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St. Maelrubha

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An abbot and martyr, founder of Abercrossan, b. 642; d. 21 April, 722. He was descended from Niall, King of Ireland, on the side of his father Elganach. His mother, Subtan, was a niece of St. Comgall the Great, of Bangor. St. Maelrubha was born in the county of Derry and was educated at Bangor. When he was in his thirtieth year he sailed from Ireland for Scotland, with a following of monks. For two years he travelled about, chiefly in Argyll, and founded about half-a dozen churches then settled at Abercrossan (Applecross), in the west of Ross. Here he built his chief church and monastery in the midst of the Pictish folk, and thence he set out on missionary journeys, westward to the islands Skye and Lewis, eastward to Forres and Keith, and northward to Loch Shinn, Durness, and Farr. It was on this last journey that he was martyred by Danish vikings, probably at Teampull, about nine miles up Strath-Naver from Farr, where he had built a cell. He was buried close to the River Naver, not far from his cell, and his grave is still marked by "a rough cross-marked stone". The tradition, in the "Aberdeen Breviary", that he was killed at Urquhart and buried at Abercrossan is probably a mistake arising from a confusion of Gaelic place-names.

This error had been copied by several later hagiologists, as has also the same writers' confusion of St. Maelrubha with Sts. Rufus of Capua. Maelrubha was, after St. Columba, perhaps the most popular saint of the northwest of Scotland. At least twenty-one churches are dedicated to him, and Dean Reeves enumerates about forty forms of his name. His death occurred on 21 April, and his feast has always been kept in Ireland on this day; but in Scotland (probably owing to the confusion with Sts. Rufus) it was kept on 27 August. On 5 July, 1898, Pope Leo XIII restored his feast for the Church in Scotland, to be kept on 27 August.


Annals of . . . the Four Masters, ed. O'DONOVAN (Dublin, 1856). ad ann, 671, 722: Annals of Ulster, ed, HENNESSY (Dublin, 1887), ad ann. 670, 672, 721; BARRET, Early Scottish Saints in Dublin Review XV (1899), 348-72; BARRET, Calendar of Scottish Saints (Fort Augustus, 1904), 64-7; Biotiotheca Hagiographica Latina. ed. BOLLANDISTS (Brussels, 1900), 771; CAMPBELL, St. Maelrubha in Scottish Historical Review, VI (1909), 442-3; FORBES, Kalendars of Scottish Saints Edinburgh, 1872), 382-4; GAMMACK in Dict. Christ. Biog., s.v. ; MITCHELL, On Various superstitions in the North-West Highlands and Islands in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, IV, 251, PINIUS, De sancto Maelrubio monacho et martyre in Acta SS., Aug., VI, 131-2; REEVES, Saint Maelrubha, his history and churches in Proceedings of the Antiquaries of Scotland, III, 258-96; SCOTT, St. Maelrubha in Scottish Historical Review VI (1909), 260-80.

About this page

APA citation. Toke, L. (1910). St. Maelrubha. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Toke, Leslie. "St. Maelrubha." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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