Irish Liber hymnorum

  • Early Irish
  • prose, verse
An early Irish collection of hymns and paratexts such as prefaces and glosses, contained in two manuscripts (TCD MS 1441 and UCD Franciscan MS A 2).
  • Early Irish
  • Secondary language(s): Latin language
prose, verse (primary)
Associated items
Admuinemmar nóeb PátraiccAdmuinemmar nóeb Pátraicc

Early Irish prayer which invokes St Patrick and was composed, according to the prose attribution, by either Niníne the poet (éces) or Fíacc of Sleibte (Sletty, Co. Laois).

Altus ProsatorAltus ProsatorLatin hymnAmra Choluim ChilleAmra Choluim Chille

Elegy on Saint Columba (Colum Cille).

Ultan’s hymnUltan’s hymnHymnum sancti Cú Chuimne in laudem sanctae MariaeHymnum sancti Cú Chuimne in laudem sanctae Mariae

Early Latin hymn in honour of Mary, attributed to Cú Chuimne, who was a monk and scholar at Iona and is also credited with co-authoring the Collectio canonum Hibernensis.

Cetracha sacart a línCetracha sacart a línA scrap of early Irish verse (1q only) cited the beginning of the preface (remfhocul) to Amra Choluim Chille. While in LU it occurs in the upper margin of the first page of the preface, with no explicit relationship being made to the text, it is more fully integrated into the main body of narrative in other manuscripts. The stanza gives a list of churchmen, together with their numbers, which in the context of the prose preface, would seem to refer to those who travelled with Colum Cille at the time of the convention of Druim Cetta.Cóic Mumain i Mumain móirCóic Mumain i Mumain móirTopographical poem on the five divisions of Munster.Colum Cille co Dia domerailColum Cille co Dia domerailEarly Irish devotional poem addressed to Colum Cille and usually attributed to Adomnán.
Commentary on the Amra Choluim ChilleCommentary on the Amra Choluim ChilleMiddle Irish commentary in the form of scholia accompanying copies of the Amra Choluim Chille.Cormac cain buich neoitCormac cain buich neoitEarly Irish poem (2 qq) in praise of Cormac, presumably Cormac mac Airt. It is ascribed to Colum Cille and addressed to Áed, probaby Áed mac Ainmirech.
De liberatione ScandlaniDe liberatione ScandlaniFáeth fiadaFáeth fiadaHymn of FíaccHymn of FíaccOld Irish hymn attributed to Patrick’s pupil Fíacc of Sléibte (Sletty, Co. Laois).Hymn of SecundinusHymn of SecundinusHymnum sancti Hilarii de ChristoHymnum sancti Hilarii de Christo

An early metrical Latin hymn (35 qq) on the life of Christ, written in trochaic tetrameter and attributed to St Hilary (fl. 4th century). The text is attested in a 7th-century Irish manuscript, the Bangor antiphoner, and became one of the most popular hymns in medieval Ireland.

In Spirut nóeb immunIn Spirut nóeb immunBroccán’s hymnBroccán’s hymnPreface to Brigit bé bithmaithPreface to Brigit bé bithmaithPreface to the poem beginning Brigit bé bithmaithPreface to Broccán’s hymnPreface to Broccán’s hymnShort prose preface to Broccán's hymn (‘Ní car Brigit’). It tells that the hymn was composed by Broccan clóen at the behest of Ultán of Ardbraccan, who had collected the miracles (ferta) of Brigit; and that Broccán composed it in Slíab Bladma (Slieve Bloom) or in Cluain Mór Móedóc, in the reign of Lugaid mac Lóegaire and Ailill mac DúnlaingePreface to the Fáeth fiadaPreface to the Fáeth fiadaHymn of Colmán mac Uí CluasaigHymn of Colmán mac Uí Cluasaig

Early Irish verse hymn ascribed to one Colmán mac Uí Cluasaig, lector in Cork. The first divison (ll. 1-38) is regarded as the original poem, which appears to be an adaptation of a Latin prayer. The next divison (ll. 39-47), itself perhaps of mixed origin, serves as an appendix. The final one, almost certainly a later addition, invokes the chief patron saints of Ireland (Brigit, Patrick and Columba).

