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Friday, 15 November 2013

15 November 879 AD: The death of St Fintan on the island of Rheinau in the Rhine on this day.
He was born in Leinster and while still a youth Norse pirates carried him off from Ireland to the Orkney Islands as a slave. Pledging that he would make a pilgrimage to Rome, he jumped ship and dived into the sea and swam to Scotland, where he came under the protection of a local Bishop. Two years later he began his pilgrimage to the continent, travelling first to Rome.

Making his way to Germany he spent his last 27 years with a community of Irish hermits in the Black Forest on the island of Rheinau, near Schaffhausen on the Rhine. He drew up a rule whereby the hermits observed the rules and regulations as did the religious communities of Ireland. Committed to leading by example he spent the last 22 of his 27 years in almost total solitude, during which he was subject to many mystical experiences. The words he heard spoken in his native tongue by demons and angels were recorded by a 10th-century biographer and represent some of the earliest specimens of Gaelic that have survived.  In 1446, Saint Fintan's relics were enshrined at Rheinau.