Secundinus (Sechnall) (d. c.447), missionary bishop in Ireland, was sent, according to some annalistic sources (AI; AU), with Auxilius (qv) and Iserninus (qv), in auxilium Patricii (as an aid to Patrick [qv]) – the Annals of Ulster add ‘as bishops themselves'. Although many Irish sources refer to him in the context of the Patrician mission, our knowledge of him as an historical person is very limited. He is described in the ‘Vita Declani’ (§20) as ‘a very wise and holy man’, and ‘the first bishop to be buried in the soil of Ireland’ (primus episcopus sub humo Hibernie exivit), a description that also appears verbatim in Irish in the Tripartite Life of St Patrick (ed. Stokes, 242).
The earliest historical references to Secundinus are in the ‘Collectanea’ of Tírechán (qv). The first reference (§6.2) lists his name among the bishops supposedly consecrated by Patrick; the second (§34.1) states that when Patrick first went to meet Secundinus at Mucno (Tobar Makee, Drumtemple, Co. Roscommon) he found him ‘seated under an elm with rich foliage’, probably a metaphor suggesting that he was present in Ireland before the coming of Patrick. The association of Secundinus with the traditionally pre-Patrician saints Declan (qv) and Ailbe (qv) and the area associated with his mission, the territory of the Laigin of east Leinster, specifically Mide (e.g. Domnach Sechnaill – Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath), support the hypothesis that he was sent to assist a pre-Patrician Roman mission led by the deacon-bishop Palladius (qv), the vague tradition of whose mission was later blended with that of Patrick. Among the other Patrician documents, the ‘Liber Angeli’ (§29–30) states that Secundinus, together with Auxilius, Patrick, and Benignus (qv), decreed that matters that could not be decided within the Irish church, in which Armagh was the highest court, were to be taken to Rome for adjudication. In later eighth-century tradition, when Armagh had firmly established the myth of Patrick as national apostle, Secundinus acquired the status of a suffragan bishop to Patrick; for example, he was said to have been left in charge as archbishop of Armagh while Patrick went to Rome (Trip. life, 239).
His authorship of the hymn ‘Audite omnes’, said to have been composed by him at his episcopal church at Domnach Sechnaill as a peace-offering to Patrick, and recited by him before its addressee, is at least possible; a similar incident is related in the ‘Vita Finniani’ (§23). But authorship of the hymn has also been attributed to Colmán Elo (qv). Remarkably, the hymn addresses Patrick in the present tense. In the preface to ‘Audite omnes’, Secundinus was given a Lombardic origin (de Longbardaib Letha). It was alleged that he was the son of Darerca and that his father was called Restitutus, his baptismal name having been Conis. None of this is inherently improbable: ‘Secundinus’, as a cognomen of the Latin personal name ‘Secundus’, has numerous attestations, especially in Gaul, southern Austria, and northern Italy. A Lombardic racial origin in Gaul or Italy and late Roman family origins are therefore quite possible.
In conclusion, the late and fragmentary evidence suggests that Secundinus was a pre-Patrician bishop associated with the Palladian mission to Leinster in the first half of the fifth century. The tradition that he was the first bishop to be buried in Ireland is therefore not likely to have been invented. In the annals his death generally precedes that of Auxilius (459), Benignus (467), and Iserninus (468); only the Annals of Inisfallen state that he died in 465. The Annals of the Four Masters state that he died at the age of 75 years. His feast-day is 27 November.