|About the Book|
From the Forward:This book is a collection of extracts and documents chosen to illustrate the thin thread of St Patricks Purgatory through the tangled skein of Irish history: the realities as well as the more famous myth and legend. Its survival asMoreFrom the Forward:This book is a collection of extracts and documents chosen to illustrate the thin thread of St Patricks Purgatory through the tangled skein of Irish history: the realities as well as the more famous myth and legend. Its survival as a Pilgrimage to this day leads the researcher through a long lane and a very curious bypath indeed. St Patricks Purgatory was the mediaeval rumour which terrified travellers, awed the greatest of criminals, attracted the boldest of knight-errantry, puzzled the theologian, englamoured Ireland, haunted Europe, influenced the current views and doctrines of Purgatory, and not least inspired Dante.The origin and archaeology of St Patricks Purgatory is not too clear today. But the student, who has all essential quotations from surviving documents and accounts placed before him, can make his own conclusions or use them as stepping-stones to further research.The present volume is intended to be only suggestive, but the conclusions into which the author has been led may be briefly summarised.That as a sacred site, Lough Derg dates from long before the Anglo-Norman era responsible for the output of the mediaeval legend.That this may be judged from the pagan literature of the past as well as from existing folk-lore.That the legend of the destruction of serpents by St Patrick is associated longer and more definitely with Lough Derg than with any other site.That the name of Owen, the hero of the mediaeval legend, was borrowed from that of Evain, a Knight of King Arthur. That there was a Cave which St Patrick in the course of his journeys traditionally visited. This Cave was on Station Island.The same Cave became a resort of Celtic Saints, and chiefly of St Daveoc, who became the patron of Lough Derg and locality, which was called Termon Daveoc, while the Townland facing the sacred Islands was called Seavog (Daveocs Seat). Both Station Island (the site of the present Pilgrimage) and Saints Island (the site of the mediaeval Pilgrimage) were associated with this Saint.The testimony of the Lambeth MS. 51 is worth comparing with our conclusions.Its interest is that at so early a date it describes the two Islands: the larger Island of Mabeoch (Daveoch or Saints Island), inhabited by Anglo-Norman Canons while anchorites of the Celtic dispensation had clung to the small Island, in which it asserted the Purgatorty then was. This is clear though not first-hand evidence. It leaves us with the satisfactory supposition that the original Cave was on the small Island, and reaped the fame and awe of the Purgatory when the Celtic devotees died out.That the Cave on Saints Island was enclosed and guarded by Augustinian Canons in the twelfth century, marking the manner in which the Normans took over a site as well as Ireland. This they allowed to be visited under severe conditions. This Cave was closed by Papal decree in 1497, after which there were no more visits on the heroic or fantastic scale.That according to the Annals of Ulster it was understood from the story of Owen and other old books that this was not the Purgatory which St Patrick obtained from God. That a Cave was renewed on Station Island on the site of the original which was lost.That this small Cave, shaped like an oven and holding twelve people, was destroyed in 1632, together with a house of religious transferred from Saints Island. But it was renewed and survived as the famous prison used by pilgrims until between 1785 and 1790, when its spiritual uses were transferred to a Chapel.That the conception of a material entry into another world gave way later to a Pilgrimage which was symbolised by a Cave whose effects were spiritual rather than infernal.That this transition was marked historically by the order of Pope Alexander VI to close the substituted Cave.That the memory of the original Cave was carried on by substitutes to the present day until the site was covered by the modern Basilica.