The Life of Kentigern


   Here begins the prologue in the form of a letter on the life of Saint Kentigern, Bishop and Confessor.
   To his most revered lord and most beloved father, Jocelyn,1 the Anointed of the Lord Jesus Christ, Jocelyn,2 the least of the poor of Christ, with the affection and result of filial love and subjection, wishes the salvation of each man in our savior.
   Since my mind is persuaded by your renowned name, exalted office, and balanced judgment, your life undarkened with no perverse or deceitful rumor and your religion long tested that you love the beauty of the house of God, which you preside over, I believe it is fitting to present to you the first fruits of my sheaves, which abound in the glory and grace of you and your church. For by your command, I went around the nearby city,3 through its streets and quarters, searching for a written life of Saint Kentigern, who is esteemed by your soul, and in whose seat the divine power of mercy caused your sanctity to preside by the adoption of sons, by ecclesiastical choice, and by succession of ministry. Therefore I have searched with diligence if by chance a life of him could be discovered, which was sustained by greater authority and more visible truth, and written in a more cultivated style than that life which your church now celebrates;4 because that life, as it seems to many, is tainted throughout as it is discolored by an uneducated language and obscured by a poorly written style; and before all of these faults certainly a wise man would more shrink back because in the beginning of the narrative itself are stories obviously contrary to certain doctrine and catholic faith. However I have discovered another codicil,5 composed in the Scottic style,6 which is filled with solecisms all the way through and yet it contains a more unbroken account of the life and acts of the holy bishop. Seeing therefore the life of so esteemed a bishop, who was glorious with signs and portents and most famous in virtue and doctrine, perversely recited and turned away from the pure faith, or very much obscured by a barbarian speech, I confess I suffered greatly. On that account, I therefore accepted to mend this life by restoring the material collected from the heart of both small books and by binding my method to your command, to season with Roman salt what had been ploughed by barbarians. It is senseless, I think, that so precious a treasure should be covered all around with so worthless a girdle, and for that reason I have tried to clothe that life, if not with gold embroidered with silk, than at least perhaps with blameless linen. Also, I added to the work by pouring the life-giving liquid from the original vessel into the new, so that it may be acceptable for the appetite of the more simple to drink, and yet not worthless to those of moderate abilities, nor contemptible for the richly endowed. Therefore, favored by the good works and prayers of our saintly patron, if the favor of the heavenly inspirer7 will strike me, I shall likewise control my style in order that this work will not be obscured by crawling in the filth of debased speech, nor be falsely puffed up with words beyond what is proper to the exalted life, lest it seem that I have planted a forest in the temple of God against his interdict.
   Therefore all the effort of this book, all the fruit of my labor ought to be consecrated to your name, and also presented for examination to your position. If, however, anything lacking refinement or awkward comes forth, let it be seasoned by your discretion. If by chance anything resounds with less than the harmony of truth, although I do not suppose there be, let the rule of your judgment spread over it and cut it square. If nothing is found that is at variance in either of these respects, let it be supported by your testimony and strengthened by your authority. And in all of these things, if anything comes to light preceding from my pen that is otherwise unbecoming the subject, let it be accounted as the fault of the scarcity of my skill. And if anything is evident of being worthy of reading as it was composed with great labor, let it be ascribed to your excellence. However, of the translation of this saint, or of the wonders performed after his death, I was not able to discover anywhere; they either were not noted because by chance they escaped from the memory of those at present, or they have been enriched beyond numbers and omitted, so that the abundance of wonders collected might not weary feeble readers. May your sanctity always live and thrive in the Lord.

Here ends the prologue

Glasgow Cathedral


1 Bishop Jocelyn of Glasgow. He was consecrated by Eskilus, Archbishop of Lunden in Denmark, at Clairvaux. Jocelyn became Bishop of Glasgow in 1175.
2 Jocelyn, a monk of Furness Abbey in Lancashire.
3 Glasgow
4 This is a reference to what is known as the Herbertian or fragmentary Life of Saint Kentigern, which is preserved in the British Museum ms. Cotton Titus A. xix f. 76-80.
5 The anonymous author of the fragmentary life also used de materia in virtutum ejus codicello reperta to describe his source, although he does not specify the language in which this little book was written. However, it would seem that both Jocelyn and the anonymous author resorted to the same source material for their accounts of Kentigern.
6 Three theories have been put forward as to what language this remark refers: Irish Gaelic, Old Welsh, or "barbarous" Latin.
7 A reference to the Holy Spirit, but with classical overtones to invoking the Muse.