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Saint Cathan
Venerated inScottish Episcopal Church

Roman Catholic Church

Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast17 May

Saint Cathan, also known as Catan, Cattan, etc., was a 6th-century Irish monk revered as a saint in parts of the Scottish Hebrides.

Source Material[edit]

This Saint appears in the Aberdeen Breviary, Walter Bower's Scotichronicon, and the Acta Sanctorum, and a number of placenames in western Scotland are associated with him.[1][2]

Gaelic Christianity[edit]

He is said to have been one of the first Irish missionaries to come to the Isle of Bute, then part of the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata.

Very little is known of him; he is generally only mentioned in connection with his more famous nephew Saint Blane, who was born on Bute and later proselytized among the Picts. Both saints were strongly associated with Bute and with Kingarth monastery, which became the center of their cults.[3][4]

A number of churches were dedicated to Cathan across Scotland's western islands.

  • Tobar Chattan, or Cathan's Well, at Little Kilchattan on Bute may represent the site of Cathan's original church.[3]
  • Other churches, now in ruins, include St Cathan's Chapel on Colonsay,
  • Kilchattan Chapel on Gigha, and
  • Kilchattan Church on Luing.[5][6][7] The Luing church served the historical Kilchattan parish; the modern Kilchattan Church was built at Achafolla in 1936.[8]

Cathan is said to have lived for a time at the monastery at Stornoway on the isle of Lewis, and his relics are said to have been housed at a chapel founded by Clan MacLeod on the same island.[9]



Cathan's name survives in the various toponyms in the area containing the element Chattan (where the first consonant is lenited), such as:

  • many places called Kilchattan ("Church of Cathan")
  • Ardchattan ("Cathan's Heights")
  • the village of Kilchattan Bay
  • Little and Mickle Kilchattan farms
  • names of the hill of Suidhe Chattan
  • Suidhe Chatain Hill in Bute.[10]

all on Bute.[3]


His feast day is 17 May.[11]

Later Highland Clan Development[edit]

Several families on Bute bore the honoured name of Mac-gill-chattan—son of the servant of Catan and on account of the frequent occurrence of names similarly connected with those of saints who had churches dedicated to them in this vicinity e.g., Mac-gill-munn, Macgill-chiaran, Mac-gill-mhichell,—and connected with church offices, Mac-gill-espy (bishop), Mac-gill-Christ etc.

Cattanachs are said to be families that followed or were originally servants or Coarbs of this Saint and include founder families such as Macbean, MacPherson, and MacPhail[12] of the Chattan Confederation, a coalition of Scottish clans.[9]


  1. ^ Innes, p. 210.
  2. ^ Butler, p. 239.
  3. ^ a b c Mackinlay, p. 104.
  4. ^ Innes, pp. 210–211
  5. ^ Mackinlay, pp. 104–105.
  6. ^ "Colonsay, Kilchattan, Old Parish Church And Well". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Kilchattan Chapel". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Luing, Kilchattan Church". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  9. ^ a b Mackinlay, p. 105.
  10. ^ Hewison, James. King; The Isle of Bute in the Olden Time, with illustartions, maps and plans Vol 1 Celtic Saints and Heroes, Published by William Blackwood and sons, Edinburgh and London, 1893
  11. ^ Orthodox England. Cathan (Catan, Chattan, Cadan) May 17. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
  12. ^ Mackintosh, Alexander (1880). Historical Memoirs of the House and Clan of Mackintosh and of the Clan Chattan. London. p. 520. Retrieved 24 October 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)