Shrines of Britain: Irish Saints at Glastonbury
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The Holy Shrines of Glastonbury in Somerset, Part 4
By David Nash Ford


Enshrined at Glastonbury

St. Benignus was the second Bishop of the Irish in succession to Patrick. He had a popular shrine and cult following at Glastonbury and an ancient church was named after him on the edge of town, now St. Benedict's. He supposedly followed St. Patrick from Ireland, settled as a hermit in Meare but later became Abbot of Glastonbury, at least in name. Unfortunately, this man's identity as the Irish Benignus appears to stem from a misinterpretation of a now lost monument at Meare. In later years, it's inscription read
"In this tomb, Father Beonna's bones are placed,
Who was father of the monks here in ancient times.
He was, in all probability, Patrick's servant for a long time,
So say the Hibernians, and they call him Beonna"

Over-enthusiastic Irish pilgrims would seem to have re-invented a local Somerset saint named Beonna as their Irish Bishop, with little evidence to support the theory. At any rate, St. Beonna was translated from Meare to Glastonbury with great pomp and ceremony in 1091 and provided with a beautiful reliquary by King Harthacnut.

St. Indracht's Shrine stood to the left of the High Altar of the "Old Church" at Glastonbury, opposite that of St. Patrick. He was another Irishman, supposedly an early 8th century prince returning from a pilgrimage to Rome who was robbed and murdered by some wicked soldiers in the retinue of King Ine of Wessex. He died at Hwisc which would appear to be either Shapwick or Huish Episcopi.

Indract is almost certainly an English form of the name common Irish name Indrechtach; and Irish texts show that an Abbot Indrechtach of Iona was martyred amongst the Saxons, on 12th March AD 854, whilst returning from a pilgrimage to Rome. At Glastonbury, his feast was 8th May, but they are most likely the same person, the century being confused over time.

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