Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Biographies


Saint Fursey, Bishop in Ireland, Missionary in East Anglia, founder of Monasteries in France.
 ( 648

Sources: http://brigid-undertheoak.blogspot.com/2010_01_01_archive.html


A first approach to the indigenous Orthodox Saints and Martyrs of the Ancient Church who lived and who propagated the Faith in the British Isles and Ireland during the first millennium of Christianity and prior to the Great Schism is being attempted in our website  in our desire to inform our readers, who may not be aware of the history, the labours or the martyrdom of this host of Orthodox Saints of the original One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord.

"The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints"     (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)


January 16 is the feast of Saint Fursa (Fursey), a saint famous not only for his missionary labours in England and France but also for his visions of the afterlife. Dr William Reeves, the 19th-century Anglican bishop who translated Adamnan's Life of Columba said of Saint Fursa:

Among the Irish saints, who are but slightly commemorated at home, yet whose praise is in all the churches, St. Fursa holds a conspicuous place. With Venerable Bede as a guarantee of his extraction, piety, and labours, and above a dozen different memoirs, of various ages, which were found on the Continent in Colgan's time, the history of this saint is established on the firmest basis."

I would need to do a lot more research into all of these areas of Saint Fursa's life to really do him justice, but for now, here is a summary of his life by another Irish Anglican writer, the Reverend Thomas Olden:

FURSA, SAINT (d. 650), of Peronne in France, was an Irishman of noble birth. Two pedigrees of him are given in the 'Book of Leinster,' and also in the 'Lebor Brecc’.

One traces his descent from Rudraidhe Macitri, ancestor of the Clanna Rudraidhe, of the race of Ir; the other from Lugaidh Laga, brother of Olioll Olum of the race of Heber; but they evidently refer to different perons, and Colgan has shown that there were two saints named Fursa, the first of whom flourished about 550. The 'Martyrology of Donegal,' as well as the 'Lebor Brecc' notes to the 'Calendar of Oengus,' clearly regards the first pedigree as that of Fursa of Peronne, but Colgan with Keating regards the Fursa of the second as the saint of Peronne, and this is clearly right, as Sigebert, king of East Anglia, received him in 637. His father was Fintan, son of Finlogh, a chieftain of South Munster; his mother, Gelges, was daughter of Aedh Finn of the Hui Briuin of Connaught. He was probably born somewhere among the Hui Briuin, and baptised by St. Brendan. His parents having returned to Munster, the child was brought up there, and from his boyhood he 'gave his attention to the reading of the Holy Scriptures and monastic discipline.' He retired to study in the island of Inisquin in Lough Corrib, under the abbot St. Meldanr called his ' soul-friend.' He afterwards built a monastery for himself at a place called Rathmat, which appears to be Killursa (Fursa's Church), in the north-west of the county of Clare (photo of ruins below).

After this he set out for Munster to visit his relatives. After his arrival he had the first of several remarkable cataleptic seizures, during which he had visions of bright angels, who raised him on their wings, and soothed him by hymns. In one trance famine and plagues were foretold. This evidently refers to the second visitation of the plague known as the Buidhe Connaill, 'the yellow or straw coloured plague,' which visited Ireland about fourteen years after Fursa's death. The chief visions appear to have taken place in 627. Deeply impressed by them, Fursa travelled through Ireland, proclaiming what he had heard. At Cork he had a vision of a golden ladder set up at the tomb of St. Finn Barr [q.v.] and reaching to heaven, by which souls were ascending.

For ten years, in accordance with angelic directions, he continued 'to preach the word of God without respect of persons.' In the notes on the 'Calendar of Oengus’ a strange story is told of his exchanging diseases with St. Maignen of Kilmainham. To avoid admiring crowds and jealousy, Fursa went away with a few brethren to a small island in the sea, and shortly after, with his brothers Foillan and Ultan, he passed through Britain (Wales), and arrived at East Anglia, where he was hospitably received by King Sigebert.

The Venerable Bede records the Saint's arrival, in his works:

Whilst Sigbert still governed the kingdom, there came out of Ireland a holy man called Fursa. renowned both for his words and actions, and remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live as a stranger and pilgrim for the Lord's sake, wherever an opportunity should otter. On coming into the province of the East Angles, he was honorably received by the aforesaid king, and performing his wonted task of preaching the Gospel, by the example of his virtue and the influence of his words, converted many unbelievers to Christ, and confirmed in the faith and love of Christ those that already believed. Here he fell into some infirmity of body, and was thought worthy to see a vision of angels; in which he was admonished diligently to persevere in the ministry of the Word which he had undertaken, and indefatigably to apply himself to his usual watching and prayers; inasmuch as his end was certain, but the hour thereof uncertain, according to the saying of our Lord, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. " Being confirmed by this vision, he set himself with all speed to build a monastery on the ground which had been given him by King Sigbert, and to establish a rule of life therein. This monastery was pleasantly situated in the woods, near the sea; it was built within the area of a fort, which in the English language is called Cnobheresburg, that is, Cnobhere's Town; afterwards, Anna, king of that province, and certain of the nobles, embellished it with more stately buildings and with gifts. This man was of noble Scottish blood, but much more noble in mind than in birth. From his boyish years, he had earnestly applied himself to reading sacred books and observing monastic discipline, and, as is most fitting for holy men, he carefully practiced all that he learned to be right. Now, in course of time he himself built a monastery, wherein he might with more freedom devote himself to his heavenly studies.  

