Keynote: Prof. Em. Pádraig O’Riain

A ninth-century Tallaght strategy? Selective editing in Óengus’s martyrologies

The lecture will examine a number of mainly non-Irish feasts either invented by Óengus or first attested in one or other of his two martyrologies. Though some of his creations later became part of the wider western festal record, Óengus’s contribution has not received due notice from those unfamiliar with the Irish martyrological tradition. Paul Grosjean and John Hennig have done much in the past to put this right, but, as I hope to show here, a great deal remains to be done.


Frederick Biggs

Bede, Acca of Hexham, and the Old English Martyrology

Michael Lapidge’s convincing argument that the Vorlage of the Old English Martyrology was written by Bede’s close friend and bishop, Acca of Hexham, solves a major question of Anglo-Saxon literary history. And it raises a new one: what then was Acca’s main source? While the answer, Bede’s own Martyrologium, appears obvious, the issue is worth pursuing because it offers a chance to study the contemporary reception not just of a work but of a literary genre, the historical martyrology. Acca’s response to this new kind of writing reveals that he both followed Bede’s lead in some of his methods of composition and choices of material and took the form in new directions, adding most notably entries concerning liturgical feast not associated with saints and others about units of time. Identifying these broad tendencies is, moreover, necessary for understanding these works because significant individual problems remain. Just as we cannot yet be certain that all of the entries that circulated in manuscripts of Bede’s Martyrologium were indeed written by him, there are reasons to doubt that individual ones in the Old English Martyrology translate Acca’s otherwise unattested work. Like the genre as a whole, historical martyrologies are inherently subject to both additions to and corruptions of their texts. New discoveries about the circulation of saints’ lives, calendars, and martyrologies will help to guide our decisions about when individual entries were written. And yet also important will be our sense of how the authors themselves worked. Bede and Acca shared a similar respect for the genre that lies at the centers of their surprisingly different martyrologies.

Pádraig Breatnach

Scribal accretions in the Martyrology of Donegal (Long Recension)

The text of the Martyrology of Donegal as edited by J. H. Todd (1864) is drawn from a copy made by Eugene O’Curry of the original manuscript written by Michael O’Clery in 1630 (Brussels, Bibl. roy. de Belgique MS 5095-96) when this was on temporary loan in Dublin. Todd refers to the fact that the O’Clery manuscript ‘was revised by several hands and probably also by Colgan himself.’ Such ‘additions in other handwriting’ are usually documented in the edition in the form of footnotes and identified simply as written in ‘a more recent hand’, but without attempt being made to isolate particular writers. This paper will revisit the scribal accretions, pursuing a line of inquiry first proposed in my article ‘An Irish Bollandus: Fr Hugh Ward and the Louvain hagiographical enterprise’, Éigse 31 (1999) 1-30.

Sarah Corrigan

Adaptation and innovation in the Félire Óengusso: variant versions of martyrological narratives and their potential significance

This paper explores the innovative adaptation of sources evident in the vernacular metrical martyrology, the Félire Óengusso (Félire). Through a number of case studies this paper demonstrates that martyrological narratives were not simply abbreviated in order to comply with the metrical format of the Félire, but in several instances the content of these narratives varies distinctly and significantly from that found in well established analogues and sources. The case studies discussed engage with entries in the Félire that are found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, but for which more substantial narratives also appear in historical martyrologies such as that of Bede, as well as other sources such as Gregory the Great’s In gloria martyrum.

In each case, the Félire takes supernatural elements of the established martyrological narrative and adapts and expands them in ways that strengthen their affinity with vernacular representations of otherworlds located within bodies of water. The extant corpus of commentary on the Félire, dated to the twelfth century, provides extended accounts of the variant versions, which are by necessity both brief and oblique in the Félire itself. Overall, this study emphasises the literary quality of the Félire as, at least in places, a historical martyrology, and also the innovative way in which even well established ecclesiastical narratives my be developed and expanded in order to better suit the requirements of the author and his audience.


