Betha Naile ‘The Life of (St) Náile’

  • Early Modern Irish
  • prose
  • Irish hagiography
First words (prose)
  • Rí ro gabhastair flaithes ⁊ forlamhus for dá cóiccedh Muman fecht n-aill
  • Early Modern Irish
“possibly as late as the early to mid-sixteenth century” (Ó Riain 2011).
prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
Related: Betha Máedóc Ferna (II)Betha Máedóc Ferna (II)Lengthy Irish Life of St Máedóc, founder and patron saint of Ferna (Ferns, Co. Wexford).


Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography

Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography


(supp. fl. c.6th century)
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The beginning of the text in Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 4190-4200, f. 129r.


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Plummer, Charles, “Betha Naile: Life of Naile”, in: Charles Plummer, Miscellanea hagiographica Hibernica: vitae adhuc ineditae sanctorum Mac Creiche, Naile, Cranat, 15, Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1925. 97–155.
CELT – corrected edition (97–125): <link> CELT – translation (126–151): <link>
Edition and translation.

Secondary sources (select)

Selvage, Courtney, “‘I am the lion destroying cattle, I am the bear for courage’: an examination of Betha Naile”, Quaestio Insularis 21 (2020): 85–110.
– PDF: <link>
Ó Riain, Pádraig, A dictionary of Irish saints, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2011.  
Scarcely a parish in Ireland is without one or more dedications to saints, in the form of churches in ruins, holy wells or other ecclesiastical monuments. This book is a guide to the (mainly documentary) sources of information on the saints named in these dedications, for those who have an interest in them, scholarly or otherwise. The need for a summary biographical dictionary of Irish saints, containing information on such matters as feastdays, localisations, chronology, and genealogies, although stressed over sixty years ago by the eminent Jesuit and Bollandist scholar, Paul Grosjean, has never before been satisfied. Professor Ó Riain has been working in the field of Irish hagiography for upwards of forty years, and the material for the over 1,000 entries in his Dictionary has come from a variety of sources, including Lives of the saints, martyrologies, genealogies of the saints, shorter tracts on the saints (some of them accessible only in manuscripts), annals, annates, collections of folklore, Ordnance Survey letters, and other documents. Running to almost 700 pages, the body of the Dictionary is preceded by a preface, list of sources and introduction, and is followed by comprehensive indices of parishes, other places (mainly townlands), alternate (mainly anglicised) names, subjects, and feastdays.
Gillespie, Raymond, “Saints and manuscripts in sixteenth-century Breifne”, Breifne: Journal of Cumann Seanchas Bhreifne 11 (2008): 533–556.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter V: The monastic churches: II. The churches of the sixth to ninth centuries; general treatises”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 372–485.
465–466 [id. 254.]
Plummer, Charles, “A tentative catalogue of Irish hagiography”, in: Charles Plummer, Miscellanea hagiographica Hibernica: vitae adhuc ineditae sanctorum Mac Creiche, Naile, Cranat, 15, Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1925. 171–285.
Utrecht University Library: <link>
195 [id. 58.]
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
June 2012, last updated: January 2024