A Pilgrimage Lost and Found: Cultivation and the Cult of Saint Leo on Inishark, Co. Galway


Pilgrimage traditions on islands along the coast of Connemara in western Ireland provide a valuable context for exploring the relationship between ritual practice, identity, and political economic change from a long-term perspective.

The island of Inishark, Co. Galway, contains a number of ritual remains dating from the 9th-13th centuries, including a church, a holy well, cross-slabs, one or more burial grounds, as well as a number of penitential stone platforms known as leachta. Islanders in the 19th and 20th century incorporated some of these monuments into processional circuits associated with the veneration of St Leo. The origin of St Leo’s cult remains obscure, but new research suggests how islanders adapted a medieval liturgical landscape to confront new ecological and political economic circumstances.

Using excavation data alongside LiDAR survey, antiquarian accounts, census records, ordnance survey maps, and local folklore, this poster traces the development and re-use of the pilgrimage landscape on Inishark in relation to shifting patterns of settlement, subsistence, and political economy. Changing spatial relationships between foci of communal worship and places of everyday household labor suggests how islanders adapted an inherited tradition to negotiate new relationships between themselves, their ecology, and their past.

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Cite this Record

A Pilgrimage Lost and Found: Cultivation and the Cult of Saint Leo on Inishark, Co. Galway. Ryan Lash, Terry O'Hagan, Elise Alonzi, Franc Myles, Anne Wildenhain. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396997)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;