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Exhibition on An Cathach – earliest Irish manuscript

March 1 - March 31

The Royal Irish Academy Library carries a wealth of Columban manuscript material, most notably the earliest surviving Irish manuscript book, An Cathach. The Cathach is the oldest extant Irish manuscript of the Psalter. It may also be the earliest example of the form of Irish writing known as insular majuscule script. The surviving portion of the manuscript contains a Vulgate version of Psalms XXX (10) to CV (13) with an interpretative rubric or heading before each psalm. It is written in Latin.

It is traditionally ascribed to St Columba (Colum Cille) as the copy, made at night in haste by a miraculous light, of a Psalter lent to Columba by St Finnian. A dispute arose about the ownership of the copy and King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill gave the judgment ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy’. The arbitration failed and the controversy led to the battle of Cúl Dreimne in AD 561, where an alliance of northern septs defeated King Diarmait. St Columba left Ireland and went to Iona in AD 563, perhaps exiled as punishment for the lives lost in the battle. It is possible to date the manuscript to the late 6th or early 7th century from the script, but modern historical scholarship has cast doubts on St Columba’s authorship. The exhibition will prepare the way for a major lecture series from August to September 2020. The exhibition will be accessible online, and also, subject to Public Health Restrictions, in the Academy premesis at 18 Dawson Street Dublin https://www.ria.ie/cathach-psalter-st-columba”


March 1
March 31