Erc of Slane
|Erc of Slane|
|Feast||Ireland: 2 November; Cornwall: 31 October; Orthodox Church Calendar: 2 November|
Erc mac Dega (Latin: Ercus; Cornish: Erth; also known incorrectly as Herygh) was an Irish saint who was apparently also active in Cornwall. Tradition ascribes the foundation of the original monastery on the Hill of Slane to Saint Erc.
Erc, son of Dago, was the only member of King Laoghaire's retinue to pay homage to Saint Patrick during the latter's confrontation with the druids on the Hill of Slane in 433. St Erc is believed to be a pagan druid converted by Patrick and appointed first Bishop of Slane. Erc’s foundation in Slane had an honourable history for at least six hundred years.
It is probable he came to Kerry soon after the mission of St. Benignus, who was sent by St. Patrick in 450 to preach to the tribes of West Munster. This visit of St. Benignus was comparatively short, for he was called away to North Clare and Connaught, where his apostolic labours may have been more urgently needed. To complete the conversion of Kerry, St. Patrick sent Bishop Erc, who had spiritual charge not only of Kerry, but also of a wide range of south-west Limerick, in the heart of which lay the convent of Ita at Killeedy, over which he seems to have had jurisdiction.
Before Saint Patrick died in 461, he sent Bishop Erc southwards to Munster.
He was the special friend and tutor of St. Brendan the Navigator, the patron of Kerry. Erc is said to have trained the young Brendan at his church in Ardfert in 512. Saint Erc is also responsible for establishing the famous school at Slane, where King Dagobert II is said to have received his early education.
Dean Cogan, a native of Slane, in the nineteenth century called Erc a man of great sanctity and usefulness. Patrick is reputed to have said, "Bishop Erc - Everything he judged was just; Everyone that passes a just judgement - Shall receive the blessing of Bishop Erc".
In the 16th century, the hill-top monastery became a Franciscan friary supported by the Flemings. In the grounds of Slane Castle are the ruins of St Erc's Hermitage. This consists of a late fifteenth or early sixteenth century chapel and an earlier dwelling. The 12th century martyrology of Gorman calls him "Erc of Slane, bishop of Lilcach and from Ferta Fer Feic beside Sid Truim from the West." Ferta Fear Fiac means "the Graves of the Men of Fiac".
The Cornish Saint Erc is generally, though not certainly, believed to be the same man. He was the brother of Saints Uny and Ia and crossed from Ireland to Cornwall, where a church and the village of St Erth are dedicated under his patronage. His feast in Cornwall is 31 October. Little is recorded of him apart from what William of Worcester wrote in 1478: "Saint Herygh, the brother of Saint Uny, a bishop, lies in a certain church situated under the cross of the church of Saint Paul in London; his day is kept on the vigil of All Saints, that is, the last day of October ... Saint Hya ... the sister of Saint Herygh ..." (quoted in Doble (1960)). (The statement about St Paul's may be due to a mistaken identification with St Erconwald.) At Trevessa in the parish of St Erth was a chapel of St Ercus in 1403.
Many years later Erc returned to Slane and lived out his declining years in prayer and solitude in a quiet hermitage beside the Boyne. Erc died in 2 November 514, aged 93 years. His feast in Ireland is 2 November.
- "Christianity Down The Years In Slane", Parish of Slane & Monknewtown
- "Slane Historic Trail", Meath Tourism
- O'Connor, Denis. "Diocese of Kerry and Aghadoe." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 May 2013
- "Saint Brigid and Saint Erc", Saint Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association
- Rice, V.Rev G., "Christianity in Slane", Slane History and Archaeology Society
- "Slane Times - Past and Present", Slane Tourism
- Trench, C. E. F. (1995). Slane. An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland. ISBN 0-903693-09-7.
- Doble, G. H. (1960) The Saints of Cornwall: part 1. Truro: Dean and Chapter; pp. 95–96, (1960)
- "St. Erc's Hermitage", Slane History and Archaeology Society