Movement to Know: The Irish Middle Ages
Movement to Know / 29/01/2018

Unlike other contemporary English-speaking countries, Ireland has one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe, following only Greek and Latin. Irish literacy flourished with the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century; before, the Irish had a simple writing system known now as “ogham.” This system was used primarily for inscriptions, but the introduction of Latin led to an adaptation of the Latin alphabet into the Irish language. This catalyzed the rise of a small, literate class during the Irish Middle Ages.   Most early Irish literature consists of lyric poetry and retellings of ancient prose tales. Some of the earliest poetry available, written in the sixth century, portrays an intense religious faith through descriptions of nature. In the ninth century, Ferdomnach of Armagh, a scribe, produced the Book of Armagh—an illuminated manuscript written primarily in Latin but containing early texts relating to St. Patrick. Ferdomnach wrote the first part of the book in 807/8 for Patrick’s heir, Torbach.   A vast range of medieval and Renaissance poetry follows the Old Irish period. Slowly, the Irish created a classical tradition in their own language. Verse remained the primary mode of literary expression; by the 12th century, writers had established…