A packed lecture hall at the 46th Roscrea Conference was treated to a reassessment of the dating of the Irish Scriptural Crosses by high cross expert Professor Peter Harbison and to new insights into the historical and archaeological record of the preViking period in Ireland. As if that was not enough John Feehan’s new book on Creation, Evolution and Faith, The Singing Heart of the World was launched on the opening evening of the conference at the Cistercian Abbey in Roscrea by Fr Nivard Kinsella with Fr Tom Corbett PP responding to the contents and to the marvellous opening talk by Dr Feehan on the book’s theme and background. Faith of Our Fathers: Living Still ? was the apt title to Dr Feehan’s talk when for over 40 minutes he held his audience spell bound as he ranged over millions of years making it all relevant to our modern living.
Noreen Moore Heenan is all ears as John Feehan explains the intricacies of a flower just coming into bloom.
It was a busy week for Dr Feehan as his other latest book, the Wildflowers of Offaly was honoured at a reception (hosted by Roscrea Chamber of Commerce) on the Saturday evening where Noel Burke, Cathaoirleach of Offaly Co Co addressed the gathering. Dr Feehan had led a memorable field trip to the landscape and wildflowers of the monastic grounds earlier in the afternoon. This was followed by a tour of the stained glass of MSJ led by the author of Lumen Christi, Dom Laurence Walsh ocso. Also in the guesthouse the conference participants were treated to a display of some 30 years of early printed fragments, from 1471-1500 (a period of printing known as incunabula.)
Prof John Coolahan, Dublin, Paul Harrison, Thurles, Willie Hayes Roscrea and Prof Valerie Hall Belfast getting ready for another session at the Roscrea Conference.
On the Saturday morning Professor Valerie Hall highlighted the need for co-ordinated interdisciplinary studies if we are ever to learn the extend of farming in the preViking period. Prof Hall also gave a fascinating talk on climate change in Ireland over the centuries on the Sunday morning.
Professor Michael Ryan, director of the Chester Beatty Library, explored the symbolism on early Christian metalwork and its links with the continent. Both he and Prof Daibhi O Croinin of NUIG who delved into the historical record drew extensively from modern work and parallels on the Continent. The early church in Ireland while at times diverse and reactionary to local needs was at all times obedient to Rome despite what popular literature sometimes suggested. There was some hesitancy found sometimes in prayers some of which asked favours of both the Christian god and the old pagan Gods – hedging their bets.
Peter Harbison again drawing from new research redated the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnois to a period between 880 and 910 and not to the middle of the 9th century as he had previously argued. He ascribed the Drumcliff Cross to a much earlier date than the 11th century and also put the Tipperary crosses at Ahenny to a later period.
Much of the work on these crosses was influenced by the decoration carried out during the Carolingian early period particularly on what survives of decorated ivory pieces housed in various European museums.
Kitty Barry, Clonulty, Mary Bergin, Roscrea and Templemore and Larry Mullin, Sligo at the display of early printing in the Monastic Guethouse
Both on metalwork and on stone the beasts of the creation feature prominently.
George Cunningham, the conference director surprised all and particularly Peter Harbison with a tribute to Peter on the Saturday evening. Using the slot for the quizzical heritage tour, George used the illustrated front and back covers of Peter’s books (he has written over 30 books) to ask his questions while at the same time paying tribute to Peter, a former archaeologist with Bord Failte and editor of Ireland of the Welcomes and one of Europe’s leading art historians.
John Feehan gets ready for his monastic fieldtrip on the Saturday of the Roscrea conference.
Early on the Sunday morning Fr Ciaran ó Sabhaois treated the gathering to a short succinct talk on blessings in the Irish language which have survived the centuries.
The abbot of Roscrea Dom Richard Purcell welcomed the conference participants on the Friday evening at the reception hosted by Roscrea Heritage.
The brochure for the conference was sponsored by Roscrea Credit Union and the conferences are run by Roscrea People in association with RHS and the OPW.
The 47th Roscrea Conference to be held in the Autumn of 2010 will concentrate on The Dominicans in Medieval Ireland