Prof. Salvador Ryan

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Salvador Ryan

Prof. Salvador Ryan

Professor of Ecclesiastical History


Contact Details

Phone: +353 (0)1 708 3972
Office: 1 Dunboyne House

Office hours: By appointment

Research Interests

  • Popular religion and ritual in late medieval and early modern Europe, and especially Gaelic Ireland.
  • Medieval Gaelic Irish devotional poetry and its relationship with English and European medieval religious lyrics.
  • Theology of Christ’s Passion and its devotional manifestations in the middle ages.
  • Medieval and early modern hagiography.
  • Popular reception of biblical material in late medieval and early modern Ireland.
  • The Catholic Reformation.
  • The implementation of the Council of Trent in early modern Ireland.
  • The catechetical and devotional writings of the Irish Franciscan friars at St Anthony’s College Louvain in the seventeenth century.
  • The history of preaching.
  • Nineteenth and twentieth-century popular devotion.

Highlighted Publications

“Begorra, Paddy, the Clergy have the Power Yet”: Priests of the Province of Armagh and their Portrayal in the Folklore of the Schools Collection (1937-38), Seanchas Ard Mhacha (forthcoming).


(with Liam M. Tracey) eds., The cultural reception of the Bible Explorations in theology, literature and the arts (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2018)

Art and Devotion in late medieval Ireland (co-editor with Rachel Moss and Colmán Ó Clabaigh). Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006.

Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960 (co-editor with Henning Laugerud). Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012.

Treasures of Irish Christianity: People and Places, Images and Texts (co-editor with Brendan Leahy). Dublin: Veritas, 2012.

Treasures of Irish Christianity, Volume 2: A People of the Word (co-editor with Brendan Leahy). Dublin: Veritas, 2013

The materiality of devotion in late medieval northern Europe: images, objects and practices (co-editor with Henning Laugerud and Laura Katrine Skinnebach). Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016.

Treasures of Irish Christianity, Volume 3: To the Ends of the Earth (Dublin: Veritas, 2015).

Making the Book of Fenagh: Context and Text (co-editor with Raymond Gillespie and Brendan Scott). Killeshandra: Cumann Seanchais Bhreifne, 2016.

Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, c.1500-c.1750: Essays in honour of Colm Lennon (co-editor with Clodagh Tait). Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016.

Death and the Irish: a Miscellany (Dublin: Wordwell Books, 2016)

Remembering the Reformation: Martin Luther and Catholic Theology (co-editor with Declan Marmion and Gesa E. Thiessen). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017.

'Children and Local Memories of The Great Hunger 90 Years On: Stories from the Irish Folklore Commission’s “Schools’ Collection” (1937-38)', in Christine Kinealy, Jason King and Gerard Moran (eds), Children and the Great Hunger in Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 2018)

(with Anthony Shanahan) "How to Communicate Lateran IV in 13th Century Ireland: Lessons from the Liber Exemplorum (c.1275)", Religions 9:3, 75 (2018). 

(this article is on open access here:

‘Remembering the Reformation, 1517: Then and Now’, Doctrine and Life (October, 2017).

‘The Bible and “the people” in late medieval and early modern Ireland’, in Brad Anderson and Jonathan Kearney (eds), Ireland and the Reception of the Bible: Social and Cultural Studies (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming, 2017)

Introduction’, in Declan Marmion, Salvador Ryan and Gesa E. Thiessen (eds), Remembering the Reformation: Martin Luther and Catholic Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017.

‘Thomas MacDonagh: “Making me darkly grope to my sure end”‘, in David Bracken (ed.), The End of All Things Earthly: Faith Profiles of the 1916 leaders (Dublin: Veritas, 2016)

‘Death and the Irish: reflections from a Moneygall childhood’, in Salvador Ryan (ed.), Death and the Irish: a Miscellany (Dublin: Wordwell Books, 2016)

”Scarce anyone survives a heart wound”: the wounded Christ in Irish bardic religious poetry’, in Larissa Tracy and Kelly de Vries (eds), Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

‘“A gentle doe from the best of the herd”: the Virgin Mary as Intercessor in the late medieval and early modern Irish tradition’, in Jonas Carlquist and Virginia Langum (eds), Words and Matter: the Virgin Mary in Late Medieval Parish Life. Stockholm: Runica et Mediaevalia, 2015.

