Ireland, Colin


Ireland, Colin, “Some Irish characteristics of the Whitby life of Gregory the Great”, in: Moran, Pádraic, and Immo Warntjes (eds), Early medieval Ireland and Europe: chronology, contacts, scholarship. A Festschrift for Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Studia Traditionis Theologiae 14, Turnhout: Brepols, 2015. 139–178.

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Citation details
“Some Irish characteristics of the Whitby life of Gregory the Great”
Abstract (cited)
The anonymous Vita Gregorii produced at Whitby is among the earliest of the hagiographical works to come from Anglo-Saxon England. It is the first vita written of Pope Gregory the Great. The traditional dates for its production are between AD 704 and 714. It relates Gregory’s works and emphasizes his role as originator of the Christian mission to the Anglo-Saxons centred at Canterbury. In terms of Anglo-Saxon matters it highlights the conversion of King Edwin of Northumbria by Bishop Paulinus. In so doing it avoids mention of the successful Irish mission in Northumbria from Iona, the famous ‘synod’ that was held in AD 664 at Whitby and, by extension, Bishop Wilfrid and his ‘Roman’ legacy. It has been described as one of the most ‘idiosyncratic’ of the Anglo-Saxon vitae with ‘numerous (and spurious) miracles involving the great pope’. Despite its emphasis on the contribution of Rome and Pope Gregory to the conversion of Anglo-Saxons generally, and Northumbria specifically, many of the vita’s episodes and their topoi are more typical of Irish hagiography and reveal the Whitby hagiographer’s debt to Irish learning and teaching. This paper will examine some of those Irish narrative features.
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Dennis Groenewegen