Research Project


“Sancta prophetissa Ita”: the Life of the Irish saint Íde of Killeedy and the role of prognostication in medieval Irish hagiography

Diarmuid Ó Riain

Building on the results of the IKGF conference published in Hagiogaphie et prophétie (2017), this project will examine the role of prognostication in Irish hagiographical texts written in the early and high medieval periods, with special reference to the Life of Íde of Killeedy. With the exception of the Adamnán's Life of Columba, the Life of Íde or Vita sanctae Itae is the most prophecy-rich of the hagiographical texts surviving from medieval Ireland. It survives in two main recensions, a Continental version written in the 12th century (BHL 4498) and an Irish one of uncertain date (BHL 4497). The saint is styled prophetissa throughout her Life and also plays prophetic cameo roles in other hagiographical texts from medieval Ireland. She could prophesise “de preteritis et de futuris”, as her hagiographer puts it, a gift similar to that attributed by Adamnán to Columba, who is said to have been able to see the whole world. The project will study the role of prophecy in the corpus of Irish hagiography, from the 7th-century Lives of Patrick, Brigid and Columba through to the vitae of Íde and her alleged nephew Mochaomhóg. While prophetic abilities were attributed to many Irish saints, my study will also examine the possibility that the exceptional prominence afforded to prognostication in the depictions of Íde was tied in with the emergence of prophetic and visionary female saints within the Christian tradition from the high medieval period on.

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