Kentigern and Gonothigernus A Scottish saint and a Gaulish bishop identified

Kentigern and Gonothigernus A Scottish saint and a Gaulish bishop identified

Gough-Cooper, Henry

The Heroic Age Issue 6 Spring 2003


Onomastic, documentary and archaeological evidence is examined to test the proposed identification of St Kentigern of Glasgow with Gonothigernus, bishop of Senlis c.549×573.

Some time ago, John Morris proposed identifying Gonothigernus, a 6th century bishop of Senlis near Paris, France, with St Kentigern, patron saint of Glasgow, Scotland. He did so not only because the bishop appears to have lived in the same approximate era as the legendary Kentigern, and shared an otherwise unrecorded name, but also because an incident in Jocelin of Furness’ 12th century Life of Kentigern seemed to him to echo an event during the episcopacy of Gonothigernus (Morris 1995). Morris’source for Gonothigernus was the Sacrorum Conciliorum of Mansi (Mansi 1758-98), who, in turn, had to hand an earlier edition by Jean Hardouin (Hardouin 1714-15). In Mansi’s edition of the Council of Orleans of 549, a footnote states that Hardouin gave the name as Cunautegernus, but this is an error in Mansi: Hardouin accurately gives the name its initial G, which agrees with the form found in the surviving sources as more recently edited by de Clercq: Gonotiernus at Orleans in 549, and Gonothigernus at the Council of Paris held sometime between 556 and 573 (De Clercq 1963). Although the name-form cannot be claimed to be exactly identical to the Celtic pre-form *Cunotigernos for Kentigern, the indifferent use of “G” for “C” and vice-versa is very common in documents of this period (Wallace-Hadrill 1960), and there is little doubt that the name-forms recorded for this bishop are equivalent etymologically to the British Conothigirnus of the Annales Cambriae (mid 10th century), which is generally considered to be an earlier form of Kentegernus found in the 12th century Glasgow sources (Jackson 1953). Despite the scribal error that gave the Germanic-looking variant fredi(g)ernus in some of the sources for Orleans 549, this name (Gonotiernus, Gonothigernus) is not Frankish, it is certainly not Latinate, and the form does not resemble any known Gaulish names (Evans 1967). A catalogue of the name-forms is appended below (Appendix I).

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