Fri 7th - Thur 13th | July 2023

Illustrated Talks

Gerald of Wales and the Twelfth-century Irish Cithara

Alice Margerum

30 mins

Level: All

Saturday July 8th

17:30 - 18:00 GMT +1

This event will be available to ticket holders to join at the given date and time

  • Times shown are Irish summer time (GMT+1)
  • Zoom login details will be provided 10 mins prior to the event

Event Overview

This presentation raises questions about the Irish musical instruments in Gerald of Wales’ Topographia Hibernica (Topography of Ireland). Gerald’s text offers rare insight into musical practice and the use of instruments in late twelfth-century Ireland. Gerald claims that the Irish delight in only two instruments, the “cithara” and the “tympanum.” Several early manuscripts of this text contain marginal illustrations. At least two of these are believed to have been produced under Gerald's supervision. It is worth noting that, on the pages containing this reference to the “cithara”, the two manuscripts show different stringed instruments. This complicates the interpretation of Gerald’s text. Comparing these manuscripts with contemporaneous images of musical instruments allows us to ask whether Gerald was a reliable reporter and whether modern scholars might have misinterpreted what he meant by “cithara”.

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