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St Patrick’s Confessio Hypertext Stack Project

small confessio

The Hyperstack is now available online at: www.confessio.ie.

The St Patrick’s Confessio Hypertext Stack Project aims, in building up a comprehensive digital research environment, to make accessible to academic specialists, as well as to interested lay people, all the textual aspects of St Patrick's Confessio. Composed in the 5th century this is the very oldest text, in any language, written in Ireland that has survived. Apart from the fact that Patrick really existed it is an highly informative text as regards the origins of Christianity in early medieval Ireland.

The project provides facsimiles and transcriptions of the extant manuscript testimonies and digital versions of relevant editions – from the editio princeps of 1656 up to the canonical version of the critical text, established in the scholarly edition by Ludwig Bieler in 1951 –, together with commentaries and translations into several modern languages. All the different textual components of this digital resource have been realised as one hypertext stack of very closely interlinked text layers, in order to enable the on-line visitor to click through the different manuscripts and text-versions passage by passage and, thus, to retrace, reconstruct and proof-check any established version of the text. The stack itself will be embedded in a net of significant contextual information and databases such as the the definitive dictionary entries prepared by Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (DMLCS) for many of the most interesting words.

In addition, the opportunity is being taken to open up a whole horizon of tradition (the perception of the Saint and his work as a powerful founder of monasteries) by providing access to one of the earliest witnesses to the transformation and construction of the later medieval figure of Patrick, namely Muirchú’s Latin Life of Saint Patrick, compiled about 200 years after Patrick’s death. In order to elucidate why Muirchú adapted the account of St Patrick as he did, the original Latin text and an English translation will be provided, as well as an entertaining and highly readable modern narrative composed on behalf of the Activity. This composition, as well as an adapted dialogue performance of the Confessio itself, are delivered in audio files. Moreover, a blog-like platform for user interaction to discuss the popularly held image of the Saint is anticipated.

In order to guarantee usability and sustainability of the resources, each of the text layers will be stored and provided as (a) a digital representation of the actual appearance of the layer, (b) the text involved, a plain electronic text format, and (c) an electronic text version deeply encoded according to the standards established by the TEI P5 guidelines. To guarantee the digital asset’s durability, availability and ongoing maintenance, the files will be stored as an Academy Digital Resource (ADR) and published on line through an XML-database.

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The project was conceived and is overseen by Dr Anthony Harvey, editor of the Royal Irish Academy Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources. The Stack has three years’ funding for one Post-doctoral researcher and for one student intern each summer. Technical support is provided by the Digital Humanities Observatory (DHO). Furthermore, the value of the Stack is greatly enhanced by the contributions of volunteer collaborators and partner projects. Last but not least, the success of the project is highly dependent on the courtesy of libraries, editors and publishers as regards matters of reproduction and copyright. 


Dr Anthony Harvey (Principal Investigator), Editor, DMLCS, Royal Irish Academy;
Dr John McCafferty, Director, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute, UCD


Dr Anthony Harvey, Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Email: dmlcs@ria.ie