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  • Being Christian in Late Antique Ireland

    Elva Johnston

    Chapter from the book: Ritari, K et al. 2023. Being Pagan, Being Christian in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages.


    Conversion to Christianity in late antique Ireland is frequently interpreted as the replacement of one set of practices, broadly and problematically defined as pagan, with new and transformative Christian ones. This assumes clear boundaries between being Christian and being pagan throughout the 4th and 6th centuries ce, the period during which Christianity and, eventually, its institutions became ever more important. However, a growing body of material evidence, alongside a reinterpretation of textual sources, illuminates blurred, shifting and deeply contingent boundaries. This aligns with what is known of Christian conversion elsewhere in Roman and post-Roman Late Antiquity. For example, burial practices, the use of epigraphy (ogam stones) and the demarcation of physical Christian spaces all highlight different aspects of complex and changing religious affiliations. Sometimes it is possible to pinpoint moments when the boundary between being Christian and being pagan shifted, as the example of the celebration of the Feast of Tara by the Christian king DĂ­armait mac Cerbaill in 560 demonstrates. Throughout these formative centuries, Irish Christians and pagans lived side by side and shared the same environments. Ultimately, the much-analysed Christian culture of the 7th century grew out of these shared experiences.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Johnston, E. 2023. Being Christian in Late Antique Ireland. In: Ritari, K et al (eds.), Being Pagan, Being Christian in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/AHEAD-4-10

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    Published on Dec. 28, 2023


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