An Irish apostle: articulating and actualising apostolicity in the early Irish church

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Lordan, Shane
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University College Cork
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This thesis examines the earliest extant Latin Lives of Brigit and Patrick; Cogitosus’s Vita Brigidae and Muirchú’s Vita Patricii as evidence for a seventh-century debate on Irish apostolicity. While often dismissed as mere propaganda, this thesis shows they are highly sophisticated demonstrations of the continuing connection that Kildare and Armagh had to their patron saints and their authority. It examines the importance of this connection for concepts of ecclesiastical organisation, teaching authority and episcopal succession against the backdrop of the seventh-century Easter question in the Insular Church. This will show that apostolicity was considered to be intrinsically linked with orthodoxy and universality. A textual focus brings forth general patristic themes and ideas that Irish hagiographers evoked through specific words and phrases. The thesis contextualises hagiographical material using evidence from Hiberno-Latin and early Insular exegetical commentaries, referring to major patristic exegetes such as Origen, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great as support. The introduction discusses the importance of apostolic ideology for the seventh-century Irish Church, and outlines a methodology for examining such abstract themes. The first chapter looks at how developments in apostolic ideology led to ideas of apostolic primacy seen in the Insular material. Chapters two, three, and four examine metaphors of food and feeding, the fountain and the stream, and the head and the body, as significant articulations of apostolicity. Chapter five examines how corporeal relics were understood as the visible proof of this continuity and preserved a saint’s authority for their episcopal heirs. Chapter six looks at how Muirchú engaged with Patrick’s connection to the universal Church and his self-professed lack of disciplina to reconcile his apostolicity with seventh-century norms. Chapter seven places the issues considered thus far in a thoroughly Insular context by examining how the earliest English sources present the Irish legacy in Northumbria after the synod of Whitby. Chapter eight looks at how the text of Patrick’s Confessio in the Book of Armagh relates to a wider seventh-century campaign by Armagh to rehabilitate Patrick’s apostolicity. The conclusion briefly summarizes the thesis, and suggests further avenues for researching this topic in the Insular material
Exegesis , Patrick , Brigit , Bridget , Irish Christianity , Lives , Vitae , Kildare , Armagh , Rome , Medieval religion , Early Irish Church , Saints , Apostolicity , Primacy , Ecclesiastical authority , Apostle , Early Insular Latin culture , Early Christian Ireland
Lordan, S. 2013. An Irish apostle: articulating and actualising apostolicity in the early Irish church. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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