Céli Dé in Ireland

October 2006
3 line illustrations
268 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Celtic History
ISBN: 9781843832768
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Céli Dé in Ireland

Monastic Writing and Identity in the Early Middle Ages

Westley Follett

A detailed investigation into the mysterious group of monks, the Céli Dé, who flourished in early medieval Ireland.
The Céli Dé [`clients of God'], sometimes referred to as the Culdees, comprise the group of monks who first appeared in Ireland in the eighth century in association with St Máel Ruain of Tallaght. Although influential and important in the development of the monastic tradition in Ireland, they have been neglected in general histories. This book offers an investigation into the movement. Proceeding from an examination of ascetic practice and theory in early medieval Ireland, followed by a fresh look at the evidence most often cited in support of the prevailing theory of céli Dé identity, the author challenges the orthodox opinion that they were an order or movement intent upon monastic reform at a time of declining religious discipline. At the heart of the book is a manuscript-centred critical evaluation of the large corpus of putative céli Dé texts, offered as a means for establishing a more comprehensive assessment of who and what céli Dé were. Dr Follett argues that they are properly understood as the self-identified members of the personal retinue of God, in whose service they distinguished themselves from other monks and monastic communities in their personal devotion, pastoral care, Sunday observance, and other matters. A catalogue of céli Dé texts with manuscript references is provided in an appendix.

WESTLEY FOLLETT is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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Table of Contents

Céli Dé Historiography
Irish Asceticism before céli dé
Céli Dé as Reformers: The Evidence of the Tallaght Memoir
A Survey of Texts Attributed to céli dé
Towards a Reassessment of céli dé


This contribution to the subject ought to be the standard work on this topic in the future. CELTIC STUDIES ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
An important book both for the study of insular monasticism and for research into the history of early Irish texts. In the meticulousness of its scholarship it provides a model for the latter.
Provides an important service to current and future scholarship. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

[A] masterful historiographic study. CHURCH HISTORY

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