Farrell (Elaine Pereira)

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Farrell, Elaine Pereira, “Penance and punishment in early medieval Ireland”, Peritia 32 (2021): 57–78.  

Penance in the middle ages functioned as a form of satisfaction for sins not only before God, but society. Consequently, it is a recurring theme in medieval sources, including those from early Ireland. It features in penitential books, canon law, conciliar acta, monastic rules, hagiographies, and in the vernacular legal literature. This article will argue that: (1) when sin carried social repercussions, such as in the cases of murder, theft, and those that were sexual in nature, the concepts of sin and crime were often treated interchangeably in most texts; (2) in the cases of ‘social sins’ penance could sometimes function as a form of punishment, such as exile or forced peregrinatio; (3) penance was valued by the Irish literate elite and it may have become an important aspect of early Irish society by the late seventh and eighth centuries.

Farrell, Elaine Pereira, “Taboos and penitence: Christian conversion and popular religion in early medieval Ireland”, unpublished PhD thesis, School of History and Archives, University College Dublin, 2012.


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Dennis Groenewegen
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March 2021