Vita sancti Findani confessoris ‘The Life of St Findan the confessor’

  • Latin
  • Irish hagiography
Life of the 9th-century Irish saint Fintán of Rheinau (modern Switzerland, near Schaffhausen). He is said to be a Leinsterman whom vikings carried off as a captive to the Orkneys, after which he escaped and travelled as a pilgrim to Rome. On his way home, he met and joined the community of anchorites based at Rheinau.
Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, Aug. perg. 84
ff. 20–24
Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 2
f. 225v ff
  • Latin
  • Secondary language(s): Old Irish


Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography

Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography


pilgrimages⟨religious practices and behaviours⟩, journeys
id. 51678
Fintán of Rheinau
Fintan (Findan) of Rheinau
(fl. 9th century)
Irish saint from Leinster who is said to have been captured by vikings and carried off as a slave to the Orkneys, only to escape and embark on a pilgrimage to Rome; while returning home, he met and joined a community of anchorites based at Rheinau (at the Rhine, near Schaffhausen, modern Switzerland).

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Holder-Egger, Oswald, “Vita Findani”, in: Supplementa tomorum I-XII, pars III. Supplementum tomi XIII, 15:1, Hanover, 1887. 502–506.
Digital MGH: <link> CELT – edition as reprinted by Christiansen (1962): <link>
[ed.] [tr.] Christiansen, Reidar Thorolf, “The people of the north”, Lochlann: A Review of Celtic Studies 2 (1962): 137–164.
CELT – translation (pp. 155–164): <link> CELT – Latin text (pp. 148–155) reprinted from MGH SS 15: <link>
English translation by Christiansen on 155–164, with the edition by Holder-Egger on pp. 148–155.
[ed.] Goldast, Melchior, Alamannicarum rerum scriptores aliquot vetusti, 3 vols, Frankfurt, 1606.
Vol. 1, 318–322 editio princeps
Old Irish passages
[ed.] [tr.] Stokes, Whitley, and John Strachan [eds.], Thesaurus palaeohibernicus: a collection of Old-Irish glosses, scholia, prose, and verse, 3 vols, vol. 2: Non-Biblical glosses and scholia; Old-Irish prose; names of persons and places; inscriptions; verse; indexes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903.  
comments: Reprinted by DIAS in 1987, together with Stokes' supplementary volume.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> Wikisource: <link>
258 Extracts direct link

Secondary sources (select)

Kenney, James F., “Chapter VI: The expansion of Irish Christianity”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 486–621.
602–603 [id. 422.]
Löwe, Heinz, “Findan von Rheinau. Eine irische peregrinatio im 9. Jahrhundert”, Studi Medievali, 3rd series, 26 (1985): 53–100.
Löwe, Heinz, “Zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der Vita Findani”, Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 42 (1986): 25–85.
Holm, Poul, “The slave trade of Dublin, ninth to twelfth centuries”, Peritia 5 (1986): 317–345.  
From the ninth century, the taking of slaves was an integral part of Viking warfare. Though never the prime motive for raiding, it was a means of indicating defiance and was followed up by the extraction of ransom and tribute. Slave-trading with Scandinavia and Iceland developed slowly. In the eleventh century, when the Irish internal struggle for over-kingship escalated, the taking of slaves became a widespread phenomenon. Warring Irish kings sold prisoners of war in the Dublin slave-market and Dublin experienced a growing slave-trade with western Europe. In the second half of the eleventh century, there seems to have developed a specific Irish-Sea slave-market, but in the twelfth century Norman legislation against the slave-trade seems to have been effective and Dublin’s control of the Irish Sea was broken.
Ó Corráin, Donnchadh, “The Vikings in Scotland and Ireland in the ninth century”, Peritia 12 (1998): 296–339.
Dennis Groenewegen
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September 2012, last updated: January 2024