Ninian of Whithorn

Introduction

Ninian is mentioned by Bede, writing in 731, as a missionary to the Southern Picts (HE iii, 5)and the founder of Candida Casa, usually identified as Whithorn in Galloway, SW Scotland. Excavations there have revealed evidence of activity from as early as the 6th century. An 8th-century poem commemorates Ninian (MacQueen 1961), and this, together with other evidence, suggests strong promotion of his cult by the Northumbrians at that time. He had a powerful cult from the 12th century too, when he was promoted as a national Scottish saint. A 12th-century vita (Vita Niniani) is attributed to Ailred of Rievaulx, his shrine at Whithorn became an important pilgrimage destination, and numerous church dedications survive throughout Scotland. There are few, if any, early dedications to Ninian, however, and it has been argued that his cult may have had its origin in a different saint, St Uinniau / Finnian who is mentioned in Vita Columbae and elsewhere (VC has Findbarrus at i, 1; ii, 1; Vinnianus at ii, 1; Finnio (iii.4), and who in Irish traditions is also linked to Whithorn (Clancy 2001). The argument has not gone unchallenged (Clancy 2010, 5-9, and the works cited therein).

Gender

Male

Associated places

Whithorn, Galloway

Territory or Ethnicity (broad)

British

Related Saints

Belongs to the group Ninian (ns)