'Universal Martyrdom': Resistance and Religion in 1650s Ireland

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The 1650s was, by most measurements, a disaster for Irish Catholicism. The English Parliament’s conquest of Ireland was followed by widespread dispossession, dislocation and death, with the decade often characterised as one of great religious persecution. The Catholic clergy were especially hardly hit. Yet amidst this suffering, Irish Catholics sought not only to comprehend the devastation around them, but to defend and even strengthen their cause in the face of seeming disaster and the triumph of English Protestantism. To do this, they turned to the supernatural: to miracles wrought by martyrs, to the providential deaths of persecutors, and apparitions from the divine. These stories not only shored up a dispirited and beleaguered faith, but provided opportunities for Irish Catholics to criticise – and even mock – Protectorate policies. Miracles and other occurrences highlight the close connections between Catholic and Protestant vocabularies of violence, resistance and providence, even as these accounts also sought to place the Irish experience into a broader international context, one of persecution and survival, that established undoubtedly their righteousness and the justness of their cause.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMiracles, Political Authority and Violence in Medieval and Early Modern History
EditorsMatthew Rowley, Natasha Hodgson
ISBN (Print)9780367767280
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2021

Publication series

NameThemes in Medieval and Early Modern History


  • Ireland
  • Violence
  • Religion
  • Cromwellian conquest
  • Politics


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