Carlow College Lecturer’s New Book Sheds Light on the Earliest Writings about Saint Patrick

In a groundbreaking exploration of the most influential writings on Saint Patrick, Carlow College Lecturer in Medieval History, Dr Elizabeth Dawson, launched her latest book, Lives and Afterlives: The Hiberno-Latin Patrician Tradition, 650-1100. This compelling work delves into the early texts and offers an invaluable contribution to understandings of this central figure in the medieval Irish church and, indeed, Irish culture and history. 

Published by Turnhout, Brepols in late 2023, Lives and Afterlives is a meticulous study that explores some of the earliest and most influential writings focused on Saint Patrick, and asks how successive generations forged, sustained and redirected aspects of the saint’s persona in order to suit their specific religious and political needs. 

In this book Elizabeth Dawson, for the first time, treats the Hiberno-Latin vitae of Patrick as a body of connected texts. Seminal questions about the corpus are addressed, such as who wrote the Lives and why? What do the works tell us about the communities that venerated and celebrated the saint? And what impact did these Lives have on the success and endurance of the saint’s cult? Challenging the perception that Patrick’s legend was created and sustained almost exclusively by the monastic community at Armagh, she demonstrates that the Patrick who emerges from the Lives is a varied and malleable saint with whom multiple communities engaged. 

Dr Elizabeth Dawson marked the launch of her book with a public lecture in Carlow College on 12th February titled, Lives and Afterlives: Reimagining St Patrick in Medieval Ireland

Speaking at a public lecture marking the publication of her new book, Dr Dawson pointed to the significance of this body of literature and the insights they offer on the cult of Patrick, stating, “these Lives were known and shared by successive generations of Irish and non-Irish communities. They offer a window into the beliefs, concerns and traditions of medieval Christians and are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the veneration of saints in the medieval world. This book, for the first time, explores the ways in which these writings individually and collectively explain why and how Patrick became an enduring symbol of the Irish Church and Irish Christians.

Lives and Afterlives: The Hiberno-Latin Patrician Tradition, 650-1100 is available for purchase online from Brepols here: https://www.brepols.net/products/IS-9782503606040-1  

 

About the Author 

Dr Elizabeth Dawson is a medieval historian with an expertise the early medieval history of Ireland. She has lectured at University College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and most recently, Carlow College, St. Patrick’s. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the NUI Grant for Early Career Academics and IRC postdoctoral fellowship, and has worked with the Discovery Programme, the UCD Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute and the Royal Irish Academy. 

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