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The early Middle Irish story Síaburcharpat Con Culaind unfortunately suffers from a lack of scholarly attention, particularly from the theological perspective. This paper proposes that the five quatrains which occupy lines 9438-9458 of the Lebor na hUidre copy together serve as the potent, appropriate apex to a tale which not only functions as an ode to Cú Chulainn but also as a forum through which are raised theological queries concerning the fate under the Christian dispensation of pre-Christian Celtic legendary figures.

Initial focus will be cast on the significance of the hell-motif within the Síaburcharpat (including a remark on the otherwise unattested term comchétbúaid in line 9449). This will then be analyzed in light of lines or episodes throughout a number of medieval Irish, Welsh, and Latin texts, such as Acallam na Senórach, Reicne Fothaid Canainne, Tírechán’s Life of Patrick, the Welsh- Latin Life of Saint Cadoc, and the Gospel of Nicodemus. The teaching of a ‘Scot’ condemned at the Roman Synod of 745 will be used as a transition from the Irish texts to a consideration of the Síaburcharpat in light of the idea of the harrowing of hell, illustrating the latter with a survey of the writings of theologians including John Chrysostom, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and John Scottus Eriugena. The conclusion will incorporate a brief discussion of what Thomas Aquinas and Dante, influenced by patristic works, wrote concerning the harrowing of hell, and a final reflection on Cú Chulainn and the hell-motif.


Providence College




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HCC34_program_pamphlet.pdf (204 kB)
2014 AHCC program pamphlet



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