CRONAN, Saint (7th cent.), abbot and founder of Roscrea in Tipperary, is probably the Cronan mentioned in the eighth-century document commonly known as Tirechan's ‘Catalogue,’ where he seems to be entered among the third order of the Irish Saints (599–665 a.d.) (Haddan and Stubbs, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 292). Cronan of Roscrea is, however, undoubtedly entered in the ‘Feilire of Œngus the Culdee’ on 28 April (ed. Whitley Stokes, lxx.). His life was drawn up at Roscrea probably, ‘four or five centuries after his death,’ from more ancient and perhaps Irish documents (A.SS. pref. p. 580).
According to this life St. Cronan was born in Munster. His father's name was Hodran ‘de gente Hely,’ i.e. Ely O'Carrol on the boundaries of Munster, Connaught, and Leinster; his mother's, Coemri ‘de gente Corcobaschin' (in the west of Clare). Leaving Munster he went to Connaught and dwelt near the pool of Puayd, a place which has not yet been identified. Many monks joined him here. He was with St. Kieran at Cluain-mio-nois, that is before 649 a.d., if the received date of the latter saint's death is correct (but cf. A.SS, ap. 28, p. 579). Later he was at Lusmag (in barony of Garry Castle, Eling's County) and at other places, where he seems to have erected cells or monasteries. Lastly he returned to his native district, Ely, where he built a cell near the pool 'Cre.' Its earlier name was Senruys, which was later exchanged for Roscrea. We are told that he dwelt here far away from the 'king's high road' (via regia), and was only dissuaded from seeking a more accessible spot by the advice of a certain Bishop Fursey, that he had better remain at Roscrea: 'for as bees fly round their hives in summer,' so did the angels haunt that spot. St. Cronan was on friendly terms with St. Mochoemoc (13 March) and Fingen, king of Cassel, whose rights he vindicate in his old age, and whose anger against the people of Ely he assuaged. Towards the end of his life St. Cronan became very infirm, and almost lost his sight. He died, 'in a most reverend old age, in his own city of Roscrea' (28 April), and was buried in his own foundation (Vit. Cron. ap. A.SS.)
Most varying opinions have been held as to the year of this saint's death. Lanigan would place it between 619 and 626 a.d., which certainly seems late enough for a pupil of St. Ciaran the carpenter. This date is based upon that of Fingen's reign. St. Cronan is praised in the life of St. Molua (4 Aug.), who survived the election of Gregory the Great. If we may trust this authority, Roscrea cannot have been founded till considerably after 690 a.d. (Vit. Mol. ap. A.SS. 4 Aug. pp. 349, 361). Two Cronans, one a bishop, the other a priest, are mentioned in the 'Epistola Cleri Romani,' preserved in Ussher's 'Syllogæ' (pp. 223), and dated about 639 a.d. Sir James Ware (p. 89) has attempted to identify this or another Dishop Cronan with St. Cronan of Roscrea, a theory which would remove the date of the latter's death to about 640 a.d. To this Lanigan objects that the last-mentioned St. Cronan is never called a bishop in any trustworthy document; but he does not show that St. Cronan of Roscrea may not be the 'Cronan presbyter' of Ussher's letter (Eccles. Hist. of Ireland, iii. 8). On the same grounds Lanigan decides against identifying St. Cronan of Roscrea with the Bishop Cronan whose disguise St. Columba penetrates in Adamnan (Vit. Col. p. 142).
Among the legends whicn fill up the greater part of the 'Vita Cronani,' as printed in the 'Acta Sanctorum,' the most important is that which tells how Dima the scribe made him a beautiful copy of the four gospels. While writing this we are informed that the sun did not go down for forty days (Vit. Cron, chap. ii. par. 6). This tradition acquires considerable importance when taken in connection with the fact that there is still preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, a manuscript Evangelium, which is said to have belonged to the monastery of Roscrea. It finishes with the words, 'Finis Amen Dimman MacNithi,'and is commonly known as the 'Book of Dimma.' The date of the writing of this volume does not seem to have been ascertained, but it must be extremely old, as an inscription states that its case was regilt in the twelfth century, by O'Carroll, lord of Ely (Warren, Lit. of the Celtic Church, p. 167; Gilbert, Irish MSS. p. 21 ; Dict. of Chr. Biogr. i. 716).
[Bollandi Acta Sanctorum (A.SS.), 28 April, pp. 570–83, where the Vita Cromani is printed from the Salamanca MS, collated with two other manuscripts belonging to Sirinus. Another manuscript copy of this life is to be found in the so-called Book of Kilkenny at Dublin. A.SS. for 4 Aug. &c.; Œngus the Culdee, ed. Stokes; Lanigan's Ecclesiastical Hist. of Ireland, vol. iii.; Ussher's Antiquitates Brit. Eccles. p. 608; Ussher's Syllogæ Veterum Epistolarum Hibern.; Adamnan's Vita Columbæ, ed. Reeve; Warren's Liturgy of the Celtic Church ; Gilbert's National MSS. of Ireland; Ware, De Scriptor. Hibern. ed. 1639, p. 89.]