Ailbe of Emly
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Patronage||Munster, the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, wolves|
Saint Ailbe (Irish pronunciation: [ˈalʲvʲə]; Latin: Albeus), usually known in English as St Elvis, (British/Welsh) Eilfyw or Eilfw, was a 6th-century Christian figure in Ireland, where he was a bishop, confessor and later saint. Ailbe's origins are a matter of controversy and is claimed by different sources to have been Irish or an Ancient Briton; he is also strongly associated with early medieval Wales, particularly Saint David, whom he was credited with baptizing.
The life of Ailbe is included in the Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae (VSH), a Latin collection of medieval Irish saints’ lives compiled in the 14th century. There are three major manuscript versions of the VSH: the Dublin, Oxford, and Salamanca. Charles Plummer compiled an edition of the VSH based on the two surviving Dublin manuscripts in 1910. William Heist compiled an edition of the single Salamanca manuscript in 1965. Oxford professor Richard Sharpe suggests that the Salamanca manuscript is the closest to the original text from which all three versions derive. Sharpe's analysis of the Irish name-forms in the Codex Salamanticensis showed similarities between it and the Life of Saint Brigid, a verifiably 7th-century text, leading him to posit that nine (and possibly ten) of the lives were written much earlier, c. 750–850. Further material is provided by the lives of related saints such as Patrick. All include numerous miraculous events and obvious inconsistencies and anachronisms.
Ailbe's early life is contentious and he is claimed by different sources to have been Irish or a Briton. Irish sources make him an Irishman and list him among the pre-Patrician saints of Ireland, in the company of Ciaran, Declan, and Ibar, although the Annals of Innisfallen, records that he died in 528. The same sources suggest that he was abandoned by his parents and discovered in the forest by visiting Britons who took Ailbe with them when they returned to Wales. Conversely, Welsh sources make him Eilfyw, the son of Dirdan of Brittany and Danhadlwen, a descendant of Guorthemir (Modern Welsh: Gwerthefyr; English: Vortimer the Blessed), making him a cousin of saints David, Cybi, and Sadyrnin.
A tradition held that he went to Rome and was ordained as a bishop by Saint Hilary who was then pope. Ailbe baptized Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. In Welsh traditions, he then fostered the boy while serving as bishop of Menevia (present-day St David's) and founder of St Elvis in Pembrokeshire, before leaving to missionize southern Ireland.
In Ireland, Ailbhe founded the monastery and diocese of Emly (Irish: Imlech), which became very important in Munster. He was said to have been responsible for King Aengus's donation of island lands for Saint Enda's monastery.
In Irish legend, Ailbhe's father fled King Cronan before the child's birth and his mother's servants—ordered by the king to put the baby to death—instead placed him on a rock in the wilderness where he was found and nursed by a she-wolf. Long afterwards, when Ailbe was bishop, an old she-wolf being pursued by a hunting party ran to the bishop and laid her head upon his breast. Ailbhe protected the wolf and thereafter fed her and her cubs every day from his hall. Ailbhe's British foster-parents were said to have planned to leave him in Ireland when they returned home but were constantly and miraculously unable to make the passage until they consented to take him with them. Upon being ordained in Rome, he was said to have fed the people of the city for three days before returning home. At the end of his life, a supernatural ship came and he boarded to learn the secret of his death. Returning from the faerie world, he went back to Emly to die and be buried.
In Emly, there is a Catholic church dedicated to St Ailbe which dates to the late 19th century. An ancient and weathered Celtic cross in its churchyard is known as "St Ailbe's Cross". The early 19th-century church of St Ailbe is now used as the village hall. A 9th-century monastic rule, written in Old Irish, bears his name.
- "Saint Elvis" in Terry Breverton's Wales: A Historical Companion, pp. 164 f. Amberley Publishing (Stroud), 2009.
- Also formerly and in some locations 13 September and 27 February.
- Challoner, Richard. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety: or, a British Martyrology, p. 127. W. Needham, 1761. Accessed 14 Mar 2013.
- Plummer, Charles (1968) . Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae [Lives of the Saints of Ireland]. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon. p. 46 ff., vol. 1.
- Thurston, Herbert (1907). "St. Ailbe". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York City: Robert Appleton Company (print); New Advent (web). Retrieved 25 August 2008.
- Smith, William; Wace, Henry (1880). A Dictionary of Christian Biography. London: John Murray. p. 82.
- "History", Emly Parish.
- Plummer, Charles (1968) . Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae. Lives of the Saints of Ireland. II (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon. pp. xxviii–xxxi, 46–64.
- Heist, W. W., ed. (1965). Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, ex codice olim Salmanticensi nunc Bruxellensi. (Lives of the Saints of Ireland, from the Salamanca manuscript now of Brussels). Subsidia Hagiographica 28. Brussels: Société des Bollandistes.
- Sharpe, Richard (1991). Medieval Irish saints' lives: an introduction to Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae. Oxford: Clarendon.
- Baring-Gould, Sabine & al. The Lives of the British Saints: The Saints of Wales and Cornwall and Such Irish Saints as Have Dedications in Britain, Vol. I, pp. 128 ff. Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (London), 1911.
- Duffy, Patrick. "St. Ailbe of Emly", CaholicIreland.net
- Toke, Leslie (1908). "Catholic Encyclopedia: St David". Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- BBC. "Saint David".
- "GENUKI: St Elvis".
- The diocese's full name in Gaelic is Imleach Iubhair, the "Border of the Lake of the Yew Trees", a reminder of the pre-Christian history of Emly.
- Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly
- Ballingarry. "Slieveardagh Parish History".
- Answers.com. "Ailbhe".
- The Modern Antiquarian. "St Elvis".
- Kelsall, Dennis & Jan (2005). Walking in Pembrokeshire. Cicerone Press. p. 61.