Deicola (DNB00)

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DEICOLA or DEICOLUS, Saint (d. 625), was a native of Leinster and one of the twelve companions who, in imitation of the twelve apostles, attended St. Columbanus from Ireland first to East Anglia and then to France, where he arrived a.d. 589 or 590. On the foundation of the monastery of Luxeuil he appears to have continued with him as one of his monks until 610, when Columbanus, having been expelled from it through the intrigues of Brunehilde, grandmother of Theodoric, king of Burgundy, some of his monks accompanied him into exile. One of these was Deicola, but they had only proceeded two miles when it became evident that he was unequal to the journey, and he besought Columbanus to permit him to stay behind and retire to some solitude. His request was granted, and Deicola thus left alone, and forbidden by his master to return to Luxeuil, sought the depths of the forest. Here he met a swineherd, who was startled by the sudden appearance of a stranger of great stature (‘procerus’), dressed in foreign fashion and armed with a club (‘fustis’), the cambatta or curved-headed staff of the Irish monk. The swineherd advised him to settle in a place called Luthra, situated on the land of a large proprietor, and surrounded by swamps and forest. Settling there he discovered a little church dedicated to St. Martin, in which a priest officiated at certain times. Thither Deicola resorted for prayer in secret, especially at night, thus keeping up, we may presume, the canonical hours of the rule of St. Columbanus. The priest was very angry at the intrusion, and, to prevent his further access to the church, the windows and doors were stopped with briars and thorns. It should be observed that Columbanus and his monks were in constant trouble with the French clergy for several years before his expulsion in consequence of his continuing to observe the customs of the Irish church in spite of bishops and synods. Hence the priest considered his prayers rather as ‘incantations,’ while the people revered his ascetic life. The proprietor of Luthra, Weifhart, ordered Deicola to be punished, but having died immediately afterwards, his wife, persuaded that his death was a judgment, entreated the prayers of Deicola for him. The saint consented, and his prayers were successful in rescuing his soul from hell, a circumstance which Colgan and others endeavour to explain. The site of Luthra was then granted to Deicola by Weifhart's widow. This monastery, afterwards known as Lure, was situated in the diocese of Besançon, among the Vosges between Vesoul and Belfort. Clothaire subsequently conferred additional privileges on it out of regard for Columbanus, who is said to have foretold his succession to the kingdom. But the inhabitants of that district were a fierce and rapacious people, and Deicola, ‘considering anxiously under what princely protection he could place it,’ finally resolved to go to Rome and ask for the pope's protection. Arriving there with some companions, the pope inquired why he came so far. ‘I am a brother,’ he replied, ‘of Irish birth and an exile for Christ, and I live in the part of Gaul called Burgundy, where I have built two oratories,’ adding that he wished to place Lure under the protection of the prince of the apostles, and was ready to pay ten silver solidi for the privilege of a charter. The coin intended seems to be the gold solidus, which, according to the Ripuarian law, was of the value of two cows. Having secured this and the promise of the pope's anathema against his enemies, he returned home with joy, bringing with him some relics. Dr. Lanigan thinks this story of his visit to Rome savours of a later age, and that the Burgundian kings would have resented such an embassy. After this he appointed one of his monks, named Columbinus, as his successor, and pining for greater seclusion and a stricter life, he built for himself a little oratory, and consecrated it in the name of the Trinity, and thus ‘he who formerly resembled Martha now became like Mary, devoted to contemplation.’

He died on 18 Jan. about 625, and was buried in his own oratory. The name Deicola is considered by Colgan and Lanigan as identical with the Irish Dichuill (in France Diel or Deel, with varieties of spelling). Haddan, without giving authorities, distinguishes them, and holds that Lure was founded by ‘Deicolus or Desle, a disciple of Columbanus,’ and another monastery not named was founded by Dichuill or St. Diè. The ‘Life of Deicola,’ by the Bollandists, is from a manuscript of Lure, which they assign to the tenth century. It was by one acquainted with the appearance and habits of the Irish clergy abroad. For the most part, Irishmen who became eminent on the continent were lost sight of by the church at home, but Deicola is an exception, as his name is found in the martyrology of Donegal.

[Bollandists' Acta Sanct., 18 Jan., ii. 563; Lanigan's Eccles. Hist. ii. 439; Gould's Lives of the Saints, i. 280; Haddan's Remains, p. 275; Wattenbach in the Ulster Journal of Archæology, July 1859; Martyrology of Donegal; O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints, i. 305.]

T. O.