Westley Follett

From Tallaght to Armagh: Félire Óengusso, its preface, and commentary as evidence for the medieval Céli Dé  

Scholars have long acknowledged the association of Félire Óengusso with the early medieval Céli Dé community at Tallaght. Much of the basis for this association arises from the later prose preface that is not original to the work but identify the composer of the Félire as Óengus mac Óengobann and place him in the company of Máel Ruain (d.792), the founder of Tallaght. The text of the martyrology proper is not so explicit as that, but given the prominence it shows to Máel Ruain (prologue 225-8; 7 July; epilogue 61-68) there is little reason to question the work’s connection to Tallaght. Pádraig Ó Riain (2001) has advanced evidence in favor of an Armagh provenance for both the preface and the commentary in the 1170s.  This paper will explore the significance of Félire Óengusso and its scholia to Armagh where a Celi Dé community is known to have existed since at least as early as 921 (AU). Might recitation of the Félire have been a central activity within the taigi aernaighi (‘prayer-houses’) of the Armagh Céli Dé?

Elva Johnston

Saints on twitter: emerging patterns and methodologies

In October 2015 I began tweeting the feastdays of the relevant saints from The Martyrology of Tallaght, Félire Óengusso and The Martyrology of Gorman. What began as a curiosity became a research project. In particular, I limited myself, as much as possible, to these texts, while also cross-referencing each saint with associated placenames, the annals and the genealogies. A number of unexpected patterns emerged as well as very distinct differences between the martyrologies. Moreover, an unintended consequence of the daily tweeting was that I treated each entry as a distinct data point. Thus, rather than examining the fractionalising of single saints into several cults or vice versa, well-attested phenomena, I treated each iteration as individual. In fact, these contributed strongly to the creation of an evolving network of cult associations, responding to changing political geographies.

Kazutomo Karasawa

Latin and Old English Metrical Calendars: Their Developments and Characteristics

There are several works known as “metrical calendar” composed in Anglo-Saxon England. They are “Metrical Calendar of York”, “Metrical Calendar of Hampson”, “Metrical Calendar of Ramsey” and the so-called “Old English Metrical Calendar” also known as the Menologium.

The genre of Latin metrical calendar was originated when “Metrical Calendar of York” was composed in Northumbria in the second half of the eighth century, and it developed on the Continent during the next centuries. It was re-imported into England in the tenth century and “Metrical Calendar of Hampson” and “Metrical Calendar of Ramsey” were composed in the same century. Though belonging to the same tradition of Latin metrical calendar and actually having much in common, I shall discuss, each of these three works composed in England has their own purposes and characteristics and is, in these respects, slightly different from one another.

As reflected in the title “Old English Metrical Calendar”, on the other hand, the Menologium has often been regarded as an Old English counterpart of Latin metrical calendar. As I shall discuss, however, it has little to do with this tradition and has quite different purposes and characteristics from those of any of the Latin metrical calendars I shall examine in this paper. Through the comparison among Latin metrical calendars themselves and that of Latin and Old English metrical calendars, I shall discuss some aspects of the use of metrical calendars in Anglo-Saxon England.

Christine Rauer

The Anglo-Saxon Almanac: Types of Information in Calendrical Texts

The early modern almanac is notorious for mixing disparate types of information. Easily customised and expanded, it managed to combine religious and secular information, of a universal or more individualised kind, recorded in a serious or trivial tone. The almanac’s readership was equally varied and its flexibility made it one of the bestsellers of English literature.

The early modern rise of the almanac raises the question as to which earlier genre or genres could have fulfilled a similar function, if similar needs for information distribution existed at all. To what extent is the combination of para-liturgical and more secular material already present in medieval genres of a calendrical format? Is there a medieval forerunner of the early modern almanac? This paper will examine Anglo-Saxon martyrologies, liturgical calendars and material in other calendrical formats to assess how genres with an ostensible focus on liturgical feasts and the organisation of time could also include knowledge of a different type, including church history, hagiography, astronomy, weather phenomena, seasonal data, natural observations and prognostics. The relationships between these different types of information will be explored, as well as questions regarding composition and readership.

