Thursday, June 07, 2012

Research examines the ‘abortionist saints’ of medieval Ireland

A recent article on sexuality and childbirth in early medieval Ireland reveals some surprising attitudes towards abortion held among the Christians during this period, and that hagiographical texts recount four Irish saints performing abortions.

 'Of Vanishing Fetuses and Maidens Made-Again: Abortion, Restored Virginity, and Similar Scenarios in Medieval Irish Hagiography and Penitentials', by Maeve Callan, appears in the latest issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality. Callan examines a wide range of hagiographical works and other sources from medieval Ireland. She writes, “these accounts celebrate saints who perform abortions, restore female fornicators to a virginal state, contemplate infanticide, and result from incest and other ‘illegitimate’ sexual unions. Moreover, the texts themselves generally reflect a remarkably permissive attitude toward these traditionally taboo acts, an attitude also found in Irish penitentials and law codes.”

Click here to read this article from