The Island of Saints is a new ground-breaking feature length music film by director Eric Fraad inspired by the medieval/jazz fusion ensemble Anakronos’ highly-acclaimed album, The Red Book of Ossory and its backstory.
The Island of Saints oscillates between three types of scenes; music performance scenes of Anakronos performing music from The Red Book of Ossory, scenes dramatising the infamous witch hunt and trial of Dame Alice Kyteler in 1324 and the burning of her servant Petronilla de Meath and hallucinatory music videos that engage with philosophical themes in the songs from The Red Book of Ossory.
Written, Produced & Directed by Eric Fraad
Music Director – Caitríona O’Leary
Producer – Karina Lundström
Executive Producer, Paula Heil Fisher
Director of Photography – Martin Mai
Costumes Designer – Monica Ennis
Edited by Martin Mai
Art Direction – David McDermott
Hair and Makeup Design – Tee Elliot
Recorded by Alex Borwick
Caitríona O’Leary, Voice
Nick Roth, Soprano Saxophone, Recorders, Percussion
Deirdre O’Leary, Clarinets, Percussion
Greg Felton, Nord Synthesizer, Percussion
Mel Mercier, Percussion
Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory – Raymond Keane
Petronilla de Meath, The Virgin Mary – Megan O’Malley
Dame Alice Kyteler – Caitríona O’Leary
William Outlaw – Ethan Dillon
Artisson – Vitor Bassi
Dominican Friar, Assistant to Artisson – Michael Cooney
Dominican Friar, Assistant to Artisson – Gavan O’Connor Duffy
Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, Begin Together Arts Fund (Bank of Ireland / Business to Arts), Fingal County Council, Heresy Films.
Reviews for THE RED BOOK OF OSSORY & ANAKRONOS
★★★★★ – Michael Dervan, The Irish Times
“A work of singular genius…This brilliant suite of songs practices its own witchcraft, seducing you straightaway with its beauty.” – ArtMuseLondon
“Absolutely extraordinary… One of the Best Albums I’ve Heard This Year. Musically the gang are firing on all cylinders; thematically it’s fascinating; and historically it is horrifying and illuminating in equal measure… Wonderful music, fascinatingly presented” – Bernard Clarke, RTÉ Lyric fm ‘In the Blue of the Night Show’
Backstory to The Island of Saints
Fourteenth century Ireland was a time of invasions, war, lawlessness, famine and plague. In 1317 Richard de Ledrede – an English Franciscan of the Order of Friars Minor – arrived in Kilkenny, appointed by Pope John XXII in Avignon as the new Bishop of Ossory and immediately set about challenging the secular authorities and making a name for himself as a zealous moraliser and “scourge of heresy”.
In 1324 Ledrede declared that his diocese was a hotbed of devil worshippers. The central figure in this affair was Dame Alice Kyteler, a wealthy Kilkenny woman. Ledrede accused Kyteler together with members of her family and friends, of a variety of supernatural crimes. The bishop claimed that she was the leader of a group of heretics and witches who sacrificed to the Devil and performed revolting magical rites. Alice herself was said to have a familiar – a demon with whom she regularly had sexual intercourse. She was also accused of poisoning and murdering her four husbands.
With the help of influential relatives Alice escaped to England and vanished from history. Her servant, Petronilla de Meath, was tried, tortured and burned at the stake.
The Kyteler trial was the first witchcraft trial in European history to treat the accused as members of an organised sect of heretics, and the first to accuse a woman of having acquired the power of sorcery through sexual intercourse with a demon. It is also the first occasion in history that a woman was burnt for heresy charges deriving from witchcraft and occult practices.
The Red Book of Ossory
The Red Book of Ossory is an important 14th century medieval manuscript which was compiled in Kilkenny and is housed there in St Canice’s Cathedral. Pre-eminent among the manuscript’s texts are sixty remarkable Latin verses by Bishop Richard de Ledrede. The bishop instructed that these lyrics be sung by the priests, clerks and choristers of St Canice’s “on the important holidays and at celebrations in order that their throats and mouths, consecrated to God, may not be polluted by songs which are lewd, secular, and associated with revelry, and, since they are trained singers, let them provide themselves with suitable tunes according to what these sets of words require”. Accordingly, Anakronos’ founder Caitríona O’Leary has drawn from various medieval music sources (Chansonnier du Roi, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Codices Chantilly, Modena, Squarcialupi etc.), made speculative reconstructions of many of the bishop’s hymns, and with the members of Anakronos deconstructed those songs with learned disregard for proper chronology.