Eric Haywood (University College Dublin), “St Patrick to the Rescue! A (Virtual) Journey from Constantinople to Ireland in the 15th Century”
Introduced by her Excellency Ambassador of Ireland to Greece, Iseult Fitzgerald
In the middle ages ST PATRICK’S PURGATORY — better known today, thanks to Seamus Heaney, as STATION ISLAND — was one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in Europe. Those who went there, and survived the experience, were reputed to be granted visions of the otherworld and to earn a safe-conduct to Paradise in the afterlife. But according to a famous 15th-century Florentine writer, Andrea da Barberino, author of the picaresque novel Poor Little Guerrino [Guerrino il meschino], it also served as a missing persons bureau! Guerrino thought he was a Greek from Constantinople but then discovered he was an Italian from Apulia. He thought he was a free man, but then discovered he was slave, bought at the slave market of Thessaloniki. He thought he knew his parents, but then discovered they’d been missing for 20 years. So he set out to find them, on a 10-year journey across the world, in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, until (almost) all was finally revealed to him at St Patrick’s Purgatory, whereupon he was able to save the Church and Christendom (from the “Turks”).
ERIC HAYWOOD is Associate Professor of Italian Studies (emeritus) at University College Dublin, specializing in Italian Renaissance literature. He is the author of Fabulous Ireland, Ibernia Fabulosa. Imagining Ireland in Renaissance Italy (Oxford, Peter Lang, 2014). His illustrated lecture will set Poor Little Guerrino in its historical and cultural context, and tell you things about Ireland and St Patrick you never knew and wouldn’t believe!
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