Irish story of the nine answers of Christ

  • Early Modern Irish
  • prose

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).

f. 10r.inf–10v
beg. ‘Bocht truagh do munitir in Coimdi do bi ag eadurgidhi Dia ina urnaigti ima foillsiugad ...’
f. 7ra.12–rb.7
beg. ‘Duine bocht do mhuinntir in Coimdhi do bi ac guidhi De ina hirnaigthi ima foillsiugadh ...’
  • Early Modern Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships

For the wider European background to the ‘nine answers of Christ’, see the Irish story of Albert of Germany. As noted there, more research is needed to piece together a coherent picture of textual transmission and adaptation. Concerning the existence of both Irish versions, Grosjean (p. 181) remarks 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.”

Of the European manuscript texts listed by Grosjean, those that (a) refer to nine virtues, (b) assign a date to the vision and (c) possibly lack an attribution to Albert may be particularly relevant in understanding the affiliations of the Irish text. Like the Irish version, the Latin text in BL MS Royal 8 C i, f. 164, dates the vision to 1315. This manuscript is best known for its copy of the Ancrene Wisse (which happens to be wrongly attributed elsewhere, Magdalen 67, to Simon of Ghent, bishop of Salisbury, who died in 1315). A number of English texts, CUL MSS Ff. vi 33, Dd. i. 1 and Dd. xiv 26, and BL Royal 17 A xxvi (addition on a flyleaf; cf. the Latin text in the manuscript) date the vision to 1345 instead. The weight of the latter evidence led Hope Allen to suggest that 1315 must be an error for 1345. Grosjean’s comment that ‘1345 seems a date less commonly occurring” is not borne out by the evidence he presents.

Related: Irish story of Albert of GermanyIrish story of Albert of Germany

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.



miracles performed after a saint’s lifetimemiracles
miracles performed after a saint’s lifetime
id. 26231


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.
187–188 Versions from the Brussels MS.
[ed.] [tr.] Flower, Robin, “The nine answers”, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 1:2 (1922, 1921–1923): 133–139.
Version from Rawl. B 513, with English translation.

Secondary sources (select)

Allen, Hope Emily, Writings ascribed to Richard Rolle, hermit of Hampole, London, New York: Heath & Co, Oxford University Press, 1927.
HathiTrust: <link>
317–320 Does not refer to the Irish texts, but gives a useful overview of late medieval versions of the ‘nine answers’.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
June 2023