Monday, 14 March 2016

Saint Mel of Ardagh (O'Hanlon 2)

From Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints for 6th February:



St. Brigid seems often to have visited St. Mel, when she resided not far from Ardagh. At one time, the king of that district entertained both these holy personages; and, a remarkable miracle was wrought by the illustrious abbess, at a banquet, given in their honour. The kindness of St. Mel, interceding with the king for a supposed transgressor, on this occasion, pleasingly illustrates the holy bishop's character. St. Mel and St. Moelchu — both being regarded as distinct — are stated to have accompanied the abbess, to a synod, which was held at Tailten, in Meath.

Our thoroughly ignorant and presumptuous antiquarian, Ledwich, confounds St. Mel, with a St. Maula, venerated in Kilkenny city, and said to have been the mother of St. Canice. He therefore, flippantly assumes, the sex of this present saint to be doubtful, and that other accounts about him are unauthentic. Perhaps, absurdity of statement is carried to a still further degree, where we find it gravely advanced, that St. Mel is to be identified with the Cuthite Melissa; and again, that he left his name to Mellifont. St. Mel is classed among the disciples of St. Patrick, by Colgan. There can be no doubt, that our holy bishop acted under the advice and direction of that great master. Whether or not, he survived St. Patrick is open to question. It seems probable enough, however, that Mel passed away from earth, before the Irish Apostle had terminated his earthly career.

It is said, that St. Mel wrote the Acts, virtues and miracles of his uncle, St. Patrick, while this latter holy man had been living; for, the great Apostle of Ireland is supposed to have survived our saint five years. For his death, a.d. 466 has been assigned. Mel departed this life, at Ardagh, however, about the year 487 or 488. St. AEngus the Culdee, the Martyrology of Tallagh, Marianus O'Gorman, Cathal Maguire, and the Martyrology of Salisbury, record this holy bishop's festival, at the present date. It was probably that of his death, which is usually assigned to the 6th of February, and according to accounts left by our Irish hagiographers. This corresponds with the 8th of the February Ides. In Ardagh diocese, his feast is a double of the first class, with an octave.

Notwithstanding the celebrity of this saint, Mel, Epis. —meaning bishop— is the only entry, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, concerning him. Besides this, we read, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival on this day, Mel, Bishop of Ard-achadh, in Tethbha. He was a disciple of Patrick, according to the same authority; but, nothing has been noted, about his relationship. Mel is regarded, as the first bishop over the see of Ardagh, and, he has been constantly venerated as the special patron saint of that diocese. Longford being of late years the chief town in the diocese of Ardagh, the magnificent new cathedral of St. Mel was commenced there, by the bishop of that see. Dr. O'Higgins, about forty years ago, and completed, nearly as it now stands, by the late bishop. Dr. Kilduff. The beautiful high altar was erected since this prelate's death, as a memorial to commemorate his zeal and virtues. The present bishop. Dr. Conroy, has contributed largely to complete the interior, and further improvements are yet contemplated. Adjoining the cathedral, a fine college has been erected, in a delightful situation, and on very extensive grounds, for purposes of lay and ecclesiastical education of a high order. This establishment has also been placed under the patronage of St. Mel. The fine cathedral, dedicated to St. Mel, at Longford, is one of the largest and handsomest ecclesiastical structures in Ireland. It is built of the finest grey marble limestone, which on the exterior is cut and carefully dressed, from the foundation to the projecting course, that crowns the walls. Cut stone mouldings enclose the windows exteriorly, and these are covered with moulded pediments. Six pillars are intended to support a grand pediment in front, but this portion has yet to be erected. The style throughout is of the Italian composite order. The ground plan includes a nave, connecting two side aisles, by a double range of eleven arches, divided on either hand, resting on twelve grey marble columns of great height, yet symmetrical and solid. The columns are capped by chiselled capitals, under the turning of the arches. A transept extends across the upper end of the nave and side aisles. A grand high altar of exquisitely white polished Carrara marble — of elaborate and congruent design with the style of building — is in the centre, and opposite to the great entrance by the nave. At the end of the right side aisle, there is a side altar of our Holy Redeemer, and at the end of the left side aisle, there is one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Transverse columns and arches are in the transepts. Four circular-headed windows light either side aisle, and they alternate with circular canopied niches, all with fine mouldings interiorly. Five such niches fill up the circular apse, behind the front altar. A circular-headed window, between similarly designed niches, ornaments either end of the transept. Twenty-eight angels, wrought in a highly artistic manner, rise immediately over the capitals of all the nave columns. The coved roof of the ceiling is wrought very tastefully in plaster, while a highly ornamental cornice runs over the whole circuit of nave and apse, in the same elaborate style. High in the coved ceiling, over the three large entrance vestibules, is the fine-toned organ of the choir. Two fine columns, with three connecting arches, support the organ-loft and choir. The vestibules, in front, lead to the nave and aisles. A moulded cornice runs immediately under the window sills, all through the cathedral. Twelve clerestory and circular-headed lights are over their respective colonnade arches, on either side of the nave. The bishop's throne is on the Gospel side, within the sanctuary; while the pulpit rises against the third circular column, on the Epistle side of the nave. Basso-relievo flat columns are placed along the walls of the transepts, of the side aisles, and of the apse. The campanile, surmounted with a dome, and terminated by an elaborate gilt cross, is an object of great architectural beauty. On an octagonal base, rising over the roof, are three projecting mouldings, each sustaining a highly ornate compartment of the campanile. Carved columns sustain the cornices.

As in the instance of the renowned Saint Mel, we find the holiest persons are not exempt from unjust suspicions. In like cases, we must have patience awhile; slanders are not usually long-lived. Truth is the child of Time; ere long she shall appear to rehabilitate the character of those, who respect her dictates. Then shall the caluminated and maligned retire from life, vindicated and rewarded. Even, should base calumny fasten a sting, a stigma, or a stain, on the motives or actions of departed persons; the Almighty, who knows the hearts of all men, and who views their whole course of conduct, in a clear light, will justify the innocent, and most certainly reverse the false opinions of all men, on the day of General Judgment.

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