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As part of the historicizing corpus of seventh-century Irish writing, the Lives framed the narrative of the early saints as an effective weapon in contemporary political and ecclesiastical conflicts. Cogitosus’s Life of Brigit, Muirchú’s and Tírechán’s accounts of Saint Patrick, and Adomnán’s Life of Columba created the understanding of the history of early Ireland that has endured to this day. How did the writers accomplish this through their literary choices?
The authors of Irish saints’ Lives used the literary form of hagiography (Christian biography), miracle stories, and an elaborate rhetorical style to present the words and actions of their subjects. These Lives created a narrative of early Irish history that supported the political/ecclesiastical elites by showing that their power derived from the actions of their patron saints.
John Higgins, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.
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