old illustration of the four men who look like monks in a paddle boat.

Ireland and the Birth of Europe

This richly illustrated exhibition tells the story of the part played by Irish scholars and missionaries in the early history of the European idea.

Ireland joined the European Economic Community, the forerunner of the European Union, in 1973, but Irish participation in the development of European identities dates back more than a thousand years.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Europeans built on its foundations to develop their own culture and identity.

The Irish played an important role in this great enterprise.

St Columbanus was the first of the Irish missionaries and scholars to make a home on the Continent and in around the year 600, became the first to write ‘of all of Europe’ (totius Europae). He and his followers contributed to the shaping of a European heritage that endures today.

Researched, written and curated by Dr Damian Bracken, University College Cork, and Dr Angela Byrne for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Graphic design by Studio Suss.

The exhibition will be launched in University College Cork on 28 April by the Tánaiste Micheál Martin TD. It will tour venues across Ireland and internationally. This list will be updated as new venues are confirmed.


  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Germany, country-wide
  • Zagreb, Croatia
  • Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Chicago, USA


  • The Hub, University College Cork, 28 April - 12 May
  • The Source, Thurles, 2 - 30 August
  • Hunt Museum, Limerick, 28 July - 8 September
  • Royal Irish Academy, 4 September - 23 October
  • Donegal Central Library, Letterkenny, 1 - 30 November
three panels from the exhibition, first has title Ireland and birth of Europe, second old illustrating of man working on manuscript and third is text about the ends of the earth
Three panels from the exhibition

Pictured at top of page: Depiction of Columbanus and his disciple Gall crossing Lake Constance from a fifteenth-century manuscript. St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 602, p. 33 – Vitae of German saints