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Firth of Forth. Lord Dunraven, in his magnificent work entitled 'Notes on Irish Architecture,' exhibits most interesting photographs of those which have been found in Ireland. These singular dwellings are called by the modern Irish clochans;' in ancient times they were known as carcair, a word identical with the Latin carcer, a prison. In some places only one cell is found, where the lonely inmate lived a life by heaven too much opprest.' In other places two or more cells were built beside each other. In the island of Ard
oillean, off the west coast of Ireland, several separate cells are seen enclosed by a circular uncemented stone wall, in which a number of hermits lived an individual recluse life, as distinct from the cœnobitical life of the monastery. The two cells joined together at Elachnave are a striking example of the transition between the solitary abode of the hermit and what may be called the social eremitical establishment. We are reminded by the social life of these 'solitaries' of the parallel instance in the romance of King Arthur, where Sir Bedevere and Sir Launcelot, after they lost their lord, lived with seven other noble knights for six years in great penance in a hermitage between two hills. To the single cell of the solitary and the clustered cells of the congregated hermits, the common name of disert was given, a name which survives in Dysart, a small town in Fifeshire, so called because of the eremitical cell of St. Serf in its neighbourhood. At Iona there is a small burying-place, south of the ruins of the cathedral, still called 'Cladh an Diseart,' near which is a harbour called Port an Diseart.' These local names preserve the memory of a hermitage which once existed in this place, to which some of the brethren of the monastery retired for a time into a deeper solitude. In after ages cells were built against the wall of a church, called reclusoria or anchorholds, where the devotee immured himself for life. Traces of such living tombs, in which women as well as men spent their whole life in prayer and meditation, may still be seen in connection with many of the old parish churches of England and Ireland, such as Rittendon in Essex, Clifton Campville in Staffordshire, Chipping Norton, Oxon, and Warrington in Warwickshire. The position of such anchorholds as have entirely vanished is often indicated by little curious windows which occur in many old churches in various situations and at various heights, called 'low side windows.' Some of these windows are simple square openings, which were never glazed, and were closed only by shutters; others have a stone transom across, the upper part of which is glazed and the lower closed by a shutter. The hermit who lived inside the church could have light from the glazed portion of the window, while through the unglazed part he could receive his food from those appointed to wait upon him and hold communication with the outer world. Others of these low side windows would enable an anchorite living outside the church to watch the worship of the sanctuary within, and to receive the holy communion through the opening. It is some window of this kind that is alluded to in the romance of Prince Arthur.' 'Then Sir
Launcelot armed him, and took his horse, and as he rode that day he saw a chapel where was a recluse which had a window that she might see up to the altar; and all aloud she called Sir Launcelot, because he seemed a knight errant.' Rules were laid down for the construction of such anchorholds. Bishop Poore describes in his 'Ancren Riewle' the kind of life that was lived in these cells; and a special liturgical service was appointed in connection with the immuring of the occupants, as we find in the Salisbury Manual,' and in the Pontifical of Lacy, bishop of Exeter.
The two beehive cells at Elachnave remind us of a curious custom in connection with the discipline of the St. Columban Church. When any one of the brethren was guilty of some grave offence, he was obliged to seclude himself, with a member of the fraternity distinguished for his piety, whom he made his anumchard or soul-friend, and implicitly obeyed in the performance of the special exercises prescribed for his restoration. Perhaps these cells were made use of for this penitential purpose, as well as for the practice of extreme asceticism on the part of those who led blameless lives. Another punishment often inflicted for light offences was the recitation of the whole or part of the Psalter, with the body entirely immersed in water. This penance may have been carried out in the curious underground cell near the oratory, which, as I have said, is often half filled with water during rainy weather. I was informed by some of the old people at Easdale that thirty or forty years ago, a curious stone was found near these beehive cells with a narrow aperture in it, which was used in the administration of justice. The accused was required to put his hand through it, when if innocent he could withdraw it easily, but if guilty his hand became swollen to such an extent that he was held fast. This Celtic ordeal recalls the similar one in connection with the famous marble mask, known as the 'Bocca della Verità,' in the portico of Sta. Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. Doubtless both were derived from the same primitive source, and belonged to the original pagan symbolism which underlay alike the Christianity of Rome and of this remote island of the Hebrides. We searched diligently for this interesting relic among the cairns of loose grey stones lying around, but were unsuccessful.