Duodecim apostoliDuodecim apostoli

A single quatrain in the Liber hymnorum (TCD MS 1441, f. 31vb), which lists names of the twelve apostles. A note in at least one version of the Commentary to Félire Óengusso (31 July) gives the same quatrain but adds another quatrain with names of prominent Irish saints corresponding in part to other lists of the ‘twelve apostles of Ireland’.

Slécht sís a Scandláin dom réirSlécht sís a Scandláin dom réirEarly Irish dialogue poem betwen Colum Cille and Scandlán Mor, in which the latter promises him tribute from the Osraige and receives a blessing from the saint. Specifically, Scandlán and the Osraige are asked to pay tribute at Durrow every third year until Judgment Day.
Xristus in nostra insulaXristus in nostra insula

Early Hiberno-Latin hymn (3 qq) dedicated to St Brigit. The three stanzas start with the final letters of the alphabet (X-Y-Z), possibly suggesting that they originally stood at the end of an abecedarius, a longer hymn arranged from A to Z. It is prefaced with an Irish prose introduction, which attributes the poem to Ultán of Ardbraccan. MS T is accompanied with a number of Latin and Irish glosses, one of which praises Brigit with the title ‘the Mary of the Gaels’ (Maire na n.Goidel).



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.] Bernard, J. H., and Robert Atkinson [eds.], The Irish Liber hymnorum, 2 vols, vol. 1: Text and introduction, Henry Bradshaw Society, 13, London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1898.  
comments: Volume 1: Text and introduction
Volume 2: Translation
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> – originally from Google Books: <link>
[tr.] Bernard, J. H., and Robert Atkinson, The Irish Liber hymnorum, 2 vols, vol. 2: Translation and notes, Henry Bradshaw Society, 14, London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1898.  
comments: Volume 1: Text and introduction
Volume 2: Translation
Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books (missing: pp. 18-19, 86-87): <link>
Stokes, Whitley, “Mélanges: Extracts from the Franciscan Liber Hymnorum”, Revue Celtique 6 (1883–1885): 264–266.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Stokes, Whitley, Goidilica or notes on the Gaelic manuscripts preserved at Turin, Milan, Berne, Leyden, with eight hymns from the Liber Hymnorum and the Old-Irish notes in the Book of Armagh, 1st ed., Calcutta: privately printed, 1866.  
comments: This is the first edition. The second edition is here indexed as Stokes, Whitley, Goidelica (1872).
Internet Archive: <link>
[ed.] Todd, James Henthorn, Leabhar imuinn: the Book of Hymns of the ancient Irish Church, 2 vols, Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, 1855–1869.
Internet Archive – fasc. 1 and 2: <link> Internet Archive – fasc. 1: <link> Internet Archive – fasc. 2: <link> Digitale-sammlungen.de – fasc. 1: <link> Digitale-sammlungen.de – fasc. 1: View in Mirador

Secondary sources (select)

Clarke, Michael, “The manuscripts of the Irish Liber hymnorum, a bilingual anthology of sacred verse”, in: Michael Clarke, and Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (eds), Medieval multilingual manuscripts: case studies from Ireland to Japan, 24, Berlin, Online: De Gruyter, 2022. 119–150.  

The Irish Liber Hymnorum is a collection of hymns and para-liturgical material contained in two glossed and richly-decorated manuscripts from the late eleventh century. The hymns themselves, and the commentary apparatus, exhibit a pattern of alternation and even virtual merger between Latin and Old Irish. It is argued here that this interaction between languages is essential to the representation of the poems as a national poetic and spiritual canon.

Kenney, James F., “Chapter VII: Religious literature and ecclesiastical culture”, 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. 622–744.
716–718 [id. 574.]
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
March 2023, last updated: June 2023