Religion, landscape and settlement in Ireland
From Patrick to present
“[Kevin Whelan] brings his wide reading and erudition to bear in this volume, which traces Ireland’s religious history and landscape from the days of the ancient Celtic Church to the present. The work is a remarkable achievement—the more so given its relative brevity … [It is] a book that gives a dazzling array of information in a relatively brief space. The work will be of great value to students and the general reader alike. It is to be highly commended.” Oliver Rafferty SJ, English Historical Review, CXXXV. 573 (April 2020).
“Kevin Whelan’s new book is a timely look back at, and a learned rumination on, how profoundly over the past millennium and a half religious beliefs and their observance shaped the Irish people, their landscape and the character of their settlement within that landscape. But it is also, to its credit, a book which recognises that this is a time of transformation, not termination, as in-migration replenishes religions in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the island’s Muslim community enlarges. Whelan’s strength is as a historian of multiple bodies of evidence pertaining to post-Reformation Ireland, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This book reflects that … There is no better guide than this book to the intricacies of Protestant and Catholic Ireland, of Reformation and Counter-Reformation Ireland, of the worlds of children’s burial grounds, the soundscape of keening, the Huguenots, the Moravians, the Quakers, and so on … The scholarship on display in this book is impressive by any measure. Whelan’s range is at times simply jaw-dropping. His writing is elegant. The illustrations are apposite, and the maps are clear and informative. This is a book to be read and re-read and admired.” Tadhg O’Keeffe. Landscapes (Vol. 19:2. July 2020).
'The sheer audacity of this undertaking by Kevin Whelan is nothing short of breathtaking. Covering the period from 432 up to 2018, and dealing with a topic as contentious as religion has always been in Ireland, was ambitious in itself. But then adopting a 32-county approach must have added considerably to the workload, given the stark sectarian problems which have characterised the Six Counties of the northern province since the time of the plantations.
This is clearly the book that Whelan felt he had to write, the one which marries his considerable skills as a historian and social commentator, while also providing an outlet for his passionate interest in the religious landscape of Ireland [...] Whelan’s scholarly study points out the innumerable links between religion and Ireland’s cultural heritage, links that can be seen in literature, folklore and the built environment', Eamon Maher, Irish Times (January 2019).
'Kevin Whelan is a unique figure in the Irish literary ecosystem: historical geographer, social historian, critic and public intellectual [...] The striking covers, an ethereal seaward view across three beehives huts on Skellig Michael, sets the scene for a fast-moving, bracing and at times controversial analysis of how religious practice and religious identity have evolved over the long run, using the evidence of landscape and maps, archaeology and material culture [...] superb but quite diverse interpretative maps populate this text [...] As in much of Whelan's writing, the advocacy is powerful and he takes no promises', David Dickson, History Ireland (Mar.–Apr. 2019).
'In this ambitious, challenging and fascinating volume, ... Kevin Whelan .. presents a wide-ranging exploration of Ireland's religious landscape over the past 1,600 years ... in Religion, Landscape and Settlement in Ireland Kevin Whelan has produced something exceptional: a fast-paced, timely and absorbing read that will appeal to anyone interested in the relationship between Christianity , geography , archaeology, architecture and folklore in Ireland.' Familia (2019).
"This amazing book ... is essentially a look at how we in Ireland got from there to here through the prism of religion. The book is grounded in the landscape and its associated associated settlement ... The book takes areas that are often nebulous and gives them form. The section on death and burial, particularly on the keen and the role of women in the arena of death is stirring ... This is a special book; it is generous, accessible and entertaining. It is replete with a deep scholarship." Linda Doran, JRSAI, vol. 148, (2018).
“This recent publication from Kevin Whelan is to be greatly welcomed … The importance of folklore and ethnology in this ambitious endeavour, while not named up front here, cannot be overemphasised in this context, as these disciplines have much to offer in any multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary investigation of cultural processes. In specific sections of this book Whelan averts to their importance in terms of the Irish cultural landscape, the interconnections between memory and history, and the development of Irish cultural identities over time, space and place. Taking religion as the starting point and with ‘a landscape emphasis’, Whelan explores the layered landscapes of Ireland … In Religion, Landscape and Settlement in Ireland, Kevin Whelan raises important issues for folklorists and ethnologists, as we are challenged to consider the contributions that our disciplines have made, and can make, to the exploration of both the lived experience and the meanings that are ascribed to life and landscape. It is how we seek to make sense of the diverse aspects of an Irish cultural worldview. The interaction of human beings with their places of habitation, their landscapes, and the symbiotic relationship that exists between human beings and their landscapes, has been widely examined through various lens throughout history and throughout academic discourse … Kevin Whelan asserts that the ‘historic Irish landscape cannot be properly understood without due appreciation of how saturated it was in a spiritual sensibility.’ The testimony of Irish folklore and ethnology fully supports this view. Whelan exhorts us to ‘consider this legacy as an intellectual and imaginative resource, one that is constantly fed by scholarship’; and he gives a very appropriate example of this from the writing of Seamus Heaney, inspired by Proinsias Mac Cana’s evocation of a very memorable Clonmacnoise story from early Irish manuscripts.” Anne O’Connor Béaloideas 2019