Odran of Iona
|Born||County Meath, Ireland|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Anglican Church and other Churches|
|Patronage||Waterford, Ireland; Silvermines parish, Tipperary|
Odran or Odhran (earlier: Otteran), a descendant of Conall Gulban, is usually identified with Odhron (also called Odhrán or Oran), who preceded Saint Columba in Iona. His death is recorded in 548 and his grave was greatly revered in Iona. St. Odhrán's feast day is on the 27th of October.
Odran lived for over forty years in the area now known as Silvermines, in County Tipperary, Ireland, building a church there in 520. According to Irish tradition, Odran also served as abbot of Meath, and founded Lattreagh. In 563, he was among the twelve who accompanied St Columba to the Scottish island of Iona, where he died and was buried. Columba is said to have seen devils and angels fight over Odran's soul before it ascended into heaven.
One popular legend surrounding Odran's death is that he consented to being buried alive beneath a chapel that Columba was attempting to build at Iona. A voice had told Columba that the walls of the chapel would not stand until a living man was buried below the foundations, and indeed, each morning the builders would arrive at the site to find all their work of the previous day undone. So Odran was consigned to the earth, and the chapel was erected above him. One day, however, Odran lifted his head out of the ground and said: "There is no Hell as you suppose, nor Heaven that people talk about". Alarmed by this, Columba quickly had the body removed and reburied in consecrated ground – or, in other versions of the story, simply called for more earth to cover the body.
In a Hebridean version of this tale, Odran was promised that his soul would be safe in heaven. Some time after the burial, Columba wanted to see Odran once more and opened the pit under the chapel. When Odran saw the world, he tried to climb out of his grave, but Columba had the pit covered with earth quickly to save Odran's soul from the world and its sin.
These legends are one of the few instances of foundation sacrifice in Great Britain. While the story of St. Odran's self-sacrifice does not appear in Adamnan's Life of Columcille, George Henderson says that the legend points to an ancient folk-belief, and sees a similarity with the Arthurian legend of the building of Dinas Emris, where Vortigern was counseled to find and sacrifice "a child without a father" to ensure that the fortress walls did not collapse.
Due to the similarity of the name some people have identified Odran with Saint Odran, the first Irish Christian martyr. There is a parallel in that each man voluntarily sacrificed himself to further the work of a better-known saint.
The oldest remaining church on Iona is dedicated to Saint Odran and the surrounding cemetery is called Reilig Odhráin in his memory.
- Farmer, David Hugh (1987). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Oxford University Press, Oxford. New York. 2nd Edition. ISBN 0-19-869149-1
- "Silvermines". Killaloe Diocese. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
- "UCB News". United Church of Bute. October 2006.
- MacLeod Banks, M. (1931). "A Hebridean Version of Colum Cille and St. Oran". Folklore 42 (1): 55–60. JSTOR 1256410.
- Henderson, George (1911). Survivals in Belief Among the Celts (hosted by Internet Sacred Text Archive). p. 278.
- "Patron Saints of the Diocese". DIocese of Waterford and Lismore. Retrieved 25 May 2015.