"See Fillan, Norway for the Norwegian town in Hitra, Sør-Trøndelag"

Saint Fillan, Filan, Phillan, Fáelán (Old Irish) or Faolan (modern Gaelic) is the name of (probably) two Scottish saints, of Irish origin. The career of a historic individual lies behind at least one of these 'saints' (fl. 8th century), but much of the tradition surrounding 'Fillan' seems to be of a purely legendary character.


The name Fillan probably means "little wolf" being formed on a diminutive of "faol", an old word for the animal.


The St Fillan whose feast is kept on 20 June had churches dedicated to his honor at Ballyheyland, County Laois, Ireland, at Loch Earn, Perthshire and at Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

The other, who is commemorated on 9 January, was specially venerated at Cluain Mavscua, County Westmeath, Ireland, and so early as the 8th or 9th century at Strathfillan, Perthshire, Scotland, where there was an ancient monastery dedicated to him, which, like most of the religious houses of early times, was afterwards secularized. References to the feast of St Fillan being on 19 January occasionally appear and agreement upon which is correct has not been reached.]


St Fillan of Munster, the son of Feriach, grandson of Cellach Cualann, King of Leinster, received the monastic habit in the abbey of Saint Fintan Munnu and came to Scotland from Ireland in 717 as a hermit along with his mother St Kentigerna and his uncle St Comgan. He is said to have been a monk at Taghmon in Wexford before eventually settling in Pittenweem ( 'the Place of the Cave'), Fife, Scotland later in the 8th century.

St Fillan was the abbot of a Fife monastery and retired to Glen Dochart and Strathfillan near Tyndrum in Perthshire. At an Augustinian priory at Kirkton Farm adjacent to the West Highland Way, the priory's lay-abbot, who was its superior in the reign of William the Lion, held high rank in the Scottish kingdom. This monastery was restored in the reign of Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce), and became a cell of the abbey of canons regular at Inchaffray. The new foundation received a grant from King Robert, in gratitude for the aid which he was supposed to have obtained from a relic of the saint (an arm-bone) on the eve of the great victory over King Edward II's English soldiers at the Battle of Bannockburn. The saint's original chapel was up river, slightly northwest from the priory and adjacent to a deep body of water which became known as St Fillan's Pool.Sharp, Mick, "The Way and the Light", Aurum Press Ltd, 2000. ISBN 1-85410-722-4]


St Fillan was credited with powers such as the healing of the sick and also possessed a luminous glow from his left arm which he used to study and write by in the darkness.

As late as the 19th century, the mentally ill were flung into St Fillan's Pool, bound and left overnight tied to the runied chapel's font and if the bonds were loosened by morning it was taken as a sign that the cure had been successful.

A story is told that a wolf slaughtered the saint's oxen but when the wolf was rebuked by the saint it is said to have meekly submitted to be yoked to the plow to complete the Saint's plowing. The story may be considered more of a parable but the connection with the origins of saint's name remains obvious.


A now-lost arm-bone enclosed in a silver reliquary or casket was carried into the Battle of Bannockburn by the abbot of Inchaffray at the request of Robert the Bruce.

Another relic was the saint's staff or crozier, which became known as the Coygerach or Quigrich, and was long in the possession of a family of the name of Jore or Dewar, who were its hereditary guardians in the Middle Ages and became known as 'dewars'. They certainly had the crozier in their custody in the year 1428, and their right was formally recognized by King James III in 1487. The head of the crozier, which is of silver- gilt with a smaller crozier of bronze enclosed within it, is now deposited in the Museum of Scotland. The saint's cast bronze bell, known as the Bernane is also preserved in the museum and was placed over a sufferer's head during healing rituals.

Along with the crozier and bronze bell, in the Middle Ages relics were kept in the care of dewars at several Glen Dochart farms. Still kept at one farm are a set of river stones which were believed to have been given healing powers by St Fillan and a particular sequence of movements of an appropriate stone around the afflicted area would result in a cure.



St Fillan's Cave in Pittenweem has long been associated with the saint however there are several stories of saints with that name from the area. The cave contains a spring and a well named in his honour and has a colourful history. Pilgrims engaged with hermits inhabiting the cave (possibly St Fillan himself) on their way to nearby St Andrews, it was used by smugglers for some time, as a store room for local fisherfolk (Pittenweem has been a fishing village since the time of early Christian settlement and later a harbour was constructed) and it was used as a rubbish tip which probably resulted in its disappearance for some time. While plowing in the area, a horse apparently fell down a hole which allowed the cave's rediscovery. In 1935 the shrine was emptied of centuries of debris, then rededicated. In 2000 the cave was again refurbished and reopened to visitors while, on occasion, the Holy Eucharist continues to be offered. The cave is owned by the Bishop Low Trust, is entrusted to St John's Scottish Episcopal Church in Pittenweem and its entrance can be found on Cove Wynd. [ [ St Fillan's Cave in Pittenweem in the East Neuk of Fife - Scotland ] ]


The Celtic Apostolic Church of Saint Fillan (Celtic Orthodox) is established in Auckland, New Zealand.The Roman Catholic Church of St. Fillan, Houston, Scotland, was established in 1841.


There was a monastery dedicated to St Fillan as early as the 8th or 9th century at Strathfillan, Perthshire, Scotland.


St Fillans, Perthshire is a village at the eastern end of Loch Earn near the remains of the 7th century Pictish fort of Dundurn.



The legend of the second of these saints is given in the "Bollandist Ada SS." (1643), 9th of January, i. 594-595; A. P. Forbes, "Kalendars of Scottish Saints" (Edinburgh, 1872), pp. 341-346; D. O'Hanlons "Lives of Irish Saints" (Dublin), n.d. pp. 134-144. See also "Historical Notices of St Fillan's Crozier", by Dr John Stuart (Aberdeen, 1877).

External links

* [ East Neuk Episcopal Churches]
* [ Catholic Online]
* [ Gazetteer for Scotland]
* [ Perthshire Scotland]
* [ The Celtic Apostolic Church of Saint Fillan]

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