Thomas Olden.

The Church of Ireland online

. (page 19 of 34)
Online LibraryThomas OldenThe Church of Ireland → online text (page 19 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

another stage in the march of events, when the Anglo-
Norman conquest, as it is termed, took place. The
energetic and powerful race, already masters of a great
part of France, and recently conquerors of England, were
not likely to stay their advance when Ireland, with its
weak and unsettled government, lay so temptingly near.
The usurpation of the monarchy by Brian had
broken through the old constitutional rule under which
the King of Ireland was elected from the descendants
of Niall of the nine hostages, a rule which had lasted
for five centuries. Thenceforth it was open to any
provincial king to aspire to supreme power, and the
country was convulsed by the incessant struggles for
supremacy between the O'Neills, O'Connors, O'Briens,
and the Leinster kings. No one, however, succeeded
in attaining complete authority, or, as it was expressed
in native fashion, no one became king " without op-
position." * There was a like confusion in the Church,

^ Cen fresahhra. Diarmaid Mac Mael-na-m-bo may possibly be an
exception (" Book of Rights," Preface, p. xiv.). The rule was, if the
candidate had the command of the North of Ireland, Leih Cnbin, and
one province of the South, he might become king "without opposition."
Lilt if lie belonged to Leth Mogha, the South, he must have not only the



for the old system was not superseded, while the new
had been merely introduced. The Synod of Rath-
breasil might pass enactments giving over the Church
lands to the bishops for their maintenance free from
tributes, chief rents, and other public contributions.^
But this was merely a clerical synod, and it had no
power to bind the chieftains and compel them to forego
their rights : or the legate might order the payment of
tithes by his apostolical authority, but there was no
executive power to enforce them. The resistance of
the chieftains to such interference with their rights ^
thus added another element of confusion and weakness.
But the Anglo-Norman invasion put an end to the
struggles for the monarchy, and gave the final blow
to the independence of the Irish Church. The im-
mediate cause, or rather pretext, was the application of
Dermod MacMurrough, King of Leinster, to Henry
II. for assistance against his enemies. This prince
was noted for his cruelty and baseness, even in that
age. Of giant stature and bulk, fierce of aspect, his
voice hoarse from shouting his war-cry in battle, his
hand was against every one, and every one's hand
against him.^ He had been trained in cruelty by his
father, who caused seventeen of his subordinate chief-
tains to be put to death or deprived of their sight.
One of Dermod's many crimes was the carrying off of
Dervorgill, wife of Ternan O'Ruark, Prince of Brefne,
in the county of Cavan ; but as this occurred sixteen
years before the invasion, it could not have been the
cause of his expulsion and flight to England, as some-
times supposed, though an important item in the long

whole of it, but also Meath and the province of Ulster or Connaught, if
not both. Otherwise he would be only king co fresabhra^ " with oppo-

' Reeves' " Antiq. Down," &c., p. 162. Keating.

2 Giraldus Cambrensis. ^ Ibid,


indictment against him. Evil as was his life, he was
the founder of many rehgious houses. In 1146 he
estabhshed the convent of S. Mary de Hogges/ near
the site of the present Church of S. Andrew's in Dub-
lin, for nuns of the Augustinian Order, according to
the Aroasian rule. In this he had the co-operation
of Gregory, Archbishop of Dublin, and Malachy, the
Primate. Five years after, he subjected to it two
other foundations, one at Kilclehin, in the county of
Kilkenny, and the other at Ahade, in the county of
Carlow. In the same year, 1151, he founded the
Abbey of Baltinglas for Cistercian monks, and in
1 160 or 1 161 another for Augustinian canons at Ferns,
his own residence. His last foundation was the Priory
of All Saints, at Hoggin Green, the site and revenues
of which were afterwards made over to Trinity College.
This was established about 1166 for Aroasian canons,
and endowed by him with lands in Fingal. It is
important to observe that Dermod had thus shown
his interest in the party of change by founding insti-
tutions in close connection with the Roman Church.

This man, whose life exhibited a union of vice and
cruelty, with the sort of piety which consists in mak-
ing gifts to the Church, was at length expelled from
his kingdom in 1 167 by the combined forces of Roderick
O'Conor, King of Ireland, and O'Ruark, of Brefne.
A ruined and desperate man, he fled to England to
lay his case before Henry II., but finding the king in
France, he followed him thither, and offered to become
his vassal and place his kingdom under his dominion
if he would aid him to recover it. Henry, having his
own troubles to occupy him, was unable to afford him
any direct assistance, but granted him letters patent
authorising any of his subjects, English, Norman,
^ Hogges may be a corruption of the Irish 0^, virgin.


