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Vita sancte Ite Virginis (Author: [unknown])



Vita Sancte Ite Virginis

This life is from M f. 109c. It probably


existed also in T, but is lost owing to the mutilation of that MS. There is another Latin life of Ita in R2 f. 169d, F p. 212. In R1 it has been lost owing to the mutilation of that MS. at the end, but the table of contents shows that R1 once contained this life. The M version was printed by Colgan, Acta Sanctorum pp. 66 ff., who seems to have taken more than his usual liberties with the text. It was also printed by the Bollandists, Jan. i. 1062 ff., who have corrected some of Colgan's mistakes. They also give readings from a copy of the R text supplied by Hugh Ward.

M and R cover much the same ground, though R is shorter and certainly less original. M itself may be an abbreviation of a longer life (cf. paragraph I: ‘breviter enarrare cupimus,’ ‘alia . . . propter brevitatem omittimus’). It professes to have been written in the second generation after St. Ita (paragraph 28 ‘cuius filius adhuc vivit’). In its present form the life cannot be so old; but it may be based on earlier materials. I know no Irish life. Ita, in Irish Ite, or (with the endearing prefix ‘mo’ ‘my’) Mite or Mide, belonged by birth to the Deisi, but her active life was spent among the Ui Conaill Gabra, whose patron-saint she is (paragraphs 8, 33, 36), and whose name survives in the baronies of Conello, co. Limerick. For her death and the almost coincident death of Aengus or Oenu of Clonmacnois the Annales Ultoniae give two alternative dates, 570 and 577. For the death of her foster-son Brendan the same authority also gives two dates, 577 and 583. Her other famous foster-child, St. Mochoemog, did not die till 656. The battle of paragraph 33 was fought in 552, v. s. Ita is also made contemporary with St. Columba, ob. 597. The life seems to aim chiefly at exalting her powers as a prophetess. There also seem to be solar touches about her legend (cf. paragraphs 2, 23, 31).


There is a brief life of Ita in Nova Legenda Anglie, ii. 543–4. I do not think it is derived either from M or R. It has preserved the saint's original name: ‘Derithea, que alio nomine Itta vocatur.’ So the Martyrology of Donegal says: ‘Deirdri a céd ainm.’ i.e. Deirdre was her first name (Jan. 15). Deirdre was the name of the heroine of the Sorrowful Tale of the sons of Usnech.