“The Practice of ‘Alignment’ in Medieval Ireland”

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper draws attention to a key practice underpinning historical understanding in the medieval West – the practice of “alignment”. In short, this practice consisted of establishing connections and correspondences between events, persons, or places, often through the use of benchmarks or synchronistic hooks. Benchmarks were not just significant historical events, persons, or places. They also served as coordinates around which historical narratives could be structured. A constituent of ancient historiographical tradition, benchmarks animated late antique and medieval historiographical culture. For the origins of the practice of alignment, we need to look to ancient Greece, where Greek historians correlated key events in the different city states. For its evolution, Eusebius, with his innovative columnar format, was crucial. The practice of alignment, a Hellenic and Eusebian inheritance, left its mark on Irish sources. In fact, the medieval Irish literati made full use of the practice, making Irish events synchronous with biblical and classical events, synchronising across secular and sacred borders, drawing extensively on Old Testament models, and connecting their world to foundational pasts. The practice of alignment provided the learned elites in medieval Ireland with the tools to create a Gaelic past forged from classical and late antique historiographical traditions. The practice appears to have enjoyed a floruit in Ireland in the “long eleventh century”. In their use of the practice, the Irish literati sought to portray Ireland and its kings as part of a larger community of ancient empires and kingdoms, ground Irish history in the history of the Bible, proclaim themselves key participants in salvation history, and establish themselves as players on the world stage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLitterarum Dulces Fructus: Studies in Early Medieval Latin Culture in Honour of Michael W. Herren for his 80th Birthday
EditorsScott Bruce
Place of PublicationTurnhout
PublisherBrepols Publishers
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)978-2-503-58976-3
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jul 2021

Publication series

NameInstrumenta Patristica et Mediaevalia


Dive into the research topics of '“The Practice of ‘Alignment’ in Medieval Ireland”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this