Besides the performance of their religious duties, two other occupations diversified the monotonous existence of the brethren of Elachnave. One was the practice of the healing art. And just as the heads of monasteries in the St. Columban Church, like the Aaronic priesthood, were descended from the same family, and attained to their office by hereditary succession, being known for several hundred years as the Coärbs of Columcille,' so those who practised medicine among them perpetuated a family of doctors, in which medical skill was an inheritance of birth. Certain families in Islay and Mull, the Olla Ileach' and Olla Muileach,' produced famous physicians up to the end of last century. The other occupation alluded to was the copying of manuscripts. St. Columba had inspired
No labour in the
all his followers with his own ardent love of books. monastic institutions was regarded with greater honour than the writing of service-books for the use of the various churches which rapidly sprang up throughout the land. To the elaborate ornamentation of copies of the Gospels and Psalters, many years were devoted by the skilful and patient transcribers. At Elachnave there was doubtless a library of such classic and Christian literature as existed in those days. Possibly some of the manuscripts in this island and at Iona, rescued from destruction at the Reformation, found their way to the Colleges of Douay and Ratisbon, or even to the vast literary storehouse of the Vatican, where they may still lie hid along with the unknown spoils of the Celtic monastery of Bobbio in Italy, waiting for some future Cardinal Mai to discover them. A few of the manuscripts of the St. Columban monasteries of the sixth and seventh centuries survive to this day. The famous Psalter called the Cathack' or Book of Battle, which St. Columba copied without permission from the original, in the possession of Finnian of Moyville, and which was the cause of the battle that led to his expulsion from Ireland, is now in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, enclosed in its silver reliquary. The copy of the Evangelists called the Book of Durrow,' which belonged to St. Columba's principal Irish monastery of that name, in the county of Meath, and the 'Book of Kells,' traditionally known as the Great Gospel of Columcille,' are preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, where I had lately the pleasure of carefully examining them, through the kindness of the accomplished librarian. Both these manuscripts are remarkable specimens of the vast skill and labour bestowed by the St. Columban transcribers upon the embellishment of the Scriptures. But the Book of Kells' is by far the more wonderful of the two. The elaborate beauty and extraordinary richness and intricacy of its illuminations, transcend all previous ideas of such work, and fill everyone who examines them with astonishment and admiration. It is worthy of the veneration which it has received for nearly thirteen hundred years, as one of the principal Christian relics of the western world.
The loss of the manuscripts, chartularies, and treasured records of a remote antiquity at Iona, during the destructive storm of the Reformation, is deeply to be regretted on many grounds. Had they survived they would doubtless have thrown much light upon the history of the institution at Elachnave. As it is, we know very little indeed of the events that transpired in this secluded place, or of its subsequent fate when the Culdees, persecuted by their inexorable enemies of the Romish Church, and expelled from the outposts in the surrounding isles, were finally driven away from their last stronghold in Iona. Of its early history a few dim traces may be incidentally found in Adamnan's life of St. Columba. This author mentions that St. Columba sent Ernan, his uncle, to preside over the monastery he had founded in this island. Being an aged man, however, he did not long exercise this office. Feeling himself seriously ill, he desired to
be taken back to Iona, that he might die within the hallowed cincts of the institution he loved so well. St. Columba set out from his cell to the landing-place to meet his aged relative, as he feebly attempted to walk the short intervening distance. But when there were only twenty-four paces between them, Ernan suddenly fell down to the ground, and breathed his last before St. Columba could see his face; and on the fatal spot a cross was raised to commemorate his death. St. Columba frequently visited the monastery at Elachnave, and exercised over its affairs a paternal surveillance. Adamnan speaks of the church where he ministered, and of the house which he occupied on such occasions, which may be identified with the existing remains. It was while living here at one time that he was raised into a rapt ecstatic state like St. John in Patmos, and for three days and nights he neither ate nor drank, nor suffered anyone to approach him. The house in which he dwelt was filled with heavenly brightness, and through the chinks of the doors and keyholes rays of surpassing brilliancy were seen to issue during the night. Certain spiritual songs also, which