‘Christ the wounded lover and affective piety in late medieval Ireland and beyond’, in Henning Laugerud, Salvador Ryan and Laura Katrine Skinnebach (eds), The materiality of devotion in late medieval northern Europe: images, objects and practices. Dublin:

‘Missions and Missionaries’, in The Global History of Catholicism, ed. James Hagerty (Bassingbourn: Rowan Publishing, 2016)

“‘A Missionary in his Way and Place”: the Five Minute Sermons of Fr Algernon Brown CSP (1848-78)’, in Serving Liturgical Renewal: Pastoral and Theological Questions: Essays in honour of Patrick Jones, ed. Thomas R. Whelan and Liam M. Tracey (Dublin: Veritas, 2015).

‘To Russia with Love: Father Sean Moriarty and a Modern Peregrinatio Pro Christo’, in Salvador Ryan (ed.), Treasures of Irish Christianity, volume 3: To the Ends of the Earth (Dublin: Veritas, 2015)

The new papal saints and their relations with Orthodox Christianity’, Doctrine and Life 64:6 (July/August, 2014)

‘The arma Christi in medieval and early modern Ireland’ in Lisa Cooper and Andrea Denny-Brown (eds), The Arma Christi in Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014).

‘Penance and the Privateer: handling sin in the bardic religious verse of the Book of the O’Conor Don (1631)’, in Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin and Robert Armstrong (eds), Christianities in the Early Modern Celtic World(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

‘The devotional landscape of medieval Irish cultural Catholicism inter hibernicos et inter anglicos, c.1200-c.1550’, in Oliver Rafferty (ed.), Irish Catholic Identities. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.

‘Continental Catechisms and their Irish Imitators in Spanish Habsburg Lands, c. 1550-1650’ in Raymond Gillespie and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds), Irish Europe: Writing and Learning, 1600-1650. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013.

Signed in Blood: Christ’s crucified body as document’, in Salvador Ryan and Brendan Leahy (eds), Treasures of Irish Christianity, Volume 2. Dublin: Veritas, 2013.

“Holding up a lamp to the sun: Hiberno-papal relations and the construction of Irish orthodoxy in John Lynch’s Cambrensis Eversus (1662)” in Charlotte Methuen and John Dolan (eds), The Church on its past: Studies in Church History 49 (Abingdon: Boydell Press, 2013).

Merita Missae: the Eucharist and the Lived reality of Irish Christians in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods’ in 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012, Proceedings of the International Symposium of Theology: The ecclesiology of Communion Fifty Years after the Opening of Vatican II. Dublin: Veritas, 2013.

“Once I heard a story … from scripture does it come”: biblical allusions in Irish bardic religious poetry’ in Seán Duffy (ed.), Princes, Prelates and Poets in Medieval Ireland: Essays in Honour of Katharine Simms. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013.

‘“No milkless cow”: the Cross of Christ in medieval Irish literature’, in Peter Clarke and Charlotte Methuen (eds), The Church and Literature: Studies in Church History 48. Abingdon: Boydell Press, 2012.

‘Reconstructing Irish Catholic origins after the Reformation’, in Simon Ditchfield, Kate van Liere and Howard Louthan (eds), Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

‘Blood piety and the Eucharist in late medieval Ireland’ in Salvador Ryan and Brendan Leahy (eds), Treasures of Irish Christianity: People and Places, Images and Texts. Dublin: Veritas, 2012.

‘Some reflections on theology and popular piety: a fruitful or fraught relationship’, The Heythrop Journal 53:6 (November, 2012).

‘“I, too, am a Christian”: early martyrs and their lives in the late medieval and early modern Irish manuscript tradition’, in Peter Clarke and Tony Claydon (eds), Saints and Sanctity: Studies in Church History 47. Abingdon: Boydell Press, 2011.

‘Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556): Christian soldier or “Soul-aider”?’, in Brendan McConvery (ed.), Living in Union with Christ in Today’s World: the Witness of John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola. Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2011.

‘“Reaping a rich harvest of humanity”: images of redemption in Irish bardic religious poetry’, in Brendan Leahy and Séamus O’Connell (eds), Having Life in His Name: Living, Thinking and Communicating the Christian Life of Faith. Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2011.

‘Florilegium of faith: religious verse in the Book of the O’Conor Don’ in Pádraig Ó Macháin (ed.), The book of the O’Conor Don: essays on an Irish manuscript. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 2010.

‘Wily women of God’ in Cavan’s late medieval and early modern devotional collections’, in Brendan Scott (ed.), Culture and society in early modern Breifne/Cavan. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009.

‘A wooden key to open heaven’s door: lessons in practical Catholicism from St Anthony’s College, Louvain’, in Edel Bhreatnach, Joseph McMahon and John McCafferty (eds), The Irish Franciscans, 1540-1990. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 200

‘Fixing the eschatological scales: judgment of the soul in late medieval and early modern Irish tradition’, in Peter Clarke and Tony Claydon (eds), The Church and the afterlife: Studies in Church History, 45. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2009.

