Irish story of Albert of Germany

  • Irish
  • prose

Brief Irish devotional story concerning a certain Albert (Ailibertus, Aliberd), bishop in Germany, who made Christ reveal to him the seven, or eight, things that are best for the soul and most pleasing to God as well as a rule consisting of 15 Our Fathers. Grosjean, with the help of suggestions made to him, has identified the story as a version on the theme of Christ’s nine answers, variants of which circulated widely throughout Europe, both in Latin and in the vernacular, in the 14th and 15th centuries and sometimes appear with an attribution to Albert(us)/Albrecht.

First words (prose)
  • Naenmur derbraithrech d'esbugaib naemtha do bi'san Almain ag fognum do Día go díchra [etc.]
  • Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships

Grosjean, who edited most of the texts, has identified the story as a version of a theme that became popular in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries and is sometimes referred to as the nine answers (responsiones) or virtues (virtutes) of Christ, although the number varies. Variants are found in both Latin and the vernacular, including German, English, French, Swedish, Irish and Welsh. To the Latin versions he lists may be added one printed by Antonio de Fantis with the title Visio sancti Alberti episcopi Agrippinensis de octo regulis vite meretoriis humane a Christo sibi in missa revelatis, which appeared in his Opera nuper in lucem prodeuntia (Venice, 1522). Further study is still required to gather all the evidence, produce editions and come closer to unravelling the various lines of transmission.

The attribution to Albert(us), or Albrecht, is a recurrent though not universal feature of these texts (attested in Latin, German, English, Irish, Swedish). The reference may have been to Albertus Magnus originally, as in the German text printed by Franz Pfeiffer (Zeitschrift für deutsches Alterthum 8: p. 217). Because some of the attributions add information that is at odds with the historical personage, other candidates have been considered for identification. Grosjean cites Wilmart for the opinion that historicity should not necessarily be expected from attributions like these. For Albert’s eight brothers in the Irish text, compare the text printed by de Fantis.

Two of the manuscripts that contain the present text (Rawl. B 513 and Brussels MS 5057-5059) also share an Irish version of the ‘nine answers’ that makes no mention of Albertus. Concerning both Irish versions, Grosjean (p. 181) concludes that “[t]he translation from Latin into Irish places itself quite naturally in a period where there was a strong movement towards translating devotional pieces into Gaelic (say 1350-1450, more probably in the 15th century than in the 14th), while we could not point to a devotional tract originating in Ireland and widely circulated on the Continent, about the end of the mediaeval period. On the other hand, we may take it as probable that the Nine Answers was borne into Ireland with the flow of the New Devotion.”

A Welsh version is given by Elis Gruffydd in Cardiff MS 3.4 (olim 5), p. 146.

A prominent feature of the present Irish text that appears to have an independent origin is the list of fifteen Paters.

Related: Irish story of the nine answers of ChristIrish story of the nine answers of Christ

A short Irish devotional story about a poor man of God who through prayer, made Christ reveal to him the nine things that are most pleasing to God. It provides a version of the so-called ‘nine answers’ or ‘nine virtues of Christ’, which circulated more widely in Europe, in both Latin and the vernacular, during the 14th and 15th centuries. It differs from another Irish version in which it is Albert of Germany who receives the responses. The present text comes with the statement that the miraculous incident took place in 1315 (mile bliadhna ⁊ tri cet ⁊ .u. bliadhna deg).



Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus
(d. 1280)
German Dominican friar and philosopher/theologian. For a brief period, he was bishop of Regensburg (1260-1263).

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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.] Grosjean, Paul, “A continental saint and a mediaeval Irish devotional practice”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 19 (1933): 65–80, 177–188.

Three editions: (1) one based on TCD 1337, collated with Rawl. B 513; (2) another on LFF; and (3) a third one, the Brussels text, printed in the addendum on pp. 185-187. There is no English translation, although Grosjean begins with a paraphrase.

In the first part of the article, Grosjean was not yet aware of the wider European tradition, although he printed a Swedish text from Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, MS Holm. A 58 (Jöns Buddes Bok), a 15th-century manuscript which also contains a translation of the Tundalus story, and surmised that a Latin source must lie behind the Irish and Swedish versions.

Many further comparanda later came to his attention, mainly through Hope Allen (below) and R. Flower’s article ‘The nine answers’ in BBCS, resulting in an addendum in the same volume of the journal.

Secondary sources (select)

Plummer, Charles, Miscellanea hagiographica Hibernica: vitae adhuc ineditae sanctorum Mac Creiche, Naile, Cranat, Subsidia Hagiographica, 15, Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1925.
Utrecht University Library: <link>
255 [id. 306.] Lists two MSS (LFF and Rawl. B 513).
Allen, Hope Emily, Writings ascribed to Richard Rolle, hermit of Hampole, London, New York: Heath & Co, Oxford University Press, 1927.
HathiTrust: <link>
317–320 Not a source on the Irish text, but useful for its collection of references to materials relevant to the ‘nine answers’ theme. Allen makes a case for considering Albert Suerbeer, archbishop of Armagh, as the Albert in question, although the suggestion was later rejected by .Grosjean.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2023, last updated: June 2023