Jul 27, 2011

The Fair

The Irish Band
Photo by Shari Chankhamma
Fairs in the Middle Ages were essential to a population's economy and so it was with the ancient Irish monasteries. Their yearly gatherings countered the pagan fairs, which involved worshipping gods. The monks declared their fairs to be much more appropriate for Christians, but still included feasting, trading and selling, and even sports and games.

The fairs usually occurred on the feast day of the monastery's patron saint. The monks promoted their event, making great claims. One manuscript proclaimed that seven trips to Glendalough's fair was equivalent to a pilgrimage to Rome. Spending freely at the fair would bring blessings. Sound like fun? Fair goers were not permitted to get rowdy, however. Fighting and theft were said to shorten one's life and bring eternal damnation. (See that fellow on the far left of the photo above?) He better not start anything!)

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