EMILI: Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions

GAL-004. Templebrecan 4: Cross Slab

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Description: National Monuments Service Record Number: GA110-023023-. A subrectangular cross slab of limestone (w: 0.33 x h: 0.89x d: 0.09), bearing a broadly grooved Latin cross with a circular centre and semicircular terminals (Archaeology.ie).
Text: The inscription is distributed across the four cantons horizontally. Both the cross and the inscription were pocked and this pocking is neat and accurate incised across the shaft in two lines (Higgins 1987, 307).
Letters: The lettering is half-uncial. The M, A and N are in minuscule forms. The R is half-uncial and the V is almost angular (Celtic Inscribed Stones Project).

Date: Unknown.

Findspot: First mentioned in 1875 by Samuel Ferguson (CISP). This is one of four cross slabs (see also GA110-023021-, GA110-023022- and GA110-023024-) now associated with St Brecan’s Grave (GA110-023009-) (Archaeology.ie). St Brecan’s Grave is one of five leabaí or grave-plots (see also GA110-023001-, GA110-023002-, GA110-023003- and GA110-023005-) associated with Teampall Bhreacáin ['Breacán's church'] (GA110-010001-) and Teampall an Phoill (GA110-010003-) [part of a wider ecclesiastical complex known as na Seacht dTeampaill 'the Seven Churches']. The multiple grave plot is labelled ‘St Brecan’s Grave’ by Robinson (1980). However, Waddell (1973, 26) equates the grave with Leaba Bhreacáin (GA110-023001-). It consists of a rectangular area (5m NNE-SSW; 2m NNW-SSE) bounded by a kerb of thin limestone slabs. The enclosed area is further subdivided into five slab-covered graves (Archaeology.ie; Waddell 1973, 5-27; Monasticon Hibernicum Database).
Original location: Templebrecan (Teampall Bhreacáin), in the townland of Onaght (Eoghanacht), Inishmore (Árainn), Co. Galway, 53.145874, -9.777290.

Last recorded location: At the findspot, St Brecan’s Grave, placed against its W edge, second slab from the N (Archaeology.ie).






Seven Romans


This is the second inscription from Templebrecan to contain a Roman numeral (see also GAL-005), which are otherwise rare in Irish inscriptions (I have not yet found another example). An inscribed cross-base from Inishcaltra, Co. Clare mentions 'ten persons' (dechenboir), likewise unidentified (Okasha and Forsyth 2001, 48-9). ROMANI appears to be the Latin nominative plural of Romanus, giving us another Latin language inscription from Templebrecan (see also GAL-001).

As suggested by Okasha and Forsyth (2001, 48-9), this cross slab may mark the grave of seven local romani (perhaps adherents to the Roman side in the seventh-century Paschal controversy), but it is more plausibly seen as a dedication to the 'Seven Brothers', a group of seven second-century Roman martyrs culted on 10 July, as suggested by Macalister (1949, 6-7) and named in the Irish martyrologies of Oengus and of Gorman.

Bibliography: Higgins 1987, vol. 2, 307, no.34 ; Macalister 1913, 344 ; Macalister 1949, 6, no.534 ; Okasha and Forsyth 2001, 48-9 ; Petrie 1878, vol. 2, 21, Plate XIV ; Stokes and Strachan 1903, 288 ; Waddell 1973, 21, no.13
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