• Holy Wells in Ireland today: a conversation

    Seminars June 17

    ‘Holy Wells in Ireland today: a conversation’ is an event I am holding  in conjunction with my exhibition in the UCC Library ‘Journeys of Belief and Belonging: Modern Irish Pilgrimage’.

    Several speakers, including a local authority official, researchers, and explorers, will start the seminar, followed by a public discussion exploring the role of holy wells. This event hopes to consider the rich place of holy wells in local communities and in Irish heritage.

    It is on at 7pm Wednesday 21stJune, in the Geography Building, UCC. Refreshments will be served from 6.30pm.

  • LibFocus Post: Universities, Research and Public Engagement

    I have a guest post on the LibFocus blog to accompany my exhibition ‘Journeys of Belief and Belonging: modern Irish pilgrimage‘. I discuss the topic of ‘Universities, Research and Public Engagement‘ by highlighting the importance of researchers sharing their work with the general public and having conversations about it.

    Public engagement is “the idea that researchers need to communicate their work not only to others in their field – usually through peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations – but also to a broader range of audiences.” It is an important part of modern research agendas, but can does not always receive the support and acknowledgment it deserves. You can read more in the blog post.   

  • Graves, Wells & Statues: Exploring the heritage and culture of pilgrimage in medieval and modern Cork

    This book, co-written with Dr Louise Nugent – who blogs at Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland, explores the often underappreciated story of pilgrimage in Cork city, from medieval to modern times. It was a research project funded by Cork City Council’s Heritage Publication Grant Scheme 2015, which enabled us to do a survey of pilgrimage locations in Cork and to produce a monograph on the topic.

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    By examining former sites of pilgrimage, such as St Francis’s Well on the North Mall and Lady’s Well off Leitrim Street, and current sites, including St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Nano Nagle’s Grave, and Our Lady of Graces in St Mary’s Pope’s Quay, this book sheds light on the important role of pilgrimage in the social, cultural, and religious life of Cork. It offers a distinct approach to the heritage of the city through an examination of the themes of pilgrimage and sacred sites that draws together different features of the urban landscape, and also provides context and discussion of their historical and contemporary significance.

    The book is available in several Cork bookshops, including Liam Ruiséal and St FinBarre’s Cathedral shop; also, it can be baought in printed and kindle versions at amazon.co.uk

    This publication has been funded by Cork City Council’s Heritage Publication Grant Scheme 2015. Thanks to Niamh Twomey and all the staff in the Heritage section of Cork City Council for their advice.

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  • International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015, London

    I am presenting that the International Conference of Historical Geographers 2015 in London as part of the Topographies of piety: Maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage sessions. I am returning to the subject matter of my MA in history, which had a strong geographical emphasis. Here’s the abstract for my piece.

    Peregrinatio, sanctity and place in the early Celtic Church: St Adomnán’s writings on St Columba and the Holy Land in the seventh century
    Using the writings of St Adomnán, the abbot of Iona in the Inner Hebrides isles, Scotland (679–704AD), I consider how the early Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland developed distinct conceptions of the sanctity of person and place, which contributed to the emergence of Christian pilgrimage within these islands during the early medieval period. This paper is based on comparative analysis of his Vita Columbae (the Life of St Columba), which outlines the virtues and deeds of the saintly founder of the monastery on Iona, and De Locis Sanctis (On Holy Places), an account of travels to the Holy Land based on the testimony of Arculf, a Frankish bishop. It also builds on discussions of the Celtic idea of peregrinatio, the role of hagiography in the creation of spiritual landscapes and debates on the nature of sacred locations within Christianity. Through these texts, I explore how clerics from Britain and Ireland understood their spiritual and geographical place within the world, and how the figure of the saint was central to the sanctification of locations at the edge of the earth.

  • St Brigid’s Well & Exit 13

    Just off the M7 (the primary road between Dublin and Limerick/Cork), lies St Brigid’s Well. This is a very active site associated with one of the most prominent Irish saints. While Feb 1st is the main day to visit the well, it receives pilgrims throughout the year.

    The well is only a few minutes from Exit 13 on the motorway, a junction more associated with the adjacent Kildare Village Outlet Centre. This position presents a geographical juxtaposition between the modern, flowing motorway and the stationary, sedate well. Two aspects of Irish social and cultural life overlap here. The new roadway designed to seamlessly connect major urban areas, with the purpose built retail centre, boasting world-famous brands, is a newer ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland. While, St Brigid’s Well, a site off heritage and spiritual/religious activities, seems to be of an older, vernacular Ireland. However, there isn’t a tension, more of a co-existence. People visit either, both, and neither. Perhaps, approaching Exit 13, you might consider this and what you will do.

