Bonaven Taberniæ was well known to the Irish Scots

Rev. William Fleming
Bonaven Taberniæ was well known to the Irish Scots

This will appear evident from a close study of the “Confession”:

“Ego Patritius, peccator, rustissimus et minimus omnium fidelium, et contemptabilissimus apud plurimos, patrem habui Calphurnium diaconum, filium quondam Potiti, presbyteri, qui fuit vico Bonaven Taberniæ, villulam enim prope habuit ubi ego in capturam dedi. Annorum tunc eram fere XVI.”

“I, Patrick, a sinner, the most uncultured and humblest of all the Faithful, and, in the eyes of many, the most contemptible, had for father Calphurnius, a deacon, and the son of Potitus, a priest, who hailed from the suburbs of Bonaven, where the encampment stood, for he possessed a little country seat close by, from whence I was taken captive when I had almost attained my sixteenth year.”

The primary meaning of “vicus” is a district, or a quarter of a city, and “villula” signifies “a little country seat” (Smith’s “Latin and English Dictionary”).

The district of the city of Bonaven alluded to was evidently suburban, because the house in which Calphurnius and his family dwelt was a “little country seat,” which was, nevertheless, close to (“prope”) the town.

The Saint must have had some special reason for writing the name of his native town in Gaelic, while the rest of the “Confession” is written in Latin.

There was a very important town in Armorican Britain at the time, which was called Bononia by the Romans, and Bonauen by the Gaulish Celts (Hersart de la Villemarque Celtic Legend, pp. 3, 4).

In the days of Julius Cæsar its harbour was called Portus Ictius (“Dictionnaire Archeologique et Historique du Pas de Calais”).

John O’Donovan, who translated the “Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters,” assures us in a note, under the year 405, that Niall of the Nine Hostages was assassinated by the banished Prince Eochaidh at Muir N’Icht, which the translator identifies as Bononia, or Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Keating, on the other hand, narrates that King Niall received his mortal wound on the banks of the Loire.

It is easy to reconcile the apparent difference between the two accounts, if we assume that the wounded Monarch was carried in a dying state to join the fleet which lay at anchor in the fine bay which then formed the outer harbour of Boulogne, and that he had at least the consolation of dying on board his own ship.

Muir N’Icht, or Portus Ictius, then possessed the finest harbour in northern Gaul.

From the days of Julius Cæsar, Portus Ictius, or the harbour of Boulogne, was the port from which the Roman troops sailed to Britain, and the harbour to which they steered on their return.

On top of Caligula’s tower there was a lighthouse for the guidance of vessels at sea.

The very fact that King Niall made use of this harbour when he raided Armorica in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, makes it likely that he sailed into the same harbour when first invading that country in the ninth year of his reign.

The sons of the soldiers who took part in the second raid were still alive; and the memories of both expeditions were still fresh in the minds of the brave Irish Scots when St. Patrick wrote his “Confession.”

The records of both expeditions were undoubtedly read at the annual Feast of Tara, when the Kings, nobles and learned were accustomed to meet annually and examine the National records (Keating, pp. 337–388).

The triumphant march of devastation made by the Irish Monarch in the ninth year of his reign, when he led his troops “from the walls of Antoninus to the shores of Kent”; the successful raid into Armorica which commenced with the capture of the Roman encampment at Haute Ville, Boulogne, and ended in the plundering of the surrounding country, must have been the burden of many a warlike song whenever the Irish minstrels chanted the glorious triumphs of King Niall’s invincible troops.

It is, therefore, but natural to suppose every man, woman, and child in Ireland had often heard the name of Bonaven, where the soldiers of King Niall stormed the encampment, and where the ever-conquering Monarch expired.

St. Patrick, who, according to the “Scholiast,” the Fifth and Tripartite Lives, and Keating’s “History” (p. 312), was captured in Armorica, and who, according to Hersart de la Villemarque and Dr. Lanigan, was taken captive at Boulogne, was well aware that every Irishman would know the town to which he was referring when he declared in his “Confession” that his father, Calphurnius, and consequently he himself, hailed from the suburban district of Bonaven Taberniæ, or Bononia, where the Roman encampment stood.

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