Bannavem Taburniae

Attested:  The Confessio of Patricius (Saint Patrick) explained that “Patrem habui Calpornum diaconum filium quendam Potiti presbyteri qui fuit vico Banavem Taberniae”.  Bannavem and Taburniae in some mss.  See here for a full discussion of the Latin text.

Where:  The birthplace of St. Patrick has traditionally been claimed as Old Kilpatrick, on the north of the river Clyde, but that may just have been a kil ‘cell’ (church) named after him and/or where he was baptised.  A Roman fort there, at the western end of the Antonine Wall, was possibly called Cibra.  In about AD 700 the Life of St Patrick by Muirchú named his birthplace as Ventre, which was identified by Boyle (1981) with modern Fintry at NS615867.  In about AD 800 Fiacc's hymn supplied another name Nemthur (or Nemptor), which a gloss said was in Northern Britain at Dumbarton.  There seems to be no academic consensus which site is best.

Name origin:  An obvious parallel is Bannaventa, with all the questions that name raises about the meanings of bann- and of venta.  Patrick would probably have used vicus as in the Vulgate Bible (close to modern village) but its Roman administrative meaning (an area that aspired to Roman legal and religious practice) and its deep etymological meaning (a trading place) cannot be excluded.  Latin Taberna meant ‘hut, workshop’.  Ventre, recorded in 1225 as Fyntrif, looks like a Gaelic version of Welsh *gwendref ‘pleasant stead’ (Watson, 1926:364) or English fine thorpe.  Nemthur begins like nemeton an ancient word for ‘sanctuary’ (i.e. space set aside as sacred), which Watson (1926:244-250) suggested was taken over from pagan into Christian usage and gave rise to a dozen later place names across Scotland.

Notes:  Fintry lies at a pinch point on one of the travel routes from the central belt of Scotland up to the Highlands, which the Romans would unquestionably have wanted to leave in friendly (possibly well-paid) hands after AD 211.  It is surrounded by evidence of early settlement, such as Dunmore hillfort.  Like Bannaventa it is near the watershed between the Irish and the North Seas, which does not really fit Muirchú's comment that the birthplace was not far from the sea.  One likely nemeton survival was a district around the Rosneath Peninsula called Neved in 1225, which extended over a torr some way towards Dumbarton Rock.  Koch (2003) discussed evidence that Patrick was born in the AD 300s and possibly became a rich Roman-Christian official in Trier before he evangelised Ireland.

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Last edited: 2 July 2018