ruins is not above ground however. Protected by a metal grate are stone steps leading down into the earth to a crypt unse the chapel floor.
One plausible theory is that the crypt was where the relics of St Palladius were held, and where pilgrims came to visit his shrine. King Kenneth III was one of those piulgrims; it is said that he was on his way to Fordoun when he died in 994 AD.
In the vestibule of the church is the Fordoun Stone, a beautifully carved Pictish cross slab. This was discovered in 1787 when the pulpit of the chapel was pulled down. The cross may have been hidden here during the Reformation. It shows a marvellously intricate cross and traditional pictish symbols, plus inscriptions in Ogham and a Roman script.
There are several interesting old gravestones near the chapel (some actually leaning agaimst the chapel wall). One stone to William Christison has a rather pointed reminder (literally); a finger points upwards to the heavens above, and a single word is carved – ‘Home’.
Palladius was the first Christian missionery in northern Scotland. He was ordained a priest by Pope Celestine in 430 AD, and is thought to have preached in Ireland before arriving in the Mearns area of Scotland. Presumably he found the natives less than receptive, for his martyrdom occurred not long after his arrival.
The chapel is accessible at any time.