Photo: "Skellig Michael" Copyright Irish Tourist Board.


Favorite Monks:

Ninian of Whithorn

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."

Image: Stained-glass window portrait of St. Ninian of Whithorn.. Ninian of Whithorn

(Ca. 360 - Ca. 432 A.D.)

Also known as: St. Ninian, Bishop Ninian, Ninias, Ninus, Dinan, Ringan, Ringen.

Ninian founded the first Christian settlement in Scotland.

Image: Map of Scotland showing location of Whithorn Priory. ___________

Tell others about Jesus like Ninian did:

Though not all Christians are called to the ministry of a foreign missionary, we are all called by God to share our faith (witness) with those who are not Christians.  Some Bible verses that you will find helpful for doing this, and that you may want to commit to memory are found on other pages on our  web site (see: Memory Verses; 2nd Set: Salvation!, Plan of Salvation, and Statement of Faith). ___________



A Missionary Bishop; date of birth unknown; died about 432; the first Apostle of Christianity in Scotland.

Traveling to Britain from Italy through France, he heard of the great work being done by Martin of Tours (Ca. 316 - 397 A.D.) at his abbey in Marmoutiers (the 2nd monastery he 372 A.D.; the monastery at Liguge having been founded in 363 A.D.).  

Ninian stayed at the abbey for some time and was encouraged and helped in his work by Martin of Tours who became his friend and left a lasting impression on him.  

Ninian returned to Scotland to begin an evangelical mission there.  With the help of masons from Martin's Monastery in Tours he began to build his church.  

The first church he built in Scotland (Ca. 397 A.D.) was the first Christian settlement north of Hadrian's wall, and it was said to be a whitewashed stone building (most churches of this time were wooden), which could be easily seen.  

He named it Candida Casa (The White House); in the language of the local Picts it was translated as "Hwit Aerne" ("white house").  Over time it became known as Whithorn.

The earliest account of Ninian is in Bede's History:

"the southern Picts received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the Bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is now in the possession of the English nation.

The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians and is commonly called the White House (Candida Casa), because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual amongst the Britons".

The facts given in this passage form practically all we know of Ninian's life and work (Bede: "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" III:4).

The most important later life, compiled in the twelfth century by St. Aelred (Ethelred) of Rievaulx (Ca. 1110 - 1167 A.D.), who was a Cistercian monk, abbot and historian in medieval Briton and France, professes to give a detailed account founded on Bede and also on a "liber de vita et miraculis eius" (sc. Niniani) "barbarice scriptus", but the legendary element is largely evident.

It was to Martin of Tours' second monastery at Marmoutier that Ninian of Whithorn went to study.  There Ninian became an enthusiastic disciple of Martin of Tours, before becoming the first Christian missionary to Scotland.

Ninian's foundation at Whithorn was at first to be known as Muinntir Mór, but he himself called it after Martin's first at Ligugé - Logotegiacum being the Latin form of Ligugé, coming from the Celtic "leuk" (Gaelic "geal", shining white) and "tigh", a house. 

From this then came the name Candida Casa, and its daughter house in Wales, Ty Gwynn, the Bright House. _______________________________

Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield).  

This commemorative stone was found in the 1880's and remains the earliest evidence of Christianity in Scotland.
It begins:
"Te Domine Laudamus...";
"We praise you O Lord..."


Founding the Monastery of Candida Casa 

Ninian states, however, that while engaged in building his church at Candida Casa, he heard of the death of Martin of Tours and decided to dedicate the building to him.  Now Martin of Tours died about 397 A.D., so that the mission of Ninian to the southern Picts must have begun towards the end of the fourth century.

Ninian founded at Whithorn a monastery which became famous as a school of monasticism within a century of his death; his work among the southern Picts seems to have had but a short lived success. 

St. Patrick, in his "Letter to Coroticus", terms the Picts "apostates", and references to Ninian's converts having abandoned Christianity are found in Columba and Kentigern

The body of Ninian was buried in the church at Whithorn (Wigtownshire)...The "Clogrinny", or bell of St. Ringan, of very rough workmanship, is in the Antiquarian Museum at Edinburgh.

During the Protestant Reformation, in 1581, pilgrimage was banned in Scotland and Whithorn transformed from a center of national importance into the small country town it is today. _________________________



See Also:


Have you received Christ as your Lord and Saviour?

Find out how to do so on our page:

Plan of Salvation


(Except Texts Listed in Sources) Copyright © 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved.