Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Aileran

Article

An Irish saint, generally known as “Sapiens” (the Wise), one of the most distinguished professors at the Clonard in the seventh century. He died of the all-destroying Yellow Plague, and his death is chronicled in the “Annals of Ulster”, 29 December 664. His early life is not recorded, but he was attracted to the great Clonard by the fame of Saint Finian and his disciples, and, about 650, was rector, of this celebrated seat of learning. As a classical scholar he was almost without a rival in his day, and his acquaintance with the works of Origen, Philo, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, and others, stamps him as a master of Latin and Greek. According to Colgan, numerous works are to be ascribed to Saint Aileran, including the “Fourth Life of Saint Patrick”, a Latin-Irish Litany, and the “Lives of Saint Brigid and Saint Fechin of Fore.” As regards the Latin-Irish Litany, there is scarcely a doubt but that Saint Aileran was its author. An excellent transcript of it. is in the “Yellow Book of Lecain” (Leabhar Buidhe Lecain), a valuable Irish manuscript copied by the MacFirbises in the fourteenth century. The best known work of Saint Aileran is his tract on the genealogy of Our Lord according to Saint Matthew. A complete copy of this remarkable scriptural commentary is at Vienna in a manuscript of Sedulius (Siadhuil or Shiel), consisting of 157 folios, large quarto, written in two columns, with red initial letters. It is entitled: “Tipicus ac Tropologicus Jesu Christi Genealogiae Intellectus quem Sanctus Aileranus Scottorum Sapientissimus exposuit.” The Franciscan, Patrick Fleming, published a fragment of this “Interpretatio Mystica Progenitorum Christi” (Mystical Interpretation of the Ancestry of Our Lord Jesus Christ), in 1667, at Louvain — being a posthumous publication passed through press by Father Thomas O’Sheerin, O.F.M., who died in 1673. This was reprinted in the Benedictine edition of the Fathers, in 1677, and again by Migne in his Latin “Patrology”. The Benedictine editors take care to explain that although Saint Aileran was not a member of their order, yet they deemed the work of such extraordinary merit that it deserved being better known. To quote their own words, “Aileran unfolded the meaning of Sacred Scripture with so much learning and ingenuity that every student of the sacred volume, and especially preachers of the Divine Word, will regard the publication as most acceptable.” Another fragment of a work by Saint Aileran, namely, “A Short Moral Explanation of the Sacred Names” found in the Latin “Patrology” of Migne, displays much erudition. Archbishop Healy says of it: “We read over both fragments carefully, and we have no hesitation in saying that whether we consider the style of the latinity, the learning, or the ingenuity of the writer, it is equally marvelous and equally honorable to the Clonard.” The feast of Saint Aileran is celebrated 29 December. Otto Schmid says that in medieval times it was customary in the great Swiss monastery of Saint Gall to read this admirable work on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady as a commentary on the Gospel of the day, i.e. the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-16).

MLA Citation

  • William Grattan-Flood. “Saint Aileran”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 February 2014. Web. 19 September 2018. <>