Subject Area

History; Theology


The motif of divine light is prominent in such early medieval Irish and Latin texts as Adomnán’s Life of Columba (Vita Columbæ), Vision of Saint Paul (Visio Sancti Pauli), and the Life of Brendan (Betha Brenainn). The symbol of divine light, a featured device in the Scriptures intended to emphasize the manifestation of the supernatural, if not the presence of the holy Spirit itself, is typically discussed by the patristic writers. In turn, the use of divine light in the Scriptures and the patristic writers influenced the texts of Christianity in early medieval Ireland, including hagiographical and ascetic texts, and immrama. The early ninth-century Hiberno-Latin text Nauigatio Sancti Brendani (Voyage of Saint Brendan; NSB) is one exemplar of this tradition as it makes use of the motif of divine light in a handful of episodes.

The aim of this presentation is to argue that the motif of divine light is used in NSB to dissuade any doubts about the merits of the sort of monasticism promoted by the anonymous author of NSB through the encouragement of emulating Brendan. The presentation will begin by summarizing NSB. Then, the talk will elucidate a few examples of divine light in patristic writings as well as a few examples found in the early medieval Irish textual tradition. This part of the discussion will lead to a select few instances of divine light in NSB and what can be interpreted from them, particularly their use in promoting Brendan as a model for emulating Christ. The presentation has been tailored such that it can be given within twenty minutes. A laptop will be provided to host a PowerPoint slideshow, which shall be used as a visual aid for the presentation, thus necessitating the need for projector access. (This presentation is based upon aspects of “‘Without blinding darkness’: The imagery of light in medieval Irish immrama and vision tales”, an unpublished dissertation for the Master of Arts in Celtic Civilisation degree at University College Cork.)


Providence College




Conference Proceeding



.pdf (Microsoft PowerPoint)


English, Celtic

UCBerkeley_March2015_Lux_abstract.pdf (48 kB)

CCC37_program.pdf (230 kB)
CSANA 2015 Conference Program

without blinding darkness audio.mp3.mp3 (18365 kB)
Audio Excerpt of Presentation



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