Welsh, or Scots, to help him in the attainment of his
object. Armed with this document Dermod returned
to England, and succeeded in engaging Richard de
Clare, Earl of Strigul, near Chepstow, better known
as Strongbow, and subsequently Robert Fitzstephen
and Maurice Fitzgerald, valiant Norman knights, to
whom the prospect of carving out a kingdom for them-
selves was highly attractive. His engagement with
Richard de Clare was that in the following spring
he should come to Dermod's assistance, receiving as
remuneration the right of succession to the kingdom
of Leinster, and the hand of his daughter Eva. Mean-
while Dermod returned to Ireland, and making his
way secretly ^ to the monastery he had founded at
Ferns, he lay concealed there during the winter, the
monks letting no hint escape of his presence.

About May i, 1170, Fitzstephen landed at Wex-
ford, and the following day Maurice de Prendergast,
and, accompanied by Dermod at the head of six hun-
dred men, advanced against the town. Unsuccessful
in his first attack, Fitzstephen burnt his ships, and
next day ordering divine service to be performed in
the camp with all solemnity, he led them again to the
assault. The inhabitants, awed by the resolution of
the allies, and influenced by the urgent advice of the
bishops, consented to treat with the besiegers, and a
deputation with two bishops at its head came forth,
and terms were arranged. The city was surrendered
and immediately granted to Fitzstephen and Fitz-
gerald, as promised. The Danes of Wexford, like those
of the other maritime cities, seem to have been in
communion with the Church of England, and this
could not have been without influence on the action
of the bishops in advising the inhabitants to open their
^ " Like a ghost," as an Irish poem expresses it.


gates to invaders belonging to the same Church. In
the following year Maurice Fitzgerald and Raymond
le Gros arrived, and afterwards Earl Richard himself.
Thus was begun the Anglo-Norman invasion, and it
soon became evident that those formidable warriors
were a real danger to the independence of Ireland.
The general alarm found expression in the resolution
of a synod of the clergy assembled at Armagh, which
met to consider to what cause this judgment was to
be attributed. The conclusion unanimously arrived at
was that the trade carried on in English slaves had
drawn down on Ireland this divine judgment, and it
was publicly ordered that all should be set free. The
Irish were unable to see that it was their political
and religious disorganisation and general lawlessness
that rendered the adventurers so formidable, and the
grave conclusion at which they arrived showed a
strange blindness to the course of events.

Henry, having seen reason to believe that the
Anglo-Norman knights meant to establish indepen-
dent principalities for themselves, determined to go
over to Ireland in person. In pursuance of this
intention he assembled an army of five hundred
knights and four thousand men-at-arms, and set sail
for Ireland, landing at Waterford on October 18, 1171.
His professed design was not to conquer but to take
possession of a country granted to him by the Pope.
The chieftains whose territories adjoined Waterford,
and afterwards all the others, with the exception of
the kings of the northern part of Ulster, who held
aloof, made their submission, agreeing to hold their
territories from him and to do him homage. By
these agreements an endless source of confusion was
introduced, for they were feudal tenures of a character
entirely unknown to Irish law. Those who made


their submission could only do so for themselves, and
had no power to deal with the territories belonging
to the clan. Thus while such instruments had one
meaning for the Anglo-Norman authorities they had
quite a different one for the chiefs, and hence they
became subsequently a fertile source of misunder-
standing and social trouble. The submission of the
kings has been attributed to fear, inspired by the
large army which accompanied Henry ; but this could
not have influenced those who were remote from the
scene, nor were the Irish so spiritless as to offer no
opposition whatever to his march if they regarded
him as an enem3\ If they were not in sufficient
force to meet his army in the field, they could have
harassed and impeded his march through the woods
and defiles, and caused him serious losses. But it
is clear he was received as a friend, as Alexander III.
declares in his letter to the kings and princes of
Ireland.^ The way being thus prepared for him, he
made a royal progress with his army and a splendid
court from Waterford to Dublin, receiving on his
way the submission of kings and chieftains. Arrived
in Dublin he entertained the Irish chiefs with lavish
hospitality in a temporary building erected in native
fashion of wattled work, plastered over, and fitted
up with all the elegance possible at the time. The
display of wealth and magnificence made by the king
on this occasion excited the astonishment and admira-
tion of the Irish princes.

