Roman soil and Roman sound in Irish hagiography

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Irish hagiography displays considerable interest in communication between
Ireland and Rome, particularly as this featured saints, popes, and relics. While people and objects travel between the two places, there is also concern to circumvent the distance involved. This article discusses an episode of miraculous communication in the Irish Life of St Colmán Élo. Here messages and messengers travel from Rome, but time and space are also telescoped through aural and material means: the sound of the bell marking the death of Pope Gregory the Great and a gift from him of Roman soil to be spread on Colmán Élo’s cemetery. The article considers how the two elements function within their hagiographical context to connect Rome and Ireland, and how these places
shaped the account. The roles of bell and soil both draw on their associations in Ireland and relate to papal communication as this was experienced and imagined more widely.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-379
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number3
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Issue title: The papacy and communication in the central Middle Ages

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities


  • Rome
  • Ireland
  • Gregory the Great
  • Colmán Élo
  • hagiography
  • bells
  • soil
  • cemetery
  • sound


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