St Samthann

No, I hadn’t heard of her either. We have a weekly college eucharist here in St Mary’s, organised by our student society, and I was celebrating this week. Although it was the last of term, I did not want a Christmas theme, so I glanced at a couple of lectionaries I had handy for readings. One of them noted it was the feast of St Samthann yesterday, although other resources place her today.

She was the adopted daughter of an Irish king, and like so many of the female Irish saints was delivered from an arranged marriage by a miracle and then devoted herself to serving God as a nun. Various miracles are recorded in later years, but she was known mainly for her wisdom: she gave guidance and advice to many, including the teacher Dairchellach and Maelruin, the leader of the Ceile De, one of the most significant reform/renewal movements of Irish Christianity.

The hagiographies do not mention it, but one other point I noticed: in more than half the stories I found recorded about her, she was laughing (‘giggling’ at one point, although I haven’t checked the Latin!).

She died in 739. A woman who taught the leading churchmen of her day, and whose holy wisdom repeatedly broke into laughter. I wish I had heard of her earlier.


  1. RuthG
    Dec 19, 2007

    She sounds wonderful – where can I find out more about her. I am trying to base occasional evening services around saints, as a way of keeping us in touch with the wider church trimuphant. And I really like the sound of St Samthann; she would fit right in!
    Glad you’re blogging!

  2. Steve H
    Dec 19, 2007

    Hi Ruth, great to hear from you! Hope all is well.

    I just googled her, having found the name. This site is properly historical:
    This one more devotional:

    There are several mentions of a Life; apparently there is a translation, in Thomas Head’s Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology (Garland, 2000).

  3. Elle
    Apr 8, 2008

    Much to my delight to find out you know of my Baptist name and patron saint. She is the Saint of culture. But, I have had many debates about exactly how it was pronounced. Sav-onn (like savy sav and on). Can you tell me if youv’e come to find any historical record on this.
    (giggling away)Thank You so very much. Elle

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