Posts Tagged With: Irish monks

Stones in the Irish Landscape

DSCF5688When I think about my travels in Ireland, stone comes to mind. We often think of green fields rolling down to the sea, and there are many places of lush green, misty forests, and soft fields with grazing sheep. By far and away, stone shapes this place. From rugged coastlines to ancient standing stones carved with a language we no longer can understand, people have lived with the stone and shaped it into shelter, art, fences, and steps. Some of the places carved out of stone, like Skellig Micheal, are beyond belief. Reading Sun Dancing by Geoffrey Morehouse brought the lives of theDSCF5682 monks there to life, and the carving of over 700 steps to reach their small settlement as close to heaven as possible. I like to include the Skelligs on our tours- there is no place on Earth quite like them. It takes effort to reach them, effort to climb to the top, effort to understand what they were up to. One must travel by boat over an hour, and often it is DSCF5683impossible to do so. The steps are dangerous and tricky, and the higher one goes, the more one can feel what made this place special. So many mysteries remain about this place, but a sense of the inhabitants becomes real as you sit in a former cell, with only a small opening facing east, or gaze at the garden plots they used, carved from stony cliffs, and enriched with seaweed to build the soil. The difficult problem of gathering drinking water alone can amaze and confound! Yet they did, they managed, and they sought out a refuge in the ocean far from others to achieve their quest.I look forward to returning toDSCF5686 Skellig Michael, and hope to share this place with others who wonder as I do.

The ancient stones from prehistory also intrigue me. For years I have studied Irish art history, and am especially drawn to the standing stones with intricate designs, motifs and symbolism. For this reason I love to show these to people in hidden glans and on hilltops, as well as more famous carved stones such at those at Bru na Boinne, also known as Newgrange. Come along on one of our tours and let your imagination be ignited by the stones!

Stone carving at Newgrange..ciirca 5,000 BC

Stone carving at Newgrange..ciirca 5,000 BC

Categories: Ireland, Prehistoric art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pangur Ban and early Irish monks


This poem by an Irish scholar is one of my favorites, and brings to life the tasks of those who worked on Psalters such as the Book of Kells. Pangúr Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangúr Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St. Paul’s Abbey in the Lavanttal, Austria. The version detailed below is Robin Flower‘s translation of the poem from Old Irish.Thanks to Irish Archaeology for this material.


I and Pangúr Bán my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangúr bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangúr’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangúr Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangúr perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

 The original poem text in the Reichenau Primer

 The poem is written in Old Irish and was probably composed by an Irish monk who was studying at a continental  European monastery.

 Image Source


If you hop to this link by Irish Archaeology, you can read more about this lovely piece of Irish History

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