Such was the conquest of Ireland. No blood was
shed, no blow was struck. The king was received as
a friend come to compose their feuds, to revive religion,
and to bring in a new golden age of prosperity ; for
the ostensible ground of his coming was the Bull of
^ See p. 249.


Adrian IV., granting the country to him, and author-
ising him to take possession of it. This document
had been obtained as long before as 1155, according
to Roger de Wendover, through the agency of Henry's
chaplain, John of Salisbury. No opportunity of mak-
ing use of it occurred until now. Hence it appears
that King Dermod's appeal was merely the pretext for
his interference. As this Bull had an immense and
deeply injurious influence on the subsequent history
of the Church and country, it is given here at length :

" Adrian the bishop, the servant of the servants of God, to
his most dearly beloved son in Christ, the illustrious King
of England, sendeth greeting with the apostolic benediction.
Your Majesty laudably and profitably considers how you may
best promote your glory on earth, and lay up for yourself an
eternal reward in heaven, when, as becomes a Catholic prince
you labour to extend the borders of the Church, to teach the
truths of the Christian faith to a rude and unlettered people, and
to root out the weeds of wickedness from the field of the Lord.
For this purpose you crave the advice and assistance of the
Apostolic See, and in so doing we are persuaded that the
higher are your aims and the more discreet your proceedings,
the greater under God will be your success. For those who
begin with zeal for the faith and love for religion may always
have the best hopes of bringing their undertakings to a pros-
perous end. It is beyond all doubt, as your highness acknow-
ledgeth, that Ireland and all the other islands on which the
light of the Gospel of Christ has dawned, and which have
received the knowledge of the Christian faith, do of right
belong and appertain to S. Peter and the Holy Roman Church.
Wherefore we are the more desirous to sow in them the accept-
able seed of God's word, because we know that it will be
strictly required of us hereafter. You have signified to us, our
well-beloved son in Christ, that you propose to enter the island
of Ireland in order to reduce the people to obedience unto
laws, and to root out from among them the weeds of sin ;
and that you are willing to yield and pay yearly from every
house the pension of one penny to S. Peter, and to keep and
preserve the rights of the churches in that land whole and in-
violate. We therefore regarding your pious and laudable


design with due favour, and graciously assenting to your peti-
tion, do hereby declare our will and pleasure that for the pur-
pose of enlarging the borders of the Church, setting bounds to
the progress of wickedness, reforming evil manners, planting
virtue, and increasing the Christian religion, you do enter
that island, and execute therein whatsoever shall be for God's
honour and the welfare of the same. And further, we do
also strictly charge and require that the people of that land
shall accept you with all honour, and reverence you as their
lord, saving only the rights of the churches, which we will have
inviolably preserved, and reserving to S. Peter and the Holy
Roman Church the yearly pension of one penny from each
house. If, therefore, you bring your purpose to good effect, let
it be your study to improve the habits of that people, and take
such orders by yourself or by others whom you shall think
fitting for their lives, manners, and conversation, that the
Church there may be adorned by them, the Christian faith
planted and increased, and all that concerns the honour of God
and the salvation of souls be ordered by you in like manner, so
that you may receive at God's hands the blessed reward of ever-
lasting life, and may obtain on earth a glorious name in ages
to come."-'

This Bull was confirmed by Adrian's successor,
Alexander III., in a brief which has been published
by Archbishop Ussher.^ From this and other docu-
ments it appears that the Pope had received a very
bad account of the Irish and their "horrible sins
and unclean and evil life." Giraldus Cambrensis,
however, does not confirm this, though no friend to
Ireland. All he* says to their disadvantage is that they
were ignorant as to the faith, did not pay tithes nor
observe the Roman table of affinity in their marriages.
He also vindicates the character of the clergy, prais-
ing them for their piety and continence, and the
regularity of their performance of the services of the
psalms, hours, lessons, and prayers, in which and

^ From Richey, "Short History of the Irish People," Dublin, 18S7,
pp. 157-159, with some amendments.
^ Ussher, Woiks, iv. 546.