‘‘Weapons of Redemption: piety, poetry and the Instruments of the Passion in late medieval Ireland’ in Henning Laugerud and Laura Skinnebach (eds), Instruments of Devotion: the practices and objects of religious piety from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2007).

“‘New wine in old bottles”: implementing Trent in early modern Ireland’, in Thomas Herron and Michael Potterton (eds), Ireland in the Renaissance, c.1540-1660. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007.

(With Madeleine Gray), ‘“Mother of Mercy”: the Virgin Mary and the Last Judgement in Welsh and Irish tradition’ in Karen Jankulak, Thomas O’ Loughlin and Jonathan Wooding (eds), Ireland and Wales in the Middle Ages. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007.

‘Creation and Recreation in Irish bardic poetry’, in Sven Rune Havsteen, Nils Holger Petersen, Heinrich W. Schwab, and Eyolf Østrem (eds.), Creations: Medieval Rituals, the Arts and the Concept of Creation. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007.

From late medieval piety to Tridentine pietism? The case of 17th century Ireland’ in Fred Van Lieburg (ed.), Confessionalism and Pietism: Religious Reform in the Early Modern period. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte. Mainz: Ver

‘Exchanging blood for wine: Envisaging Heaven in Irish bardic religious poetry’, in Carolyn Muessig and Ad Putter (eds.), Envisaging Heaven in the Middle Ages. Abingdon: Routledge Press, 2006.

Windows on late medieval devotional practice: Máire Ní Mháille’s “Book of Piety” (1513) and the world behind the texts’, in Rachel Moss, Colmán Ó Clabaigh and Salvador Ryan (eds), Art and Devotion in late medieval Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006

‘The most traversed bridge: a reconsideration of elite and popular religion in late medieval Ireland’, in Kate Cooper and Jeremy Gregory (eds.), Popular and Elite religion: Studies in Church History 42 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2006).

‘Steadfast saints or malleable models? : Seventeenth-century Irish hagiography revisited’, The Catholic Historical Review, 91:2 (April, 2005)

‘A slighted source: rehabilitating Irish bardic religious poetry in historical discourse’,Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 48 (Winter, 2004)

‘Bonaventura Ó hEoghusa’s An Teagasg Críosdaidhe (1611/1614): a reassessment’, Archivium Hibernicum lviii (2004)

‘The persuasive power of a mother’s breast: the most desperate act of the Virgin Mary’s Advocacy’, Studia Hibernica, 32 (2002–2003)

‘The most contentious of terms: towards a new understanding of late medieval “popular religion”’, Irish Theological Quarterly, 68, no.3 (Autumn 2003).

‘Reign of blood: devotion to the wounds of Christ in late medieval Ireland’ in Joost Augusteijn and Mary Ann Lyons (eds.), Irish History: a research yearbook (Dublin, 2002)

Review of P. Fintan Lyons OSB, Martin Luther: His Challenge Then and Now (Dublin: Columba Press, 2017) and Walter Kasper, Martin Luther: an Ecumenical Perspective (New York / Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2016), One in Christ 52:1 (2018), 181-5.

March 2004: ‘“A slighted source”: rehabilitating bardic religious poetry in the 21st century’, Twenty-Sixth Annual University of California Celtic Studies Conference, Los Angeles, California.

May 2004: ‘The bard and the Bible: Scriptural interpretations by professional poets in late medieval Gaelic Ireland’, 39th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

October 2008: ‘Reconstructing Irish origins in Ireland and Europe, c.1600-1650’, Renaissance Visions of Christian Origins Colloquium, Calvin College, Michigan. 

March 2012: ‘Medieval blood piety and the Ó Cobhthaigh school of bardic poets in sixteenth-century Ireland’, Medieval Academy of America, University of St Louis. 

November 2012: ‘“A gentle doe from the best of the herd”: the Virgin Mary as Intercessor in the late medieval Gaelic Irish tradition’, Words and Matter: the Virgin Mary in late medieval parish life – a Marcus Wallenberg Symposium, University of Umeå. 

November 2005: ‘Peeling piety from the text: glimpses of a late medieval Gaelic Irish devotional world’, European Network on the Instruments of Devotion (ENID) Annual Meeting, Norwegian Institute, Rome.

November 2004: ‘“Walking the Tridentine tightrope”: seventeenth-century Irish Franciscan religious works and the promotion of pietism from Louvain’, Confessionalism and Pietism c.1550-c.1750, Dordrecht, Netherlands.

