FURSA (FURSEY, Lat. Furseus), SAINT: Irish monk and missionary; b. of noble family probably in Connaught; d. at Maceriæ (Mazeroeles, on the Authie), in Ponthieu (northern France), Jan. 16, probably 650. He was brought up in Munster under monastic discipline and lived the usual life of an Irish monk, founding a monastery at Rathmat, probably in the northwest of County Clare. For ten years he went up and down in Ireland preaching repentance and judgment. Then with his two brothers and two monks he traveled eastward, and in 637 (?) was received by King Sigbert of East Anglia and assisted him and Bishop Felix (see FELIX, SAINT) in establishing Christianity among the only half-converted people. He built a monastery at Cnoberesburg (Burghcastle, 5 m. from Yarmouth), then, with a single companion, retired to a hermitage. After a year the menace from Penda, the heathen king of Mercia, drove him away, and he went to France. He found refuge at the court of the young Clovis II., king of Neustria. Erchinoald, mayor of the palace, gave him land at Latiniacum (Lagny-sur-Marne, 18 m. e. of Paris), where he built a monastery in 644. He was buried at Péronne (75 m. n.n.e. of Paris) and was long honored there. Miracles were attributed to him even in his lifetime.


Fursa was noteworthy chiefly for his visions, which were probably due to cataleptic attacks. He saw and conversed with angels, was attacked by demons, and beheld the awful torments of the wicked; impending calamities were foretold to him. He would relate what he had seen, says Bede, only to those who wished to hear "from holy zeal and desire of information." Similar visions were not uncommon experiences of the monks. The narratives of them were highly popular and constitute a distinct class of medieval literature (cf. Plummer's Bede, ii. 294-295, Oxford, 1896, and, for Fursa's visions, Olden's Church of Ireland, pp. 87-90, London, 1895).