Saint, martyr, killer of Christ? The legend of Longinus in medieval Irish tradition

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Schneider, Nathalie
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University College Cork
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This dissertation is the first comprehensive and synthetic study of the Irish presentation and legends of Longinus. Longinus was the soldier at the crucifixion who pierced Christ with a spear, who believed and, according to some texts, was healed of his blindness by the blood and water issuing from the wound, and who later was martyred for his belief. In my thesis I survey the knowledge and use of the legend of Longinus in Ireland over genres and over time. Sources used for the analyses include iconographic representations of the spear-bearer in manuscripts, metalwork and stone and textual representations of the figure of Longinus ranging over the history of Irish literature from the early medieval to the early modern period, as well as over Irish and HibernoLatin texts. The thesis consists of four core chapters, the analyses of the presentations of Longinus in early-medieval Irish texts and in the iconographic tradition (I,II), the editions of the extant Irish and the earliest surviving Latin texts of the Passion of Longinus and of a little-known short tract describing the healing of Longinus from Leabhar Breac (III), and the discussion of the later medieval Irish popular traditions (IV). Particular attention is given to the study of two intriguing peculiarities of the Irish tradition. Most early Irish Gospel books feature an interpolation of the episode of the spear-thrust in Matthew 27:49, directly preceding the death of Christ, implying its reading as the immediate cause of death. The image of Longinus as 'iugulator Christi' ('killer of Christ') appears to have been crucial for the development of the legend. Also, the blindness motif, which rarely features in other European popular traditions until the twelfth century, is attested as early as the eighth century in Ireland, which has led some scholars to suggest a potential Irish origin.
Apocrypha , Longinus , Hagiography , Celtic studies , Crucifixion iconography , Christian popular beliefs
Schneider, N. 2016. Saint, martyr, killer of Christ? The legend of Longinus in medieval Irish tradition. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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