Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Kildare Monastic Trail

Abarta Audioguides have made a copy of their Kildare Monastic Trail available to download free of charge:

We are absolutely delighted to announce the release of our latest audioguide: The Kildare Monastic Trail

This free to download audioguide helps you to explore the atmospheric ancient monasteries of County Kildare. The guide consists of 10 tracks and features sites like Castledermot, Old Kilcullen, Moone, Oughterard and more. Narrated by Kildare actor Liam Quinlivan, it tells of the history, archaeology, heritage and folklore of these fascinating sites and gives panel by panel descriptions of the spectacular high crosses at places like Moone and Castledermot.

The guide is free to download as a MP3 audioguide from our website:

Or download directly to your smartphone or tablet with our free app version (for Android and Apple). The app version is packed with images and comes with a map to help you navigate your way around the trail:

This audioguide was produced by Abarta Audioguides in conjunction with Kildare County Council and with the kind support of The Heritage Council. We would like to thank Sharon Greene of Castledermot Local History Group, Noel Dunne National Roads Authority archaeologist, Mario Corrigan of Kildare Library Service and Kildare Heritage Officer Bridget Loughlin for all of their advice, support and information during the production of this guide.

This audioguide is an action of the County Kildare Heritage Plan.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Saint Faolán of Fosses and Devotion to Saint Brigid

October 31 is the feast of Saint Faolán, one of the many Irish missionary saints who laboured in Europe. He is also one of the Irish saints who helped to spread the cult of Ireland's patroness on the Continent. Roísín Ní Mheara has given a fascinating account of devotion to Saint Brigid of Kildare in the Meuse/Maas valley region in which Saint Faolán laboured. His monastery at Fosses was dedicated to Saint Brigid and today their names are still intertwined in this area:
In the cryptal chamber of Saint-Feuillen, old effigies of St Brigid and St Gertrud guard the place where Faolán's remains first reposed. And the particular devotion paid by the saint to his Irish patroness again bears evidence in a small church that tops a hill beside the town, to which the rue Saint-Brigette leads us. Said to have been erected by Faolán and his monks, it has a Celtic cross inserted in the outer wall of the sanctuary, believed to be the altar stone of the original seventh-century church, brought hither from Ireland! Be that as it may, Faolán is certainly responsible for implanting the very lively cult of St Brigid into this part of Belgium - a cult still practised at this ancient place. People gather here to celebrate her Feastday, bringing twigs bound together to form a cros Bríde, as in Ireland. After being blessed, these crosses are hung up in cow-sheds to protect the cattle for another year. Also reminiscent of the charitable aspect of the cult of St Brígid is the large hospital-cum-Old Folks Home beside the church on the hill, superseding, it is said, the original almshouse of the Irish missionaries. The nuns in charge of the hospital also have the keys to the church of Saint-Brigette.

Devotion to St Faolán, fanning out in all directions from Fosses, is marked with churches and chapels in his honour. Since rivers are often destined to be the carriers of man's history, it was the proximity of the river Meuse - Maas in Germanic tongues - that played a part in spreading Faolán's cult and reputation.

...The Meuse Valley's preoccupation with the cult of Faolán affected that of St Brígid. As a protectress of cattle her fame progressed through the land and across the river into the diocese of Cologne. An important Roman road linked Gallia Belgica with the Rhinelands via Maastricht, soon to be complemented by a Carolingian trade-route linking the North Sea port of Brugge with the seat of Charlemagne at Aachen (Aix) and continuing on to Cologne, the famed 'City of Holy Martyrs' - where St Brígid of Ireland, although no martyr, installed herself with a parish of her own in the city's core.

In the cathedral of Aachen, Brígid shares a stained glass window with Faolán, whose own adjacent church, that had served the community since the fifteenth century, has been rebuilt after destruction in World War Two. (The connection between Brígid and Faolán was carried as far as Spain, where their effigies adorn an early church in Navarre).

Roísín Ní Mheara, Early Irish Saints in Europe - Their Sites and their Stories (Seanchas Ard Mhacha, 2001),70.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Bringing Brigid to Italy: Saint Donatus of Fiesole

October 22 is the feast of Saint Donatus of Fiesole, an Irishman who became a bishop in Italy and who promoted the cult of Saint Brigid in his adopted homeland. An account of his life can be found at my other site here. Donatus was among the hagiographers of Ireland's patroness and a translation of the prologue to his Life of Saint Brigid can be found here with a commentary here. You will notice that in the prologue the saint refers to Ireland as Scotia, but this was commonplace in the early Middle Ages and it was only later that the term was applied exclusively to the land we now call Scotland. The prologue extols the virtues of Ireland and its people, but more so the virtues of its patroness, which are as innumerable as the grains of sand on the shore. I find Saint Donatus a most engaging figure and his story deserves to be remembered in his own country.  As an old Life of the saint puts it: 'let Hibernia rejoice, which sent forth such a teacher; let Fiesole and the whole province of Tuscany be glad'.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Alto et ineffabile: Saint Colum Cille in praise of Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise

September 9 is the feast of Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise.   Below is the text of a Latin hymn in his honour, attributed to Saint Colum Cille, and translated by Peter Davidson:

Latin Text

Hymnus S. Columbae in Laudem S. Ciarani.