    St Brigid's Well, enclosed by a low circular stone wall.

    St Brigid’s Well, enclosed by a low circular stone wall.

    A rag tree by the well, with a selection of fabrics, tokens, and other items hanging off a branch.

    A rag tree by the well, with a selection of fabrics, tokens, and other items hanging off a branch.

    A statue of the saint by a modern structuring housing votive offerings.

    A statue of the saint by a modern structuring housing votive offerings.

  • Cill Gobnait, Inisheer

    The stories surrounding St Gobnait, who is most prominently associated with Ballyvourney, hold that she was born in Clare in the 6th century and later spent time on the Aran Islands studying under St Enda. Her time spent on Inisheer (Inis Oírr), the smallest of the Aran Islands on Ireland’s west coast, marked the beginning of her life in peregrinatio. In this tradition, holy individuals, in imitation of the Desert Fathers, left their homeland and social ties to pursue a life dedicated to Christ; for example, St Fionán established his monastery on Sceilig Mhichíl and St Columba lived on Iona in Scotland. Later, following a visit from an angel, Gobnait went in search of a place to establish a church across Munster, and as had be prophesised she found a herd of nine white deer grazing at Ballyvourney. She was granted land by St Abbán and she found a community of religious women.

    A small ruined church, Cill Gobnait, remains on the island as evidence of her time there. The structure is reminiscent of other oratories found in Ireland, especially older sites along the west coast. Adjacent to the church are three altars or potentially penitential stations.

    As features associated with St Gobnait, can be linked with other locations named after the saint. A network of places across Ireland, including sites in Clare and Kerry, as well as Inisheer and Ballyvourney, have a Gobnait connection. Through belief in the holy person and her journeys, a thread unties these sites. The stories of the saint and her peregrinatio are manifest in these places. Legend and history, geography and belief fold together in this spaces.

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  • Leaf Walking

    Leaf walking
    autumnal being
    rustled pace
    visceral

    Leaf walking #autumn #autumnal #leaves #Corklife #insta_ireland #video

    A video posted by Richard Scriven (@richardscriven) on

  • An angel reaches

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    An Angel reaches
    in morning fog.
    Silently, it calls;
    more silent this morning.

    A filter enhances
    atmospheres.

    Obscured and clarified,
    together.

  • Inscribing Crosses

    The imprinting of crosses is a practice that is found at many holy wells. It is a simple, yet lasting action that seems to speak to the heart of these pilgrimages. The engraving of crosses at particular spots is an established part of doing ‘the rounds’ in some cases, as is found at St Gobanit’s Well in Ballyvourney or ‘the City‘ near Rathmore. These simple features are tangible forms of continuity, as successive pilgrims, over time, have worn the shape into the hard stone. However, there can also be newer crosses found indicating that personal variations are leading to development of supplementary practices.

    A single cross is worn into the large capstone on St Gobnait’s Grave; the grave is a station on the turas which is circled several times and stopped at for prayer.

    A single cross is worn into the large capstone on St Gobnait’s Grave; the grave is a station on the turas which is circled several times and stopped at for prayer.

    Crosses are imprinted into four rocks at the Eastern prayer Station in ‘the City’ as part of the rounds.

    Crosses are imprinted into four rocks at the Eastern prayer Station in ‘the City’ as part of the rounds.

    The crosses are manifestations of faith in the places and the intercessory power of the patron saints. Each cross was forged as pilgrims performed these local pilgrimages for particular intentions: cures and hopes, dreams and problems, worship and thanks. The action of making the cross, which wears down further in the stone each time, is intimately linked the motivations of each pilgrim. The gap that is the cross – the distance from the depth of the imprints to the rock surface – is not an eroded void, but a space willed with supplications, prayers and beliefs. These intentions and beliefs remain embed in these sites as the physical geography, cultural tradition and spiritual practices combine in these simple forms.

    A slightly embellished cross on the beehive structure encasing St John’s Well, Carrigaline. As part of the annual St John’s Eve ceremony a single pilgrim imprints the cross on behalf of the gathered crowd as the a collective rosary is prayed

    A slightly embellished cross on the beehive structure encasing St John’s Well, Carrigaline. As part of the annual St John’s Eve ceremony a single pilgrim imprints the cross on behalf of the gathered crowd as the a collective rosary is prayed

    A pilgrim engraves the shape of a cross as part of the rounds at St Gobanit's shrine.

    A pilgrim engraves the shape of a cross as part of the rounds at St Gobanit’s shrine.