other clerical duties their whole time was occupied,
though he does not conceal the fact that after the
excessive fasts which continued almost every day
until dusk they indulged rather too much in wine
and other liquors.^

The grant to Henry by Adrian and his successor is
a cause of much concern to some writers, and attempts
have been made to represent the Bull as a forgery.
But it is attested by overwhelming contemporary
evidence, and it was consistently acted on by later
Popes. " Never," says Dr. Lanigan, " did there exist
a more real or authentic document."^ It is not dis-
puted at the present day by any writer of authority,
though Dr. Bellesheim advances a few very weak
arguments against it — one of these being that Pope
Adrian refused to permit the invasion of Spain, ^ but
that, of course, depended on circumstances. The grant
of Ireland and the gold ring "* sent to Henry as a token
of investiture, were quite in accordance with Papal
practice. When William the Conqueror projected
the invasion of England, Hildebrand, then Archdeacon
and afterwards Pope, insisted on helping William,
because whether William was right or wrong, his
scheme at any rate opened a great opportunity for
increasing the power of the Pope in England. Hence
he made Pope Alexander II. approve of the under-
taking, and when William was going to set out the
Pope sent him a hair of S. Peter in a ring and
a consecrated banner.^ The ring was " a token of

^ Giraldus, Bolin, p. 141.

2 Eccl. Hist., iv. 167, note 20. Usslier, iv. 548. Destruction of
Cyprus, Irish ArchEeol. Soc, p. 242. Besides Ussher and Lanigan,
Bossuet, Fleury, and recently DoUinger, hold it to be genuine. So
the Lebar Brecc, p. 102, " Peter's successor sold the tribute and due of
Ireland to the Saxons." ^ Geschichte, p. 373.

* Giraldus, Conquest of Ireland, Book ii. chap. 6.

® Old English History, E. A. Freeman, U.C.L., 3rd ed., pp. 301-2.


the divine and papal investiture of the land to be
conquered," and one of the objects in view was " to
effect the restoration of S. Peter's penny. -^ But the
grants now referred to are trivial compared to that
of Martin V., who conceded to the crown of Portugal
all the lands it might discover from Cape Bogador
to the Indies, and the Catholic sovereigns (Ferdinand
and Isabella), in a treaty concluded in 1479 with
the Portuguese monarch, engaged themselves to re-
spect the territorial rights thus acquired. Another
Bull was issued May 2, 1495, ceding the same rights
to the Spanish sovereigns, under the like conditions
of planting and propagating the Catholic faith. ^

Hence it appears that the transaction with regard
to Ireland was but a minor exercise of Papal autho-
rity. Honorius III., in his epistle to the Legate, a.d.
1221, accepts it as a fact. He recites how "it was
stated before him that a certain custom existed in Ire-
land from the time at which the English entering Ire-
land by the mandate of the apostolic See subjugated
it to the obedience of the Roman Church." ^ He treats
the grant as a matter of course, which in fact it was.

In pursuance of his engagement to promote religion,
Henry summoned a council, which met at Cashel,
A.D. 1 172. It was presided over by the Papal legate,
Christian, Bishop of Lismore, and attended by three
archbishops, Donatus of Cashel, Laurence of Dublin,
and Cadhla or Catholicus of Tuam, their suffra-
gans, fellow-bishops, and other ecclesiastics, and two
commissioners of the king ; but the primate and the
Northern bishops held aloof. The age and infirmities

^ Lappenberg, "England under the Anglo-Saxon Kings," translated
by Thorpe. London, 1845, vol. ii. p. 238.

2 " Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus," by Washington
Irving, vol. i. pp. 278-281.

3 'iiieiner, " Vetera Monumenta Hib." Letter xlvi.


