The Bachall Isu

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter VIII. ...continued

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St. Patrick retired to Italy after this vision, and there spent many years. During this period he visited Lerins,[4] and other islands in the Mediterranean. Lerins was distinguished for its religious and learned establishments; and probably St. Germain,[5] under whose direction the saint still continued, had recommended him to study there. It was at this time that he received the celebrated staff, called the Bachall Isu, or Staff of Jesus.

St. Bernard mentions this Bachall Isu, in his life of St. Malachy, as one of those insignia of the see of Armagh, which were popularly believed to confer upon the possessor a title to be regarded and obeyed as the successor of St. Patrick. Indeed, the great antiquity of this long-treasured relic has never been questioned; nor is there any reason to suppose that it was not in some way a miraculous gift.

Frequent notices of this pastoral staff are found in ancient Irish history. St. Fiacc speaks of it as having been richly adorned by an ecclesiastic contemporary with the saint.

A curious MS. is still preserved in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, containing an examination of "Sir Gerald Machshayne, knight, sworn 19th March, 1529, upon the Holie Mase-booke and the great relicke of Erlonde, called Baculum Christi, in the presence of the Kynge's Deputie, Chancellour, Tresoror, and Justice."

Perhaps it may be well to conclude the account of this interesting relic by a notice of its wanton destruction, as translated from the Annals of Loch Cà by Professor O'Curry:—

"The most miraculous image of Mary, which was at Bailé Atha Truim (Trim), and which the Irish people had all honoured for a long time before that, which used to heal the blind, the deaf, the lame, and every disease in like manner, was burned by the Saxons. And the Staff of Jesus, which was in Dublin, and which wrought many wonders and miracles in Erinn since the time of Patrick down to that time, and which was in the hand of Christ Himself, was burned by the Saxons in like manner. And not only that, but there was not a holy cross, nor an image of Mary, nor other celebrated image in Erinn over which their power reached, that they did not burn. Nor was there one of the seven Orders which came under their power that they did not ruin. And the Pope and the Church in the East and at home were excommunicating the Saxons on that account, and they did not pay any attention or heed unto that, &c. And I am not certain whether it was not in the year preceding the above [A.D. 1537] that these relics were burned."

St. Patrick visited Rome about the year 431, accompanied by a priest named Segetius, who was sent with him by St. Germanus to vouch for the sanctity of his character, and his fitness for the Irish mission. Celestine received him favourably, and dismissed him with his benediction and approbation. St. Patrick then returned once more to his master, who was residing at Auxerre. From thence he went into the north of Gaul, and there receiving intelligence of the death of St. Palladius, and the failure of his mission, he was immediately consecrated bishop by the venerable Amato, a prelate of great sanctity, then residing in the neighbourhood of Ebovia. Auxilius, Isserninus, and other disciples of the saint, received holy orders at the same time. They were subsequently promoted to the episcopacy in the land of their adoption.

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[4] Lerins.—See Monks of the West, v. i. p. 463. It was then styled insula beata.

[5] St. Germain.—St. Fiacc, who, it will he remembered, was contemporary with St. Patrick, write thus in his Hymn:

"The angel, Victor, sent Patrick over the Alps;
Admirable was his journey—
Until he took his abode with Germanus,
Par away in the south of Letha.
In the isles of the Tyrrhene sea he remained;
In them he meditated;
He read the canon with Germanus—
This, histories make known."


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