Theology and Philosophy

Past Lecture by Professor Salvador Ryan

“There now follow some examples worth remembering": Preachers' tales and what they tell us about popular religion in late medieval Ireland

Medieval preachers who wished to effectively communicate their message to a congregation, and so ensure that their audience didn’t forget the content in a hurry, were fond of employing a range of colourful cautionary tales (exempla) which soon became indispensable homiletic tools. This paper examines a collection of these tales called the Liber Exemplorum, compiled between 1275 and 1279 by an English Franciscan friar working in Ireland, which contains not only material collected from all over Ireland and England, but also from the author’s time as a student in Paris. Subjects covered include devotion to Christ’s passion, treatment of the Eucharistic host, the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and the consequences of all manner of sins. These exempla were not only exceedingly useful in their own day; they also offer to historians today a unique window on the faith lives and expectations of late medieval Christians.

Professor Salvador Ryan

Pontifical University, Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland

Salvador Ryan is a native of the village of Moneygall on the border betweeen counties Offaly and Tipperary. He is professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and has published widely in the area of late medieval and early modern popular religious belief. He is Secretary and Reviews Editor of the international periodical, Irish Theological Quarterly, Treasurer of the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland and of its sources journal, Archivium Hibernicum, and a member of the International Advisory Board of British Catholic History, published by Cambridge University Press. Among his recent publications are three volumes of Treasures of Irish Christianity (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2012, 2013, 2015), a compendium of short articles which examine a host of aspects of the Irish Christian tradition over 1,500 years, and which feature, in each volume, contributions from some seventy scholars across a range of disciplines.