Bachal Isu: the Symbolism of St. Patrick’s Crosier in Early Medieval Irish Hagiography

  • Grigory Grigoryev European University at St Petersburg


The paper addresses the symbolism of Bachal Isu (“The Staff of Jesus”) - St. Patrick’s crosier which according to Irish early-medieval hagiographical tradition was employed by the saint to curse his enemies and protect allies, found monasteries and destroy pagan shrines. I propose to analyse two aspects of the symbolism of St. Patrick’s staff. The first aspect is the intratextual function of the object in the hagiographical works concerning St. Patrick. I typologically group the staff-related episodes from the lives into six major categories or motifs according to the function of the staff. These six motifs are then compared with the Judeo-Christian texts and images containing symbolically meaningful staffs and rods. The second aspect is the extratextual function of the staff. The reconstruction of the hagiographers’ logic behind the name of the staff (“The Staff of Jesus”) allows us to propose a theory that the concept of Bachal Isu was designed by Irish hagiographers to function as an ideological tool aimed to promote the legitimacy of St. Patrick in Ireland and to the outside Christian world.

Dec 5, 2018