of Gelasius are given as an excuse for his non-attend-
ance by Giraldus, but erroneously, for he was at the
time carrying out a " complete visitation of the pro-
vince of Connaught." ^ The assertion of the same
author that he afterwards came to Dublin and gave
his assent is entirely unsupported by evidence, and
we may take it that the attitude of the northern clergy
on this occasion was the same as at an earlier period,
when they adhered to their national customs and re-
sisted the Roman innovations. Canons were passed
at the Synod relating to marriage within the prohibited
degrees, which the Irish were in the habit of contract-
ing, and the rules laid down in the Canon law ^ were
introduced. Baptism was ordered to be administered
at the consecrated fonts in the baptisteries of the
churches ; tithes of beasts, corn, and other produce
to be paid ; all the lands and possessions of the Church
to be entirely free from all exactions of secular men ;
no provisions or lodgings should be demanded on
ecclesiastical territories ; in the case of a homicide no
part of the Eric or fine should be exacted from any
ecclesiastic ; every Christian should make a will ; '^
burial to take place with masses, vigils, &c. ; lastly,
divine service was to be henceforth celebrated in every
part of Ireland, according to the forms and usages of
the Church of England. " For it is right and just
that as by divine providence Ireland has received her
lord and king from England, she should also submit
to a reformation from the same source." *

^ Annals of the Four Masters, vol. iii. p. 7 ; /«'« chuairt, i.e., a full

- The canon law was in collision with the native laws, which en-
couraged marriages of those who were near akin. "Ancient Laws,"
iv. ; Introduction, cxvi.

3 This also was opposed to the laws of Ireland, which provided for
the disposal of property.

* Giraldus Cambrensis, " Conquest of Ireland," Book i. chap, xxxiv.


The last of the canons of the Synod swept away at
a stroke all the ancient rituals of the Irish Church,
from the time of S. Patrick onwards, and substituted
one in use in the Church of England. There were
several " uses " or forms of service at that time in
England, but the one intended here is stated in an-
other authority ^ to have been the use, custom, rite
and ceremony called the " Use of Sarum " (Salisbur}^),
which was that most in favour at the time.

Erom this canon we may judge how little success
could have attended Gille's efforts to supersede the old
liturgies. In spite of all his exertions he had been
unable to wean the people from them, and it remained
for this Synod to take the first effectual step in the

Much consideration was shown by the Synod for
the immunities and comforts of the clergy, for Henry's
policy was to attach them to him by every means, and
thus to secure their co-operation. The proceedings
were ratified by the king, and copies were sent to
Rome, with a letter drawn up in the Synod, describing
the enormities of the Irish, and enclosing a copy of
the submission of the bishops. It was on receiving
this that Alexander III. issued the Bull of Confirmation
already referred to, and at the same time he addressed
three letters," one to the king, the others to the clergy
and princes. He congratulates Henry on "triumph-
ing wonderfully and gloriously over a kingdom which
the Roman conquerors of the world did not attempt
to invade, as he heard." He considers Henry without
doubt was "divinely moved to exert his power against
this wild and uncultivated race." He entreats him to

^ Bowling's "Annals edited by Butler," Archceolog. Soc, p. 12.
^ For these letters see Rymer's "FDedera," Clark & Holbrooke,
vol. i. part i. p. 49.


extend the power of the Church, and tells him he
ought " to confer rights on it where it has none." -^ He
is carefully to conserve the rights of S. Peter to the
Pope, and even if he has none there,^ Henry is to
appoint and assign such rights in the same Church.

To the princes he speaks a different language.
They have not been conquered. They have submitted
of their free will, and have sworn allegiance to him.^
To the prelates, again, he speaks of the king as a
conqueror, and tells them how the king, touched by
divine inspiration, collecting his strength, subdued
that wild and ignorant people. They are to help the
king with all their might to hold and keep that land,*
and all who oppose him are to be smitten with ecclesi-
astical censures. " One seeks in vain in Adrian's
Bull for any command to the Irish to submit to the
English rule," Dr. Bellesheim says,^ but Alexander
HI. certainly understood its meaning, and this letter
is his interpretation of it.

Soon after the conclusion of the Synod, Henry
returned to England, having accomplished the pur-
pose of his expedition. He was publicly acknow-
ledged by the Irish princes as their liege lord, and
also by the authorities of the Church. The Bull of
Confirmation was read at a Synod of bishops convened
for the purpose at Waterford, and with it the original
Bull of Adrian, and so the matter was concluded in
due form. The Synod of Cashel differed essentially
from any of those previously held in Ireland. The

^ " Ubi nullum jus habet id debes sibe conferre." Ibid.

* "Si etiam ibi non habet." Ibid.

^ "Vos voluntate libera subdidistis," vol. i. part i. p. 49.

■* " Memorato regi ... ad manutenendam et conservandam terram

Online LibraryThomas OldenThe Church of Ireland → online text (page 19 of 34)