After another vision - twelve years since his last seizure - he hastened to build the monastery Cnoberesburg or Burghcastle, in Suffolk, on land granted by the king. Then, committing it to the charge of Goban and Dichull, he went away to his brother Ultan, with whom he lived as a hermit for a year.

Owing to the disturbed state of the country he had to go to France and take refuge with Clovis, king of Neustria. The king being a child, the government was in the hands of Erchinoald, mayor of the palace, who gave him land at Latiniacum, now Lagny, on the Marne, six leagues from Paris. Here he erected a monastery in 644. According to the account in the ' Codex Salmanticensis,' it was when travelling- with Clovis and Erchinoald that his last illness came on. He died on 16 Jan. probably in 650, at Macerias, now Mazeroeles. He was buried at Peronne, in the church built by Erchinoald, and with this place his name has since been associated. He was reputed to have performed miracles in his life-time, and even his pastoral staff, if sent to a sick person, was supposed to have a healing power. The brethren whom he took with him formed the nucleus of an Irish monastery, and the succession appears to have been kept up by emissaries from Ireland, as we read in the 'Annals of the Four Masters' at 774, that 'Moenan, son of Cormac, abbot of Cathair Fursa (the city of Fursa, i.e. Peronne) in France, died.'

Fursa's visions were placed on record soon after his death in 'the little book' to which Baeda refers, and which Mabillon considers to be the life published by Surius at 16 Jan. Baeda describes the agitation of a monk who, when describing what he heard from Fursa's lips, though it was the severest season of the year, and he was thinly clad, broke out into a profuse perspiration from mere terror.

[Codex Salmanticensis, p. 77 (London, 1883); Bedae Eccl. Hist. lib. iii. cap. 19; Lanigan's Eccl. Hist. ii. 448-64; Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 774 ; Calendar of Oengus, p. xxxv; Dr. Todd's St. Patrick, p. 406.] T. 0.

L. Stephen, ed., Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XX (1889), 333-334.



  • Died 648 at Mezerolles, France

  • buried at Peronne, Picardy, France

  • when his relics were translated in 654, his body was found incorrupt

  • relics re-translated in 1056

  • relics re-translated in 1256

  • miracles reported at his tomb

  • most relics destroyed in the French Revolution

Troparion of Saint Fursey of Burgh Castle tone 5

Establishing thy monastery in a Roman fortress
thou didst teach men that the Orthodox Faith is a true bastion
against the onslaughts of every evil force, O Father Fursey.
Wherefore pray to God for us
that we may all be bastions of the Faith
standing firm against the rising tide of falsehood,
that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion of Saint Fursey tone 4

Thou didst need the walls of stone
to defend the Faith against its pagan enemies, O Father Fursey,
but pray for us that we may have a spiritual wall around us
to defend the Faith against its enemies.
Following thee and praising thy eternal memory,
we stand firm against every error, ever singing:
Rejoice, beloved of God, our Father Fursey.


An abridged biography of the Saint

Source: http://www.bartleby.com/210/1/164.html


Son of Fintan, king of part of Ireland, he was abbot first of a monastery in his own country, in the diocese of Tuam, near the lake of Orbsen, where now stands the church of Kill-fursa, says Colgan.

Afterwards travelling with two of his brothers, St. Foilan and St. Ultan, through England, he founded, by the liberality of king Sigibert, the abbey of Cnobbersburg, now Burg-castle in Suffolk (photo of ruins below).

Saint Ultan retired into a desert, and St. Fursey, after some time, followed him thither, leaving the government of his monastery to St. Foilan.

Being driven thence by the irruptions of king Penda, he went into France, and, by the munificence of king Clovis II. and Erconwald, the pious mayor of his palace, built the great monastery of Latiniac, or Lagny, six leagues from Paris, on the Marne (current photo of monastery, below).

He was deputed by the bishop of Paris to govern that diocese in quality of his vicar: on which account some have styled him bishop. He died in 650 at Froheins, that is, Fursei-domus, in the diocese of Amiens, whilst he was building another monastery at Peronne, to which church Erconwald removed his body.

His relics have been famous for miracles, and are still preserved in the great church at Peronne, which was founded by Erconwald to be served by a certain number of priests, and made a royal collegiate church of canons by Lewis XI. Saint Fursey is honoured as patron of that town. See his ancient life in Bollandus, from which Bede extracted an account of his visions in a sickness in Ireland,

l. 3. hist. c. 19. See also his life by Bede in MS. in the king’s library at the British Musæum, and Colgan, Jan. 16. p. 75. and Feb. 9. p. 282.


Article published in English on: 28-1-2012.

Last update: 28-1-2012.