Odran (disciple of Saint Patrick)

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Saint Odran, the charioteer of Saint Patrick, ranks as the first Christian martyr in Irish history. He lived about 430.

There are two different versions given about Odran’s martyrdom. The first, in the Vita tripartita Sancti Patricii, states that on the borders of the future counties of Kildare and Offaly, the chieftain of that district, Failge Berraide, worshipped the pagan god Crom Cruach and vowed to avenge the god’s destruction at Magh Slécht by killing Patrick. Odran overheard the plot, and as he and Patrick set out in the chariot to continue their journey, requested that he be allowed to hold the place of honour instead of Patrick, who granted his wish; scarcely had they set out when a lance pierced the heart of the devoted follower, who by changing places thus saved Patrick's life.

The second version, contained in the Pseudo-Historical Prologue to the Senchas Már, states that the High-King Lóegaire mac Néill (died 462) persuaded his nephew to kill Patrick as follows:

"The cause of the Senchus Mor having been composed was this :- Patrick came to Erin to baptize and to disseminate religion among the Gaedhil, i.e. in the ninth year of Theodosius and in the fourth year of Laeghaire, King of Erin, son of Niall. But the cause of the poem having been composed was as follows -Laeghaire ordered his people to kill a man of Patrick's people; and Laeghaire agreed to give his own award to the person who should kill the man, that he might discover whether he (Patrick) would grant forgiveness for it. And Nuada Derg, the son of Niall, the brother of Laeghaire, who was in captivity in the hands of Laeghaire, heard this, and he said that if he were released and got other rewards, he would kill one of Patrick's people. And the command of Laeghaire's cavalry was given him, and he was released from captivity, and he gave guarantee that he would fulfil his promise; and he took his lance and went towards the clerics, and hurled the lance at them and slew Odran, Patrick's charioteer."

St.Patrick then asked the Chief Ollam of Ireland, Dubhthach moccu Lughair to try the case and the murderer was convicted and executed, thus creating the earliest judgement on the conflicting values of Christian and Pagan laws in Ireland.

Saint Odran's feast-day is 19 February.

Due to the similarity of the name some people have identified Odran with Odhran. There is a link in the tradition that both men voluntarily sacrificed themselves in assisting the work of a greater saint.

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • K. R. McCone, “Dubthach maccu Lugair and a Matter of Life and Death in the Pseudohistorical Prologue to the Senchas Már” in Peritia v (1986).
  • D. A. Binchy, "The Pseudo-historical prologue to the Senchas Mar" in Studia Celtica x/xi (1975–76), p. 15.
  • J. Carey, "The two laws in Dubthach's judgment" in CMCS, 1990, n°19, pp. 1–18
  • J. Carey, "An edition of the Pseudo-historical prologue to the Senchas Mar" in Eriu, 1994, n°45, pp. 1–32.