Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 792 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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KILIAN (CHILIAN, KILLIAN), ST, British missionary bishop and the apostle of eastern Franconia, where he began his labours towards the end of the 7th century. There are several biographies of him, the first of which dates back to the 9th century (Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, Nos. 466o—4663). The oldest texts which refer to him are an 8th century necrology at Wurzburg and the notice by Hrabanus Maurus in his martyrology. According to Maurus Kilian was a native of Ireland, whence with his companions he went to eastern Franconia. After having preached the gospel in Wurzburg, the whole party were put to death by the orders of an unjust judge named Gozbert. It is difficult to fix the period with precision, as the judge (or duke) Gozbert is not known through other sources. Kilian's comrades, Coloman and Totman, were, according to the Wurzburg necrology, respectively priest and deacon. The elevation of the relics of the three martyrs was performed by Burchard, the first bishop of Wurzburg, and they are venerated in the cathedral of that town. His festival is celebrated on the 8th of July. See Acta Sanctorum, Julii, ii. 599–619; F. Emmerich, Der heilige Kilian (Wurzburg, 1896) ; J. O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, vii. 122–143 (Dublin, 1875–1904); A. Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutsch-lands, 3rd ed., i. 382 seq. (H. DE.)

Additional information and Comments

I discovered your website by chance while searching for information about St. Kilian. I wanted to know how important he still was to the city and people of Wurzburg. I was very surprised to see that he was described as British because he is considered to be an Irishman born in Ireland. My knowledge of him is that he was born in Mullagh, Co. Cavan, Ireland in 640 AD. He became a monk, travelled about Ireland and set up a monastery in Kenmare, Co. Kerry. In 680 approx. he travelled to Europe as a missionary with two others, Totnan and Colonat,(alternatively 12 other companions) and eventually settled in Wurzburg in Germany where he was murdered. During this period in Irish history there were many monasteries and some had schools attached to them which became important centres of learning. Europe had descended into the 'Dark Ages' after the fall of the Roman Empire. But this was a golden period in Irish history when knowledge was preserved in libraries in the monasteries and learning flourished until the arrival of the Viking raiders at the beginning of the 9th century. They plundered and destroyed many of these monasteries and centres of learning for the next century or more. Many students from noble families in mainland Europe came to Ireland to study in these monastic schools. Missionaries from Ireland travelled to Europe to spread Christianity. These included St. Fergal, StDympna,St Columbanus, St Gall and St Killian(Cillian). In those times too the Irish were called Scoti. It is said that Scotland got its name from an Irish colony that settled in Scotland. An Irish scholar called John Scotus Eriugena lived at the court of Charles the Bald in the 9th century. His name meant 'John the Irishman born in Ireland' as distinct from Scoti born in settlements outside Ireland. In 1989, the 1,300th anniversary of the death of St. Killian was celebrated and many people from Wurzburg travelled to Mullagh in Co. Cavan to visit his birth-place. So he was and still is regarded as being Irish by the people of Wurzburg. While I am not quoting from any primary sources and none of what I have written offers proof positive that he was Irish, I strongly believe that he was Irish and not British.
My Great-greatgrandmother's surname was Kilian, she was born in Furth, hesse-darmsdt, germany in 1822, I have often wondered if she was a descendant of St. Kilian, as furth is not far from were St. Kilian was beheaded. regards David Smith
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