The Martyrology of Donegal

NLI G 27 (Shorter version), 17th century

In the early seventeenth century, the Franciscan college of St. Anthony in Louvain was engaged in a project seeking to gather and publish all of Ireland’s textual heritage, which was in danger of getting lost under the pressures of anglicization and the Reformation. The group of scribes working towards this goal is known as the Four Masters and are famous for producing a new set of Annals (The Annals of the Four Masters) of Ireland’s history, based on the earlier annals they were able to find. Two of them, brother Míchéal Ó Cléirigh and his cousin Cú Choigríche, collaborated on the religious variant of this undertaking: The Martyrology of All the Irish Saints al. The Martyrology of Donegal. In compiling the martyrology they effectively collated the Roman Martyrology with the older Irish martyrologies, the Féilire Óengusso and (to the greater extend) the Martyrology of Gorman, a twelfth-century metrical martyrology inspired by the Féilire, as well as information culled from vernacular Saint’s Lives and annals. They finished the project in 1628, but created a second, annotated version, which they finished in 1630.

By virtue of also having written Brussels, KBR MS 5100-4, in the course of his journeys around the country in search of new material, Míchéal Ó Cléirigh is also personally responsible for preserving for posterity copies of the Féilire Óengusso, of the Martyrology of Tallaght and the Martyrology of Donegal. Without the intervention of the Louvain project and the Donegal friars based in Bundrowes, these last two texts might indeed never have survived at all.