Foillan (DNB00)

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FOILLAN, Saint and Bishop (d. 655), brother of Fursa [q. v.], left Ireland with his brother, and passing through Wales settled in East Anglia, where he was received by King Sigebert. When Fursa, having completed his monastery of Cnoberesburgh, was about to retire to the hermitage of his brother Ultan, he placed the monastery in charge of Foillan and two others. Fursa, some time after, was driven abroad by the disturbed state of the country, and settled in the territory of Neustria. Foillan some time later left Cnoberesburgh, and with Ultan followed Fursa to the continent. Here they were invited to settle in Brabant, to the north of Peronne, by Gertrude, daughter of Pepin, abbess of Nivelles. She wished them to instruct her community, especially in music, for which the Irish were famous. With the aid of Gertrude they erected a monastery at Fosse, not far from Nivelles, over which Ultan was placed, Foillan remaining in charge of the establishment at Nivelles. Foillan, when travelling through the forest of Soignies in Hainault with three of his disciples, was set upon by robbers and slain on 31 Oct., and probably in 655. The bodies were not discovered until 16 Jan. following. This day was afterwards observed as that of the Invention of St. Foillan. He was buried at Fosse, and in the calendar of Œngus and other authorities is accounted a martyr, doubtless because he was killed in the discharge of his duty. He appears to have been a bishop, but the story of his having been consecrated by Pope Martin I seems to have no better foundation than the idea which possessed many mediæval writers that every one ought to have gone to Rome. The monasteries of Fosse and Peronne, with that of St. Quinton, formed one of those groups of Irish monasteries which were so frequent on the continent in that age, and performed an important part in sowing the seeds of religion and civilisation among barbarian tribes.

[Colgan, Acta Sanct. 99–103; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. ii. 464–6; Ussher's Works; Calendar of Œngus, clxi.]

T. O.