Turas na dTaoiseach Ultach as Éirinn: Travel Diary or Soul Travel?

Mícheál Mac Craith


Though Turas na dTaoiseach Ultach as Éirinn, Tadhg Ó Cianáin’s narrative describing the journey of the exiled Irish princes from Ireland to the continent in 1607, has been described as a travel diary, this is not really a very helpful classification. It is remarkable that a little more than forty per cent of the narrative is given to just two days out of a period of nearly fifteen months, the pilgrimage to Loreto and the pilgrimage of the Seven Basilicas of Rome. This essay argues that the whole text is dominated by the concept of pilgrimage. During their sojourn in the Spanish Netherlands, both Aodh Ó Néill and Tadhg Ó Cianáin would have witnessed how pietas austriaca moulded the politico-religious outlook of Albert and Isabella, and what a central role pilgrimages to the Marian shrine of Halle played in their major political decisions. The type of Catholic dominion that Ó Néill could only imagine in Ireland was being played out before his eye in the Spanish Netherlands. In Ó Cianáin’s writing pietas austriaca becomes pietas ulidiana. Furthermore, if Ó Cianáin intended his text for public recitation rather than for private reading, he could well have meant to create a community of virtual pilgrims, carefully crafting the sonorous sounds of his composition for the spiritual benefit of his audience, engaging them in a form of ‘soul travel’.

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ISSN: 2009-8626