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Listen, O Isles, unto me

Studies in Medieval Word and Image in honour of Jennifer O'Reilly

Edited by Elizabeth Mullins and Diarmuid Scully

Publication Year: 2011

This interdisciplinary collection, which brings together new research on a range of patristic and medieval texts and visual materials, sets the cultural transformation of early medieval Ireland and Britain in the context of these islands’ inheritance from late antiquity and their engagement with the wider medieval world. It testifies to the imaginative ways in which scholars and artists assimilated and creatively re-interpreted the Christian and Mediterranean culture they encountered through the coming of Christianity, a central theme in the work of Dr Jennifer O’Reilly.

Published by: Cork University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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‘Proud Ocean Has Become a Servant’: A Classical Topos in the Literature of Britain’s Conquest and Conversion

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pp. 3-15

Gregory describes Britain’s conversion in the language of imperial poets and historians on Rome’s conquest of the island centuries earlier. They declare victory over a previously unconquered and barbaric people at world’s end and over once indomitable Ocean, linking these victories with Roman global dominion from East to West. But even as Gregory...

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Proserpina and the Martyrs: Pagan and Christian in Claudian’s De raptu Prosperpinae

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pp. 16-27

The impact of the classical tradition on Christianity has been well documented but much remains to be done on the related question: how was the classical tradition modified by Christianity? This paper will examine Claudian’s unfinished epic, the De raptu Proserpinae, in this context, arguing that Claudian’s narrative is very much a product of his own time. ...

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Martianus Capella and the Carolingians: Some Observations Based on the Glosses on Books I–II from the Oldest Gloss Traditionon De nuptiis

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pp. 28-38

This paper pays tribute to my former teacher, Jennifer O’Reilly, by examining the Carolingian reception of Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis. It concerns the transformation of late antique inheritance in the early medieval West, a topic at the core of both our interests. The oldest gloss tradition on Martianus’ De nuptiis, one of three major Carolingian efforts to elucidate the work,1 provides insight into the centrality...

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‘In the Nets oron the Line’: A Datable Merovingian Manuscript and Its Importance

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pp. 39-46

Rome Biblioteca Vallicelliana B 62 is a copy of a commentary on the Song of Songs, the work of the sixth-century Spanish bishop Justus of Urgell, written in Merovingian uncials.2 This attribution was known to Isidore, who records it in his De viris illustribus. Plates of the manuscript with a commentary by Paul Liebaert were published for the New Palaeographical Society3 and...

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A Gemmarium for the Recognition of Precious Stones in the Cracow Chapter Library, MS 140: A Study on the Unity of Exegetical Themes

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pp. 47-59

The Cracow MS 140, once described as ‘one potentially significant, and almost entirely unknown manuscript’,2 is usually identified with its homiletic collection, commonly referred to as the Catechesis Cracoviensis.3 The collection may have originated in the circle of Virgil of Salzburg, and the manuscript itself was most likely copied in northeastern Italy or southeastern...

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‘Wide-Reaching Connections’: The List of Abbots from Iona in the Liber confraternitatum ecclesiae S. Petri in Salzburg

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pp. 60-72

Despite the number of references to ‘confraternities’ in Irish saints’ Lives, to date there has been no attempt to place this aspect of ecclesiastical organization in its wider European context. The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of some sources that serve as a nexus between Irish and European representations of confraternitas, beginning with a codex that...

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‘Whence the Splendour of such Light Came to Us’: The Account of Ireland in Ermenrich’s Life of St Gall

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pp. 73-86

It was my great privilege to have had Jennifer O’Reilly as my teacher. In more recent years she was my colleague, and in that time I continued to learn from her and be inspired by her teaching. In our work together, even the most casual conversation eventually turned to the subject that is her life’s study: the debt of the peoples of early Ireland and Britain to the culture...

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Thomas Becket and Ireland

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pp. 87-101

Thomas Becket might seem an unusual subject to find in a collection of essays on early Christian art and historical writing, but its presence here is testimony to the ground-breaking and influential contribution which Jennifer O’Reilly has given to the theme. In her 1981 article ‘“Candidus et Rubicundus”: An Image of Martyrdom in the “Lives” of Thomas Becket’...

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Hunting Snakes in the Grass: Bede as Heresiologist

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pp. 105-114

In many of her scholarly works, Jennifer O’Reilly has taught us that the clue to understanding an early medieval text is often found in a particularly evocative verbal image. In order to help us appreciate the full force of the image, she leads us along an intricate trail of exegesis and allusion that connects the early medieval image with its biblical and patristic antecedents. ...

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The Figure of Ezra in the Writings of Bede and the Codex Amiatinus

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pp. 115-125

It is primarily to Anglo-Saxon England – or more specially, to the Northumbrian monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow – that the biblical priest and scribe Ezra owes his early medieval legacy. During the early eighth century he would emerge from the biblical past to figure in two unique Wearmouth-Jarrow projects: first, the Codex Amiatinus, our earliest surviving...

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Bede and His Martyrology

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pp. 126-141

In seeking to analyse Bede’s aims and working methods in one of his lesser-known works, this essay is in a small way following in the footsteps of Jennifer O’Reilly, who has set the standard for such study over a wide range of Bede’s writings. Like Jennifer, it will stress the essential unity of Bede’s approach across a variety of genres, driven ultimately by his concern for...

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The Adornment of Virgins:

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pp. 142-155

Bede uniquely honoured Æthelthryth of Ely by praising her life in prose and verse in the Historia Ecclesiastica. He related that Æthelthryth preserved her virginity during two marriages, including twelve years as King Ecgfrith of Northumbria’s queen, before finally receiving her second husband’s permission to enter the monastic life. She spent a year at the monastery of...

