Eucharist in Pre-Norman Ireland

  • by Neil Xavier O'Donoghue

  • 368 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 19 halftones

  • Paperback | 9780268037321 | April 2011

  • Hardcover | 9780268206116 | August 2022

  • eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268088620 | October 2014


A significant body of scholarship addresses pre-Norman Irish life and history, including the archaeology, art, and architecture from the time of St. Patrick (d. 493) to the arrival of the Normans in the twelfth century. While the place of the church and its organization in pre-Norman Ireland have been extensively studied, relatively little has been published on the eucharistic liturgy as celebrated in the pre-Norman church or on the attitudes of its worshippers to the Eucharist. But, as Neil Xavier O’Donoghue notes, many of Ireland’s national treasures—including the Ardagh Chalice, the Book of Kells, and Cormac’s Chapel—date from this time and are directly connected with the celebration of the Eucharist. Additionally, many of the textual and archaeological sources for the study of pre-Norman Ireland—saints’ lives, penitentials, monastic rules, manuscripts, eucharistic vessels, church buildings, and ecclesiastical complexes—directly relate to the Eucharist. There has been no attempt to provide a useful synthesis since F. E. Warren’s 1881 Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church.

O’Donoghue’s The Eucharist in Pre-Norman Ireland provides a necessary, updated synthesis, one that incorporates advances made in liturgical studies and liturgical theology since the early twentieth century. In addition to reassessing and supplementing the texts discussed by Warren, O’Donoghue considers the social dimension of the Eucharist, its treatment in art and architecture, and its treatment as reflected by the spirituality of the time, placing this new analysis within a better understood Western European cultural and liturgical context. Most importantly, O’Donoghue shows that pre-Norman Ireland was very much a part of the Western (Gallican) liturgical tradition; he argues that what we know of the Eucharist in Ireland must be integrated into what we know of it in Britain and Gaul in order to understand the central role of the Eucharist in the Christianization of the West.