Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Modan, Abbot, 8th century

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4 February. This saint, whose missionary labours benefited the west coast of Scotland, was the son of an Irish chieftain. He crossed over from his native land, like so many others of his countrymen, to minister to the spiritual wants of the many Christians of Irish race who at that time formed an important part of the population of the district to which he came.

A short distance from the site of the old Priory of Ardchattan, near Loch Etive, may still be seen the remains of his first oratory. It bears the name of Balmodhan (Saint Modan’s Town); a few paces from its ruins is a clear spring called Saint Modan’s Well, and hither within the memory of persons still living came many a pilgrimage in honour of the saint. A flat stone near was known as Saint Modan’s Seat. It was broken up for building materials by Presbyterians not many years ago.

The ruins are situated amid scenery of impressive beauty, and command a view of land and water as far as the island of Mull. The masonry,” says Dr. Story in his description of the buildings, “is strong and rough, but little more than the gables and the outline of two broken walls remain, overshadowed by the ash trees that have planted themselves among the stones, the existing trees growing out of the remains of roots, all gnarled and weather-worn, of immensely greater age. In every crevice thorn, rowan, ivy, and fern have fastened themselves, softening and concealing the sanctuary’s decay.”

Another old church which claims Saint Modan for its patron is that of Roseneath, which stands near Loch Long, on the border of the Western Highlands, in Dumbartonshire. Its name signifies “the Promontory of the Sanctuary”; sometimes it was known as “Neveth”—the Sanctuary—simply. Only the ancient burial ground and kirk now remain, but formerly a well existed here also, which is said to have had miraculous properties and was resorted to by pilgrims. Later on the site was made use of for a foundation of Canons Regular, whose monastery was built on a plain below the sanctuary; it is now entirely demolished.

Kilmodan, above Loch Riddan, on the Kyles of Bute, is another of Saint Modan’s foundations, as its name implies; for it signifies Church of Modan. The modern kirk has replaced the ancient building and occupies the same site. Other parts of Scotland also claim connection with this saint. He is said to have preached the Faith as far east as Falkirk, where the old church, Eaglais Bhreac, was dedicated to him, as was also the High Church of Stirling.

After a life of extreme austerity Saint Modan, finding his end approaching, retired to the solitude of Rosneath, where he died. Devotion to him was very popular in Scotland. Scott alludes to it in the “Lay of the Last Minstrel”:

“Some to Saint Modan made their vows,
Some to Saint Mary of the Lowes.” – Canto VI

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Modan, Abbot, 8th century”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 January 2014. Web. 20 August 2017. <>