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From Conception to Birth in Anglo-Saxon England

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pp. 156-167

It is a great pleasure to offer this short paper to Jennifer O’Reilly, as a token of gratitude for the many years during which we have been colleagues and friends. The text discussed in this paper is one of several medical texts from Anglo-Saxon England that can be included under the general heading of ‘women’s health’. While we know something about medicine in general in...

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Doctor of Souls, Doctor of the Body: Whitby Vita Gregorii 23 and Its Exegetical Context

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pp. 168-180

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to study under Dr Jennifer O’Reilly, and I am deeply honoured to contribute this paper to the celebration of her illustrious career. Narrating the miracles of Pope Gregory the Great, the early eighth century Whitby Vita Gregorii includes a chapter that reveals the saint as a doctor of souls and the body (‘medicus . . . animarum . . . et corporum’).1...

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The Representation of Gregory the Greatin Irish Sources of the Pre-Viking Era

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pp. 181-190

Early Irish churchmen, like their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, held Pope Gregory the Great in high esteem. While the Anglo-Saxons appropriated him as their apostle and father in faith, regard for Gregory in early Christian Ireland seems to have been primarily founded on his achievement as a writer and spiritual authority. During Gregory’s lifetime his writings were read...

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Seeking the Desert in Adomnán’s Vita Columbae

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pp. 191-203

The quest for solitude in the Vita Columbae (V. Col.)* can doubtless be studied under several different aspects. Here I wish to discuss a few points only from a broadly historical perspective. The strictly archaeological implications that discussion of these points undoubtedly raises have not been addressed here explicitly. The ascetic and anchoritic life in V. Col. appears to fall into two broad...

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Singing in the Rain on Hinba? Archaeology and Liturgical Fictions, Ancient and Modern (Adomn

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pp. 204-215

In two major articles, Jennifer O’Reilly has taught us to read Adomnán’s Vita Columbae in convincing new ways.1 The essence of her approach is to take seriously Adomnán’s spirituality, and hence the literary integrity of his text. Much dominated by nineteenth-century positivism, modern scholarship has all too often fragmented the Vita Columbae. All too often, scholars have been...

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Markers of Prestige, Emblems of Amicitia: Attributes of Secular ‘Portrait’ Figures in Insular Sculpture

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pp. 219-229

In the late eighth and early ninth centuries, the relationship between ecclesiastical and secular magnates in the British Isles begins a profound transformation from primarily private and familial connections towards a model that is at once more formal and primarily institutional. In material culture, specifically large-scale and publicly visible sculpture, this change is...

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The Road to Hell: The Art of Damnation in Anglo-Saxon Sculpture

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pp. 230-242

The impact of Jennifer O’Reilly’s work on the study of Insular art is genuinely incalculable. Without it, and her unstinting encouragement of others working in the field, it is unlikely that at least two generations of scholars, as well as those still to emerge, would have set out on their various, but very specifically iconographic, voyages of exploration and discovery; would have...

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In Medio Duorum Animalium: Habakkuk, the Ruthwell Cross and Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert

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pp. 243-252

In 1986 Éamonn Ó Carragáin published an influential paper on the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses, which focused on the ‘Christ in Majesty’ and ‘Agnus Dei’ panels of the two monuments.1 The first of these panels had long posed problems of interpretation (Plate 19). Earlier readings had suggested that it presented a variant on a well-known composition based on...

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‘The Eyes of the Handmaid’: The Corbie Psalter and the Ruthwell Cross

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pp. 253-262

Written in Maurdramnus script before the year 800, the Corbie Psalter has long been associated with the scriptorium at Corbie from which the psalter derives its name.1 Each psalm and canticle begins with an ornate initial, approximately sixty of which are formed by or contain human figures. While these initials share several characteristics with the Book of Kells and...

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Cherubim and Seraphim in Insular Literature and Art

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pp. 263-277

Any study of the roles played in Insular poetic and visual art by the two highest ranks of celestial beings must start with the two principal Old Testament texts which describe them, both as functionaries and in appearance. In the vision of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) two beings, named seraphim by the prophet, are seen standing upon (‘super’) the throne of God. Each of them...

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Bearded Sages and Beautiful Boys: Insular and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes to the Iconography of the Beard

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pp. 278-290

In a recent paper delivered at Spoleto,1 Jennifer O’Reilly discussed the image of the Crucifixion in the Durham Gospels2 as an iconographic statement of orthodox belief stated at the Council of Chalcedon concerning the synchronicity of Christ’s humanity and divinity. This is stressed in the miniature’s captions, linking mortality and immortality, and in the inclusion...

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Cosmological and Eschatological Images in the Book of Kells: Folios 32v and 114r

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pp. 291-301

This paper honours a scholar who has done much to bring light to the book art of early medieval Britain and Ireland. Jennifer O’Reilly, with her detailed knowledge of Insular texts and her keen eye for nuances of meaning, has expanded methods of iconographic interpretation and elucidated formerly obscure textual evidence. She has opened up ways of understanding the...

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The Canon Tables in Boulogne, Biblioth

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pp. 302-312

Boulogne, Biblioth

Notes and References

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pp. 313-397


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pp. 399-445


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pp. 447-459

E-ISBN-13: 9781908634122
E-ISBN-10: 190863412X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781859184660
Print-ISBN-10: 1859184669

Page Count: 486
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1