Alto et ineffabile apostolorum coeti
celestis Hierusolimae sublimioris speculi
sedente tribunalibus solis modo micantibus
Quiaranus sanctus sacerdos insignis nuntius

Inaltatus est manibus angelorum celestibus
Consummatis felicibus sanctitatum generibus
quem tu Christe apostolum mundo misisti hominem
gloriosum in omnibus nouissimis temporibus

English Translation

Born of the soaring apostolic company
(glass of Jerusalem exalted ineffably)
raised on thrones as sunlight lustrous,
came Ciaran, priest and messenger glorious;

Borne to the sky by angel infantry
Fulfilling thus his folded family,
Christ’s herald, shining apostle of grace
Sent to Ireland in these last, sad days.

Peter Davidson, ‘The hymn of saint Columba in praise of saint Ciaran: an English translation’ in M.Richter and J-M. Picard, eds., Ogma – Essays in honour of Próinséas Ní Chatháin (Dublin, 2002), 320.

The hymn Alto et ineffabile is published as number 27 in the Irish Liber Hymnorum and the editors offer this introduction to it:

The Hymn Alto et ineffabili.

In the Life of St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise (c. 26), as quoted by Colgan, we read: "Unus ex praecipuis Hiberniae est et merito numeratur Apostolis iuxta quod de ipso cecinit eius condiscipulus et coapostolus sanctissimus Columba in hymno quodam quem in eius composuit laudem dicens:

Quantum Christe O apostolum mundo misisti hominem
Lucerna huius insulae lucens lucerna mirabilis, etc."'

The first line of this couplet is almost identical with line 8 of the piece Alto et ineffabili, which suggests that this may be the hymn in question. It is mentioned again in the manuscript (wrongly) called the Book of Kilkenny in Marsh's Library at Dublin, where at fol. 148aa we read: " Et fecit sanctus Columba ympnum sancto Kiarano," a hymn which Ciaran's successor at Clonmacnoise called clarus et laudabilis. Columba, the story goes, asked in return for some earth from St. Ciaran's grave, with which he calmed the stormy water on his way back to Iona.'

This St. Ciaran, who is to be carefully distinguished from St. Ciaran of Saighir, was the founder of the great monastery of Clonmacnoise, and in its Annals the year of his death is given as 547. He is counted one of "the twelve Apostles of Ireland," and in the Martyrology of Donegal at Septr. 9) he is compared to the Apostle St. John. He was known in his life time as Ciaran mac an t-saor, or "Son of the Carpenter"; and was a friend of St. Kevin, as of St. Columba. His memory still survives in the place called " Temple Kieran," about four miles from Navan. In Cornwall the name of Ciaran (of Saighir) has become corrupted to Piran, to whom there were many churches dedicated.

J.H. Bernard and R Atkinson (eds.) The Irish Liber Hymnorum Vol 2, Translations and Notes (London, 1898), 218-220.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Saint Patrick: The Archaeology and the Texts

A forthcoming workshop at Queen's University, Belfast sounds promising. Further details from the School of Education's Open Learning programme here for anyone in this part of the world who might also be interested in attending.

Update October 5: Was most disappointed to receive a letter from the University on Saturday informing me that the course was cancelled due to insufficient numbers. I wonder if they will re-schedule it for their spring programme as there may be a more receptive audience around March time?

St Patrick: The Archaeology and the Texts
Peter Morgan Barnes, BA

Autumn 2014

A two-day workshop on Fridays 10 & 24 October, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm

In recent years our understanding about the 5th century has been transformed by archaeology and new techniques of reading Patrick’s texts. This two day intensive workshop will bring participants up to speed on current thinking about this most enigmatic figure. Only two texts are known from the 5th century in the entire British Isles and Patrick wrote both of them!

Recommended Textbook: St Patrick AD 493 – 1993, D.N.Dumville (Boydell Press).

Friday, 15 August 2014

Who is Patrick? – Answers from the Saint Patrick's Confessio HyperStack

A useful review of the Royal Irish Academy's Confessio Hyperstack from a German academic:

Who is Patrick? – Answers from the Saint Patrick's Confessio HyperStack

Franz Fischer

University of Cologne

Cologne Center for eHumanities

Universitatsstr. 22, D-50923 Koln


Not everyone realizes that there are two Latin works, still surviving, that can definitely be attributed to Saint Patrick’s own authorship.

On 14th September 2011 the Royal Irish Academy published his writings in a freely accessible form on line, both in the original Latin and in a variety of modern languages (including Irish). Designed to be of interest to the general public as well as to academic researchers, the Saint Patrick’s Confessio Hypertext Stack includes such features as digital images of the medieval manuscripts involved, a specially commissioned historical reconstruction that evocatively describes life in pre-Viking Ireland, articles, audio presentations, and some ten thousand internal and external digital links that make it truly a resource to be explored.

Read the paper in full here.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Such was Columba

He was at the same time full of contradictions and contrasts at once tender and irritable, rude and courteous, ironical and compassionate, caressing and imperious, grateful and revengeful led by pity as well as by wrath, ever moved by generous passions, and among all passions fired to the very end of his life by two which his countrymen under stand the best, the love of poetry and the love of country. Little inclined to melancholy when he had once surmounted the great sorrow of his life, which was his exile; little disposed even, save to wards the end, to contemplation or solitude, but trained by prayer and austerities to triumphs of evangelical exposition; despising rest, untiring in mental and manual toil; born for eloquence, and gifted with a voice so penetrating and sonorous that it was thought of afterwards as one of the most miraculous gifts that he had received of God; frank and loyal, original and powerful in his words as in his actions in cloister and mission and parliament, on land and on sea, in Ireland as in Scotland, always swayed by the love of God and of his neighbour, whom it was his will and pleasure to serve with an impassioned uprightness. Such was Columba.