had never been heard before, he was heard to sing. He came to see, as he allowed in the presence of a very few afterwards, many secrets hidden from men since the beginning of the world fully revealed. Here too he received a deputation of four holy founders of monasteries, who had come from Ireland to visit him. Comgall of Bangor, and Cainneach of Achaboe, the two who had accompanied him in his first visit to King Brude, Brendan of Clonfert, and that Cormac, who, as I have said, undertook in vain a perilous voyage in the North Sea in search of a solitary island in which he might place a hermitage. Here too occurred a picturesque incident, told by Adamnan, and poetically adorned by Montalembert in his Monks of the West.' When about to excommunicate the sons of Connal, notorious freebooters and persecutors of the Church, one of their associates rushed upon St. Columba to kill him with his spear. A monk called Finlugan, clothed in the saint's cowl, stepped in between the intending murderer and his victim. The spear failed to pierce the cowl, as if it had been a coat of mail, and the monk remained unhurt. Lambh-des, the assassin, fancying that he had slain his victim, fled immediately. Exactly one year after this St. Columba, in Iona, said: "This day twelve months ago, Lambh-des did his best to slay Finlugan when he took my place; to-day he himself is slain.' And so it turned out. That very day Lambh-des was slain by one Cronan, who, it is said, discharged his weapon in the name of
A spot more lonely, more secluded from the ordinary associations of human life, from the common sights and sounds of nature itself, than the site of these ruins, it is impossible to imagine. The landscape is reduced to its simplest elements. It is a mere sketch or outline of that which in other places has been filled up. No streamlet animates the scene with its bright sparkle and cheery murmur; no tree or bush makes a sanctuary of shadow and mystery in the naked
waste; nothing but the bare rock with its infrequent patches of verdure meets the eye, over which the wind wails with almost human plaintiveness. Everything speaks only of eternal endurance-the rocks around, the sky overhead, the sea beyond. On the shore the wave beats unweariedly in its ceaseless ebb and flow, as it has done for untold ages. It is the throb of nature's great pulse that counts no minutes in its everlasting youth. No conspicuous foliage indicates the passage of the seasons by its kindling buds in spring, and its fading tints in autumn; and the weeds and wild flowers are too small and hidden to register to the eye the changes of the year. Save by a tenderer tinge that comes upon the herbage in the early year, and a sadder brown that overshadows it at the close-save by the wilder or softer voice of wind and wave, by the darker or brighter aspect of sea and sky, by the longer or shorter light, the seasons are indistinguishable, and one perpetual autumn broods over the place. Man's life bere becomes a part of the eternal monotony of nature. The repose of body and spirit, the conformity of the order of human life with the beautiful order of God's works, which weary hearts out of monasteries consider the ideal blessedness, could here be enjoyed in fullest measure. The life of the lichen on the rock could not be more impassive. The great world comes only to the verge of the mainland; and the larger islands loom so faintly in the distance, that they bring no suggestions of human tears and strife to disturb the solitude. The toiling generations that in long succession sow, and reap, and struggle are forgotten. Only with God's sea and sky, on which man can make no impression and leave no trace, is the wide horizon filled. The sunrise opens up every day its mystic visions of the apocalyptic city; the sunset flecks its path of gold over the placid waters leading to the gates of the west, where human vision ends in the blinding glory; and the far mountains flushed with the dying daylight awaken thoughts of the everlasting hills beyond which God's divinest secrets lie.'
It may be that the Celtic monks had no power of admiring natural scenery. They lived long before that faculty, which is a product of modern times, was developed. The solemn purpose of their lives might have put into the background all thoughts of beauty either in the works of nature or of man. But still they could not be altogether unconscious of the romantic surroundings of their retreat. St. Columba selected Iona for its convenient position, and the special advantages which it offered for carrying on his mission; but we have reason to believe that he who was in other things so far before his time, was not insensible to the picturesqueness of the spot itself, and the incomparable views of the archipelago of islands of which it formed the centre. And something of the same mind must have possessed the disciples of this gifted seer who lived in the monastery of Elachnave. Dreary and monotonous as was their narrow home, it had a grand outlook. Following the broad rift occasioned by the erosion. of the trap-dyke, in which the ruins are situated, to the summit, a No. 611 (No. CXXXI. N. §.)