December 2003: ‘“The professional layman’s theology of creation”: late medieval perspectives on Creatio ex nihilo as evidenced by Gaelic Irish bardic poets’, The Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals II: Creation and the Arts, Centre for the Study of the Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals, University of Copenhagen.

May 2007: ‘A wooden key to open heaven’s door: lessons in practical Catholicism from St Anthony’s College, Louvain’, The Irish in Europe: 400 Years, The Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe, Leuven.  

April 2005: ‘Creativity or continuity? Translating Trent in early modern Ireland’, Renaissance Society of America Conference, Cambridge.

July 2011: ‘“Holding up a lamp to the sun”: Hiberno-Papal Relations and the Construction of Irish Orthodoxy’ in John Lynch’s Cambrensis Eversus (1662)’, Ecclesiastical History Society, 50th Summer Conference, Christ Church, Oxford. 

June 2010: ‘National history, Political history and Sacred history’, Historia Sacra: Visions of Christian Origins in the Renaissance World, Warburg Institute and University of Notre Dame, London Centre.


April 2016: '“There now follow some examples worth remembering": Preachers' tales and what they tell us about popular religion in late medieval Ireland', Guest Lecture, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane.

April 2016: '“Críost Liom”: Treasures of the Irish Christian Tradition', Guest Lecture, Australian Catholic University, Sydney. 

‘Death in an Irish Village’, The Furrow (November, 2016)

‘Sparks through the Stubble: Re-imagining Ireland’s “Golden Age” of Christianity’, The Furrow (January, 2014).

‘News and Good News: Christ in the marketplace’, in Joseph Putti (ed.), Time for change: connecting the Good News with contemporary living. Dublin: Veritas Publications, 2006.

‘Penitent’s Progress’, The Tablet, 11 June, 2005

‘Resilient Religion: Popular Piety today’, The Furrow (March, 2005)

‘The Quest for tangible religion: a view from the pews’, The Furrow (July/August, 2004)

'An Apologia for the Popular Prayer Book', Intercom (April, 2018)

‘Trent’s Unlikely Reformer’, Reality (October, 2017)

‘The Fifth Lateran Council: a Missed Opportunity?’, Reality (April, 2017)

‘Searching for the Real Irish Apostle’, The Catholic Weekly (Sydney, Australia), 12 March 2017.

‘Jesus’ touch for both body and soul’, Irish Catholic (26 August, 2004)

‘Putting Flesh on Faith’, Irish Catholic (23 December, 2004)

‘An Open Letter to Preachers’, Intercom (September, 2006)

‘To thank or not to thank?’ (on the question of thanking congregations for attending church), Intercom (March, 2007)

‘St Patrick: Man behind the Myth’, Irish Catholic (17 March, 2011)

‘Popularity test: why do Solemn Novenas continue to appeal?’, Reality (December, 2011)

‘Riots, Rations, Death – all in a good conclave’, Irish Independent (11 March 2013)

“Man of Poverty” Francis is sending a clear message’, Irish
 (19 March 2013)

‘Lough Derg – the three-day spiritual de-tox for your soul’, Irish Independent (4 June 2013)

‘The Sacred Heart devotion and its medieval roots’, Intercom (June, 2012)

‘St Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681) and Church Reform’, Intercom (November, 2012)

‘The Christmas Story in the Christian Tradition’, Reality (December, 2013)

‘As numbers dwindle, the drama of Holy Week brings Christians together’, Irish Independent (19 April 2014)

‘New papal saints widened the saintly pool’, National Catholic Reporter (April 25-May 8, 2014, print issue; online issue April 26, 2014)

‘Peter and Andrew to embrace in Jerusalem’, Irish Catholic (22 May 2014) – on the meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

‘How doctrine denied dead infants a decent burial’, Irish Independent (14 June 2014)

·         ‘Following in St James’ footsteps’, The Evening Echo (25 July 2014)

‘A way paved with wolves. locusts and heretics: a 17th century account of a pilgrimage to Compostela’, The Catholic Herald (25 July 2014)

‘Pope Benedict XV: Man of Peace in the First World War’, Reality (September, 2014)

‘Blessed Paul VI: the pope who steered the Second Vatican Council to its conclusion’, Reality (October, 2014)

‘Irish synods: an historical overview’, Reality (April, 2015)

‘Journey “the Way” through the eyes of a 17th century priest’, National Catholic Register (25 July 2015)

‘Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy: a historical perspective on the Holy Year’, Reality (October, 2015)

‘Remembering the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215′, Reality (November, 2015)

‘Crisis of faith … the Church has been here before’, Irish Independent (29 November 2015)

