Saints and Sinners: religion and conflict in Medieval Ireland

‘History,’ said Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, ‘is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’ Joyce was commenting on the violence of Irish history, particularly that done in the name of Christian faith.

That history began at the dawn of the Christian era in Ireland, as a new ecclesiastical class committed names, stories, and events to paper for the first time. But, as the new archaeological evidence emerging from development-led excavations has shown, they may have been the first to write history – but they weren’t always the winners.

Religion, and religious strife, have defined modern Ireland. New archaeological evidence is showing that this cultural clash began long ago, with the very arrival of Christianity. In our final article on the top ten sites of Celtic Tiger archaeology, we look at the physical evidence of this spiritual struggle.

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