The Irish martyrologies are an incredibly important historical source – textual witnesses to many things: Saints cults, both famous and obscure, both female and male; individual church sites, ecclesiastical foundations, hermitages, and any number of halfway houses in between; personal names; place names; regional names; dynastic names. They provides several stratified snapshots of a competing and free flowing ecclesiastical landscape of loyalties, allegiances, bias, memory and commemoration. A measure of importance for those communities and dynasties doing the ‘celebrating’, as much as those being ‘celebrated’.
For those who may not be aware, Dr. Elva Johnston, one of the foremost authorities on Early Medieval Ireland and Early Irish Christianity, has been tweeting daily Saints from Early Irish Martyrologies for some months now. Essentially, the Martyrology of Óengus (Félire Óengusso) and the Martyrology of Gorman. She has also been storyifing them for posterity.
Aside from having a handy reference of feast days, the whole enterprise is a wonderful 21st Century experimental clone of Early Medieval Irish Scribal activity. Ironically, the medium of Twitter lends itself naturally to what monks and scribes were essentially doing within manuscripts over a thousand years ago i.e. small notes, highlights, marginalia glosses, annal entries, short commentaries…
Every day, Dr. Johnston tweets the relevant feast day/saint(s) included in the Martyrologies, and often other experts and scholars chime in with short notes, etymological elements and/or historical tidbits. If you have ever wanted to know what it may have felt to be a medieval scribe, or a student gazing over their shoulder as they wrote, this is the perfect opportunity to follow along. In real time. Day by day. Month by month.
Basically, putting the original #MedievalTwitter into… ehh… #MedievalTwitter.
Dr. Johnston will no doubt be giving this a permanent online home at some stage in the future, but in the meantime, this wonderful enterprise deserves both a broader audience and perhaps an easier way to access them all in one place. As a temporary measure, I have taken the liberty of creating a list of those months which have been completed so far – which will be updated as and when new months appear. Bookmark and/or check back for further updates throughout the rest of the year.
Dr. Johnston has come to the end of December, and with that, the full year of Martyrologies. Congratulations on a brilliant endeavor. There are some sporadic updates to follow throughout the early months up until March. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, see below for all twelve months. Clicking on the relevant graphic will bring you directly to the Storyfied content.