‘Musings’ (a monthly resource for Parish Newsletters), Intercom (November 2013 to March 2016)  

‘From Martyrs to Women: the Changing Face of Sainthood’, Irish Independent (10 September 2016)

‘Martin Luther: 500th Anniversary: Medicine for the Church?’, Intercom (October, 2016)

‘Commemorating Five Hundred Years of the Reformation’, Reality (October, 2016)

‘Invitation offered on Ash Wednesday not just verbal, it is tangible’, Irish Times (1 March 2017)

‘Remembering the Historical Patrick’, National Catholic Register (17 March 2017)

‘The Irish tradition of Vernacular Theology’, The Irish Catholic (16 March 2017)

‘There’s something about Mary: Our Lady as Problem-Solver’, Intercom (June, 2017)

‘Death and the Irish: a Personal Reflection’, Intercom (November, 2017)


Salvador Ryan is a native of Moneygall, County Offaly. He studied Nua-Ghaeilge and History at NUI Maynooth and Theology at St Patrick’s College Maynooth and St Patrick’s College, Thurles. He completed his doctoral dissertation on ‘Popular religion in Gaelic Ireland, 1445-1645’ at the Department of History, NUI Maynooth, in 2003, and was based in the department as an IRCHSS Postdoctoral Fellow from 2003-05. From 2005-08 he taught Church History at St Patrick’s College, Thurles, and was employed as Academic Coordinator from 2006-08 before returning to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth as Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 2008.

He is Treasurer of the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland, and of its annual scholarly journal, Archivium Hibernicum. In 2013 he was elected to the Ecclesiastical History Society as an Executive Committee Member for a three-year term. In 2014 he was appointed to the Editorial Advisory Board of British Catholic History (Cambridge University Press), the journal formerly known as Recusant History. In June 2015 he was appointed joint Review Editor of Irish Theological Quarterly. He also serves as a member of the International Advisory Board of The Journal of Baroque Studies. In 2020 he was appointed to the International Advisory Board of Maria: a Journal of Marian Studies.

In 2017 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the American Society for Irish Medieval Studies and became Theology representative for its peer-reviewed journal, Eolas, for a two-year term. Since 2004 he has been a member of the European Network on the Instruments of Devotion (ENID), which is based at the University of Bergen, Norway, and is currently joint editor of its academic volumes which feature scholarly contributions from across Europe on aspects of the materiality of devotional culture.

He has published widely in the area of late medieval and early modern popular religion. Recent publications include: (with James E. Kelly and Henning Laugerud), Northern European Reformations: Transnational Perspectives (London: Palgrave, 2020), (with John-Paul Sheridan), We Remember Maynooth: A College Across Four Centuries (Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2020), Domestic Devotions in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Basel: MDPI, 2020), Marriage and the Irish: a Miscellany (Dublin: Wordwell Press, 2019), (with Liam M. Tracey, OSM), The Cultural Reception of the Bible: Explorations in Theology, Literature and the Arts (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2018), (with Henning Laugerud), The Materiality of Devotion in Late Medieval Northern Europe: Images, Objects and Practices (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016), (with Clodagh Tait), Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, 1500-1750 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016), Death and the Irish: a Miscellany (Dublin: Wordwell Books, 2016), and (with Declan Marmion and Gesa E. Thiessen), Remembering the Reformation: Martin Luther and Catholic Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017).

He is currently guest-editing a special issue of the international peer-reviewed, open-access journal Religions which has as its theme Material Religion, Popular Belief and Catholic Devotional Practice in the Age of Vatican II, c. 1948-c.1998. For further information see:

Forthcoming publications include: (with Laura Katrine Skinnebach and Samantha L. Smith), Material Cultures of Devotion in the Age of the Reformations (Leuven: Peeters), (with Jeremy Corley and Neil-Xavier O'Donoghue), Maynooth College Reflects on Covid-19: New Realities in a Time of Uncertainty (Dublin: Messenger Press), and Birth and the Irish: a Miscellany (Dublin: Wordwell Press).

Memberships of Associations:

  • Secretary, Irish Theological Quarterly.
  • Joint Review Editor, Irish Theological Quarterly.
  • Treasurer, Catholic Historical Society of Ireland and of its journal, Archivium Hibernicum
  • Member of the European Network on the Instruments of Devotion (ENID).
  • Elected Committee Member, Ecclesiastical History Society (2013-16).
  • Member of International Advisory Board, The Journal of Baroque Studies.
  • Member of Editorial Advisory Board, British Catholic History (Cambridge University Press)
  • Member of Executive Committee, American Society for Irish Medieval Studies.

Links and other interests:

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