Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Monan

MONAN, Saint (d. 875?), missionary in Fifeshire, is called in the Scottish calendars (Forbes, Kal. Scottish Saints, passim) arch-deacon, confessor or abbot, and his name is variously spelt as Mynnanus, Minnan, or Monon. According to the legend in the Aberdeen Breviary (Pars Hyem. f. lix.), he was born in Pannonia, and came over to preach among the Picts with a troop of Hungarians, numbering 6,606, led by St. Adrian, afterwards bishop of St. Andrews. This legend was accepted by many of the chroniclers (Skene, Celtic Scotland, ii. 312); but Hector Boece or Boethius [q. v.], probably using materials now lost (Forbes, loc. cit. p. 413), states that, though some call these men Hungarians, others say they were Scots from Ireland and Angles (Scottish Hist. vol. x. p. ccvi), and this is far more probable, for the Hungarians were not christianised in the ninth century (Bollandists' Acta SS. 1 March, p. 86). Scottish clergy, moreover, were leaving Ireland in large numbers at that time, and may have joined in Kenneth MacAlpine's invasion of the Picts, which accounts for the christianising of Fifeshire in the middle of the ninth century (Celtic Scotland, i. 320). The saint's name with its prefix, ' Mo,' also suggests an Irish origin.

Boethius was the first to call him 'Archdeacon of St. Andrews,' and in all probability had no historical warrant for so doing. According to the Breviary, Monan, after preaching on the mainland of Fife, at a place called Invere, passed over to the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, and was there martyred with many others by the Danes on 4 March 874-5. The Pictish chronicle refers to a great fight between the Danes and the Scots in 875, and this may be the occasion alluded to (Skene in Proceedings Roy. Soc. of Antiquaries of Scotland, iv. 316).

At the church of Abercromby St. Monance the saint's relics are said to have worked miracles in favour of David I [q. v.], and in the same village a cell is shown which St. Monan is said to have occupied when he withdrew from the neighbouring monastery of Pittenweem in the sixth century (New Statistical Account, p. 338), but the legend has probably no historical foundation. The name of a burn, Inweary, on the west of this parish, recalls the 'Invere' mentioned as the saint's temporary home in the Breviary. There is a chapelry of St. Monon in Kiltearn, Ross (Orig. Par. ii. 478), and a Kilminning farm and rock in the parish of Crail (New Statistical Account, 'Fife,' p. 966). St. Minnan's fair is held on 2 March at an old chapel at Freswick in Caithness (Forbes, p. 413). St. Monan's feast is 1 March. Dempster states, without authority, that St. Monan wrote a book of epistles and of hymns.

Colgan improbably suggests that an Irish saint, named Mannanus, of whom nothing is known save that he and his companion, named Tiaanus, were probably martyrs, and that their feast was celebrated on 23 Feb., is identical with the subject of this article (Acta SS. Hib. p. 392). Dempster speaks of St. Minnan, an archdeacon, living in 878, whose feast is celebrated on 1 March, as an independent personality. He says that a church, Kilminnan in Galloway, is dedicated i to St. Minnan, and that he wrote several books. This account cannot be trusted, and Minnan is doubtless a variant of Monan (Bollandists' Acta SS. 1 March, p. 87).

[Bollandists' Acta SS. 1 March, pp. 86 sqq., 324-6; O'Hanlon's Irish Saints, iii. 63; Dempster's Hist. Eccles. Gent. Scot. xii. No. 834; Dict. Christ. Biog; see also article Moinenno.]

M. B.