San Fermín no era escocés (II)

The theory of Thomas Dempster about San Fermín having been born in Scotland became rooted among an educated minority because it had received a full chapter in his book on Church History. But a reaction set in and in 1742 this attempt to appropriate the lives of many saints was counteracted. Nicolás Antonio published posthumously in Valencia “A Censorship of Fabled Histories, with the help of a Publisher called Gregorio Mayans, with the aim of demystifying religious myths which did not have much solid evidence to back up the claims made about them. In this book, in Book V, chapter II, Nicolás Antonio wrote under the title: “Del Obispo Pelagio, De San Firmino, que lo fue de Pamplona… (…)”, and he went on to demonstrate that the theory of Thomas Dempster that San Fermín was Scottish, was quite untrue. In this text which we mention, Thomas Dempster is given as Thomas Dempstero and Nicolás Antonio in his fifth paragraph states:

1-. Before the year 158 San Fermin flourished in life and worked miracles, the First Bishop of Pamplona, and a native in that city.

2-. “As this point deals with San Fermin, I cannot but notice that Thomas Dempstero, A Scotsman, in his treatise Historia Eclesiastica de Scotia states that San Fermin was a native of Scotland and that he was brought up by a priest named Honesto, and sent by him to be fostered by San Saturnino, Bishop of Tolosa.Nicolás Antonio goes on to say that Thomas Dempster is already well-known for misappropriation and for inventing new authors so as to “give Scotland merits which it does not deserve”.

3-. “With reference to making him a Scotsman and to making him a fellow-citizen of the writer, the reality is that he was a Spaniard and a Navarran from Pamplona.”


The main sources which Nicolás Antonio gives us are the Actas de San Saturnino, which are manuscripts and which were to be found (in those days) at the Convent of Huerta and also information taken from the work Historia Ecclesia Gallicane, by Vicencio Bellocense. He states that the mistake made by Dempster could come from a text from Equilino where he states that “Hibernia is a place in Spain (Iberia)”. He also quotes from Jacobo Usserio who enumerated many errors in this same sense of confusing these different terms.


Nicolás Antonio was the first man to set up the concept of modern style Bibliography in España and the idea of hypercriticism. His most-famous work is theBiblioteca Hispana” which provides precise and critical information on all the authors who had ever written up to his time. “Censura de historias fabulosas” sums up his mistrust of those writings from the XVI century and he provided a more objective and serious bibliography. Nicolás Antonio was a Canon of the Holy Church in Seville, a Councilor of Carlos II  and a Fiscal Officer of the Council of the Crusades.