Book Series Studia Traditionis Theologiae, vol. 23

Pilgrimage to Heaven: Eschatology and Monastic Spirituality in Early Medieval Ireland

Katja Ritari

  • Pages: 223 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2016

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56539-2
  • Paperback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56940-6
  • E-book
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"Perhaps most significant is (Ritari's) contribution to our understanding of the variety of medieval Irish Christian life, with respect to the various possibilities of pilgrimage within the monastic context, highlighted well in her analysis", Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen, in Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies 7 (2018), p. 358-361. "Dr. Ritari’s book is enjoyable and utilizes the broadest range of sources on the texts discussed to illuminate the discussion. Though some repetition of material is inevitable in such a treatment where earlier textual parallels are drawn, the overall content and quality of this work does not suffer from it, and the dialogue between these sources remains vibrant under Dr. Ritari’s able hand and mind. For those interested in the topic of eschatology, or general early Irish spirituality and theology, this book will be a boon, and even beyond such a specialist audience, the writing remains clear and accessible so that students at all levels will be able to benefit from the extensive mastery of the material which Dr. Ritari demonstrates in spades herein", Phillip A. Bernhardt-House, in Studia Celtica Fennica 16 (2019), p. 131-133.


Dr Katja Ritari is a Docent of Study of Religions at University of Helsinki and a research fellow at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies. Her areas of interest include early medieval theology, hagiography, monasticism, and Christianization.


This book focuses on the expectation of the Judgment and the afterlife in early medieval Irish monastic spirituality. It has been claimed that in the Early Middle Ages, Christianity became for the first time a truly otherworldly religion and in monastic spirituality this otherworldly perspective gained an especially prominent role. In this book, Dr Ritari explores the role of this eschatological expectation in various sources, including hagiography produced by the monastic familia of St Columba, the sermons of St Columbanus, the Navigatio sancti Brendani portraying St Brendan’s sea voyages, and the vision attributed to St Adomnán about Heaven and Hell. One recurrent image used by the Irish authors to portray the Christian path to Heaven is the image of peregrinatio, a life-long pilgrimage. Viewing human life in this perspective inevitably influenced the human relationship with the world making the monastic into a pilgrim who is not supposed to get attached to anything encountered on the way but to keep constantly in mind the end of the journey.



1. Introduction
    1.a. Monastic life and death
    1.b. Approaching monastic spirituality

2. Heavenly Citizens on Earth: The Irish Lives of Saints Adomnán and Columba
    2.a. Irish hagiography and holiness
    2.b. The Prudent saint in Betha Adamnáin
    2.c. Monastery as holy ground in Betha Coluim Cille
    2.d. Saints as heavenly People

3. Monastic Life as Pilgrimage: the Sermons of St Columbanus
    3.a. Pilgrimage as spiritual exile
    3.b. ‘Pilgrims in the world’: the monk’s relationship with the world in the Sermons of Columbanus
    3.c. The pilgrimage of life

4. Monks out on the Sea in Search of Heaven: Navigatio sancti Brendani
   4.a. The sea as desert
   4.b. The Navigatio sancti Brendani as an allegory of the monastic quest   for Heaven
   4.c. The monastic journey

5. Geography of the Otherworld: Fís Adomnáin
     5.a. The end of the voyage
     5.b. Mapping the afterlife in the Fís Adomnáin
     5.c. The destinations of the dead

6. Pilgrimage of Life: Some Conclusions