Patricia Rumsey

Contextualising the Félire Óengusso: A product of the Carolingian reform, or a reaction against it?

Familiarity with the monastic background can clarify our understanding of early insular texts. The early ninth century was a time of incipient centralisation in all aspects of monasticism; however we can also see an interesting contrapuntal movement at work in the insular use of the vernacular as well as Latin in liturgical texts and the emphasis on the lives of local and specifically Irish saints. Against Hennig, I claim that the Irish Church did have an early  sanctoral cycle which included many native saints. I also show that FO was not a direct product of the Carolingian reform but seems to have been quite independent of it and may even have been a reaction against the centralizing, Romanising and Latinising tendencies of that reform by its insistence on local saints, Irish saints, and its having  been composed in the vernacular.

Nike Stam

‘Nescio ubi est’: The bilingual reception of the Félire Óengusso

For many medieval texts, our ideas about their reception depend on some amount of deduction, speculation, and educated guesswork. The reception of the eighth-century calendar of Óengus, however, seems to take place in front of our very eyes: an impressive collection of comments has been added to the margins of the text throughout the centuries. The reception of the calendar as seen in this commentary provides the text with additional information, critiques and vocabulary.

The most characteristic feature of the reception of the Félire Óengusso, however, is that its reception is bilingual: the complex collection of glosses surrounding the main text consists of material in Irish, Latin and a mix of both languages. Not only does this provide an interesting contrast to the older glossaries, where Irish was used to explain a Latin text, it also raises some new questions: why did the commentators choose to use both languages? Does the commentary show any probabilistic patterns in the distribution of Latin and Irish in the glosses? This paper wishes to address these questions to improve our understanding of the bilingualism in the commentary to the Félire Óengusso.

Nicole Volmering

Félire Óengusso in the Context of the Metrical Calendar Tradition

In his 2011 paper in Analecta Bollandiana on the Pembroke calendar, Michael Lapidge noted that the genre of metrical calendars is one which is practiced ‘above all (if not quite exclusively) by English authors, from the later eighth century onwards’. This observation raises numerous questions about what the place of the early Irish martyrologies might be in the context if this tradition, if any.  Building on the work of Hennig, Grosjean and, more recently, Karasawa, who have previously explored potential comparanda with the early English metrical calendars and of Ó’Riain, who has built a case for a Northumbrian phase in the transmission of the text, this paper seeks to review the text and transmission of Félire Óengusso in the context of the wider development of a tradition of metrical calendars.

Jonathan Wooding

Félire Óengusso and Cults of Saints in Wales

The Tallaght martyrologies present a range of data of importance for the study of saints’ cults in Wales. References in the Tallaght martyrologies, as Pádraig Ó Riain has observed (though he has also recently revised his views), stand in a likely, but currently unresolved, relationship with material included by Rhygyfarch ap Sulien in his Vita S. Dauid (c. 1090). This paper will look closely at the dossiers of the saints who are indicated in these sources as well as at their narrative contexts in Vita S. Dauid and Félire Óengusso.

Immo Warntjes

The emergence of the calendar tradition in the early medieval Latin West 

Since Arno Borst’s monumental 3-volume study of the Carolingian Reichskalender published in 1998, various theories about the origin (archetype) or emergence (prototype) of the medieval calendar tradition have been postulated. Paul Meyvaert has strongly argued that Bede’s (lost) calendar originally attached to his computistical textbook De temporum ratione paved the way for the genre. Donald Bullough suspected a later but still Anglo-Saxon origin in the 740s, which was popularised in the Frankish kingdoms through Charlemagne. Brigitte Englisch set the fundamental origin of the calendric genre at the same time (the 740s) but in Francia. Borst himself considers a calendar datable to AD 789 and evidently compiled in Lorsch as the central document which, based on fundamental precursors, served as the model for the calendar tradition right up to the 12th century.  The talk will review these theories and will highlight the role of the earliest medieval calendar known, produced in the circle of Willibrord in the 680s, which has been marginalised by these studies.