Session 102: Ystafell 6
Hagiography and devotion: Wales, Ireland, Scotland

Chair: Joey McMullen

Noeb Filia: comparative contextualized sanctity in the Brigidine corpus

Judith Bishop
Mills College

In The Dialogic Imagination, Mikhail Bakhtin writes “Language is not a neutral medium; it is populated—over populated—with the intentions of others.”  This paper examines language use in episodes common to the three oldest Brigit vitae: the Vita S. Brigitae by Cogitosus, the Anonymous Latin Vita, and the bilingual Bethu Brigte.

A close comparative study of common elements in the three texts indicates a dynamic cultural understanding of female sanctity.  Which elements of Brigit’s hagiographical corpus are repeated, which are adapted, and which are occluded in the separate textual constructions? In hagiography, the social perception of sanctity often has a direct relationship to the granting of social and religious authority. Thus, in conjunction with an analysis of sanctity indicators, it is helpful to conduct a comparative survey of the way in which miracles and other indicators of sanctity and religious authority position Brigit with respect to other powerbrokers in the text — both religious and ‘secular’ — and the manner in which those indicators change over time — or not — in the various vitae. The analysis of the three different but related texts indicates a variety of constituencies constructing localized versions of a shared religious tradition and emphasizes the role of local agency in the process of religious conversion.

Celtic saints by Celtic Studios: saints in stained glass

Martin Crampin
Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru (CAWCS)

Celtic Studios was by far the most important firm making stained glass in Wales in the twentieth century, having been established in the late 1940s by the cousins Howard Martin and Hubert Thomas. The studio made hundreds of windows between 1948 and 1993 for churches in Wales, England and overseas, although the majority of their work is found in the southern half of Wales.

Prominent among the subjects of their windows were Welsh saints, reflecting the importance of local and regional saints among church congregations in the period. Many of these saints are represented simply as standing figures, individually and in groups, but some windows also include scenes illustrating scenes from the Lives of the saints, and figures sometimes have iconographic emblems alluding to the Lives. Celtic Studios' depiction of saints combines Arts and Crafts tradition in the making of stained glass with an increasing instinct (particularly in the late 1950s and 1960s) for bold, modern draughtsmanship, creating a contrast with depictions of saints more typical of the late Gothic Revival. Their work marked, as one commentator said, ‘such a change from the anaemic gentlemen that we have seen portrayed in so many of our churches.’

Bantighearna nan Eilean: Cràbhadh don Òigh Mhoire anns na h-Eileanan Siar mu dheas anns an fhicheadamh linn
Our Lady of the Isles: Marian devotion in the Southern Hebrides in the twentieth century

Kathleen Reddy
Oilthigh Ghlaschu (Glasgow)

Tha faireachdainn aig Gàidheil Chaitligeach ann an Uibhist a Deas, Beinn a’ Bhaoghla, Èirisgeigh agus Barraigh ann an Eileanan Siar na h-Alba gu bheil dlùth cheangal aca ris an Òigh Mhoire, agus gur e rud a tha sònraichte mun chràbhadh aca a tha seo.

Le bhith a’ cleachdadh agallamhan san latha an-diugh, cunntasan co-aimsireil, agus leabhraichean-cràbhaidh Gàidhlig, bheir am pàipear seo sùil air eachdraidh cràbhadh na h-Òighe Moire am measg muinntir nan eileanan seo air feadh na ficheadamh linn, a bharrachd air an cràbhadh seo a chur ann an co-theagsa ghluasadan air taobh a-staigh na h-Eaglais Caitligich san fhicheadamh linn. Gu h-àraidh, chìthear mar a chaidh an cràbhadh seo a chur gu feum gus seasamh an aghaidh iomairt raon rocaidean a stèidheachadh ann an Uibhist a Deas anns na 1950an. Le bhith a’ cur thùsan bho bheul-aithis (an leithid agallamhan a chùm luchd Sgoil Eòlais na Alba le muinntir nan eilean) agus tùsan sgrìobhte (an leithid na leabhraichean Iùl a’ Chrìostaidh agus Lochran an Anma) fon phrosbaig, chìthear mar a tha cleachdaidhean cràbhadh na h-Òighe Moire anns na h-Eileanan Siar mu dheas air atharrachadh on a thòisich luchd-cruinnichidh bheul-aithris a thighinn dha na h-eileanan aig deireadh na naoidheamh linn deug.


The Catholic Gaels of South Uist, Benbecula, Eriskay, and Barra in the Western Isles of Scotland feel that they have an especially strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, and consider this an important aspect of their religious practice.

Drawing upon new interviews, contemporary accounts, and printed Gaelic devotional resources, this paper will examine the history of Marian devotion among the people of these islands during the twentieth century, as well as placing this devotion in the wider context of movements within twentieth-century Catholicism. Of particular interest is the use of aspects of Marian devotion to protest the planned establishment of a rocket range in South Uist in the 1950s. Through an examination of oral accounts (such as interviews with islanders conducted by the School of Scottish Studies) and printed resources (such as the Gaelic prayer books Iùl a’ Chrìostaidh and Lochran an Anma), this paper will aim to show how Marian devotion in the Southern Hebrides has developed since the advent of folklore collection in these islands in the late nineteenth century.