Fintan (d. 878), Irish peregrinus and hermit in Rheinau, was (according to his Life) born as a ciues provintiae Laginensis (a freeman of the province of Leinster) and was the son of a soldier in the army of a Leinster king. He was captured and enslaved by the vikings and taken to the Orkneys. He later escaped to a neighbouring island where he was protected by a Scottish bishop who had studied in Ireland and could speak Irish.
Fintan trained for two years in the religious life to which he had vowed himself during his captivity. Afterwards, he went on pilgrimage to Rome with some companions, travelling through Gaul, where he visited the monastery of St Martin at Tours, and also Alemannia (Switzerland), and Lombardy. On his return from Rome he travelled through Switzerland where, at the age of 51, he became a Benedictine monk in the monastery of Rheinau, which had recently been established by a Guelph noble named Wolffhart. Four years later, he became a hermit at Rheinau, where he remained till his death twenty-two years later, ‘having conquered his body by unheard-of abstinences’.
The celebrated Sacramentary of Zürich (Kantonsbibl. 30), a Gelasian sacramentary of the eighth century, contains a calendar of Irish saints which may possibly have been procured by Fintan. The calendar and Fintan's Life both contain the first mention of the Irish reformers known as the Céli Dé and refer to the feast-days of Saints Patrick (qv), Brigit (qv), Colum Cille (qv), and Máedóc (qv) of Ferns. The Life is unique in that it is the only Life in the continental tradition of the Irish saints that was written by a contemporary Irishman. A note in MS C of the Life claims that Fintan invoked ‘St Moedoc, or as he [Fintan] called him, Aidan [Áedán], as his patron saint’; this is probably the only reference in a continental Life of an Irish saint to the cult of the Leinster saint Máedóc of Ferns. It seems that the author of the Life was personally acquainted with Fintan; he certainly was an Irishman, since the Life has a number of sentences in recognisable late Old Irish recalling the voices of Irish saints exhorting Fintan to have patience when he implored them for guidance at a time of extreme hunger. These and other details give the Life an extraordinary realism and historicity. Unlike other Lives of Irish saints, this brief account, written just after the subject's death, received no fabulous accretions in later tradition. The details of Fintan's Life therefore rest upon as solid a foundation as those of Columbanus (qv) or Gallus (qv).
Fintan gained a reputation for sanctity which grew after his death; he was canonised (c.1000) as a result of the efforts of Notker Balbulus. His relics were retained and venerated, being eventually enshrined at Rheinau in 1446. A church now stands on the site of his hermitage where his tomb is located. Some remains of his cult still survive in Mariastein in Switzerland. His death is noted at 15 November in the Liber Confraternitatis at Rheinau. Rheinau remained a Benedictine house till modern times.