Liturgy of Nation-Formation: Patrick Pearse and the Theological Background of the Easter Rising of 1916


  • Maciej Ruczaj

    1. Centre for Irish Studies, Charles University Prague
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Maciej Ruczaj is a Ph.D. student at the Centre for Irish Studies at the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures, Charles University Prague. He is also a graduate from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University. He has published several articles on Irish nationalism with a special attention to its relation with Catholicism. He has also edited four anthologies of contemporary Polish conservative and nationalist thought.

  • An earlier version of this article appeared under the title ‘Two Plays by Padraic Pearse’ in The Politics of Irish Writing, edited by Kateřina Jenčová, Michaela Marková, Radvan Markus, and Hana Pavelková (Prague: Centre for Irish Studies, Charles University, 2010). This article was written thanks to the support of the Grant Agency of Charles University in Prague.


The Dublin 1916 Easter Rising is most often analysed in terms of the ‘blood sacrifice’ concept and its ‘theatrical’ aspect with both rhetorical devices being ascribed to Patrick (Padraic) Pearse – poet, dramatist, and a crucial figure in the development of the discourse of Irish nationalism. This article proposes a reading of Pearse's literary and political texts centred on the relation between the religious and the political. Starting with the delineation of the complex ‘translation of the sacred’ from the religious to the secular context, the article then examines the two above-mentioned key dimensions of the Rising, its sacrificial and ‘theatrical’ aspects, demonstrating their theological affinities. The two are interconnected through the thomistic theory of the liturgical sign, suggesting that the Easter Rising, as a crucial event in the construction of Irish nationhood, was devised and carried out per analogiam to the liturgical symbolism of the Catholic Mass.