Odran of Iona

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Born County Meath, Ireland
Died 548
Iona, Scotland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Anglican Church and other Churches
Feast October 27
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.


A native of the midlands, Odran remained in the area of North Tipperary for over forty years. He founded Kilmore Church in the parish of Silvermines. The name Kilmore comes from the Irish words Cill Mhór which means "the big church" and is a reference to the church founded by St. Odran [Ódhrán] around the year 520 A.D. which was a wooden building. This wooden structure was later replaced by one of stone around the year 1,000 A.D.[1] According to Irish tradition Odran served as abbot of Meath and founded Lattreagh.

In 563 he was one of twelve who accompanied St Colmcille to the lonely uninhabited island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. He was the oldest of St. Colmcille’s twelve companions and was the first of them to die on Iona where he is buried.[1] Columba saw devils and angels fight over Odran's soul before it ascended into heaven.[2]

Another legend tells that the chapel that Saint Columba wanted to build on Iona was destroyed every night. Finally he was told by a voice that it could never be finished until a living man was buried below. So Odran was buried alive willingly and the chapel could be finished. But one day he pushed his head through the wall and said that there was no hell as was supposed nor heaven that people talk about. Alarmed by this Columba let Odran's body be variously covered with earth more securely or removed with haste.[3]

In a Hebridean version of this tale Odran is promised that his soul will be safe in heaven. Some time after the burial Columba wants to see Odran once more and opens the pit under the chapel. When Odran sees the world he tries to come out again, but Columba has the pit covered with earth quickly to save Odran's soul from the world and its sin.[3]

These legends are one of the few instances of foundation sacrifice in Great Britain.[3] 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.[4]

The oldest remaining church on Iona is dedicated to Saint Odhran and the surrounding cemetery is called Reilig Odhráin in his memory.

Odran's feast day is October 27.

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.


St. Odran is the patron saint of the parish of Silvermines, Co. Tipperary.[1] He was chosen by the Vikings as patron of the city of Waterford in 1096 and later became patron of the diocese.


  1. ^ a b c The Parish of Silvermines, Killaloe Diocese
  2. ^ "27 October is St. Odran's Day", United Church of Bute
  3. ^ a b c MacLeod Banks, M. (1931). "A Hebridean Version of Colum Cille and St. Oran". Folklore 42 (1): 55–60. JSTOR 1256410. 
  4. ^ Henderson, George, Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, 1911