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St. Patrick vs. St. Brigit: student paper takes closer look at Ireland’s patron saint

An evaluation of hagiography (early Irish history) and developments in Celtic Christianity have inspired a December, 2005 UTC graduate to suggest St. Brigit trumps St. Patrick as Ireland’s patron saint.

dolanAutumn Dolan, a Brock Scholar and history major, presented the paper "Ireland's True Patron Saint: Brigit and the Rise of Celtic Christianity" at a regional scholarly conference of Phi Alpha Theta, honorary history society. The conference was held recently at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Dolan’s paper was judged to be the best of her session; she will receive a book award for her efforts.

Dolan’s paper was originally 65 pages and submitted as her Departmental Honors Project. It was later edited to the 12-page limit for the Phi Alpha Theta conference, according to Dr. Michelle White, faculty advisor to the local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta.

“Dolan concludes that it is unlikely the Irish would have looked to Patrick as a great patron saint,” said White. “In fact, she argues his reputation was a somewhat fictitious product of both popular culture and the Roman Catholic Church’s triumph at the Synod of Whitby (664 AD). Brigit, conversely, better exemplified the Irish experience. By investigating early biographies of Brigit, Dolan discovered not only how lovingly she was described as quintessentially Irish but also how the Irish, throughout history, returned to her again and again as a way of reaffirming their own unique heritage and culture.”

Dolan’s paper was especially singled out for its exhaustive research as well as its analytical content, according to White. Dr. James Ward, Guerry Professor, History, served as the faculty director of Dolan’s Departmental Honors Project.

March 8, 2006

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