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feelings which afterwards found vent at the Refor-
mation had begun to show themselves in Dublin." ^
Two documents preserved in the White Book of
Christ Church Cathedral give a glimpse of the con-
dition of things in the metropolis at this period.
The first is an exemplification of an act made in
1493 in a Parliament held in Dublin before Walter

1 " Tlie Book of Obits of Christ Church," by Rev. I. II. Todd. Irish
Archaeological Society, Dublin, mdcccxliv., p. xxiii.


Fitzsymon, Archbishop of Dublin, Deputy of Jasper,
Duke of Bedford, Lord-Lieutenant. This act relates
to the protection of pilgrims visiting the relics and
other sacred objects in Christ Church, from which a
large revenue was derived by the Prior and com-
munity. The pilgrims were molested by persons who
probably, as in England, objected to such observances.
In the act it is recited that "now of late certain
persons maliciously disposed have let and interrupted
certain pilgrymes which were cummyng in pilgrymage
unto the said blessed Trinite to do their devotion,
contrary to all good natural disposicion, in contempt
of our modire the Church, and to the great hurt and
prejudice of the said prior and convent . . . any
person trowbling such pilgrim is ordered to pay xx
pounds of lawful money to the Prior and his suc-
cessors." ^ Another document of the same purport
is a protection granted to the pilgrims by the mayor
and citizens of Dublin about three years later" than
the former. By this it is ordered at the instance of
the Prior that pilgrims coming on pilgrimage to the
Blessed Trinity, to the holy rode (crucifix), the staft"
of Jesus, or any other image or relic within the said
place, should not be vexed, troubled, or arrested, com-
ing or going during the Pilgrimage.

A little before, in 1495, another act "^ declared that
*' the acts against Lollards and heretics are authorised
by the present Parliament."

It thus appears that Ireland shared to some extent
in the general feeling of the time in religious matters,
at least as far as the inhabitants of the towns and
the English-speaking portion of the population were
concerned. There are also instances as early as the

1 9 Henry VII. From the White Book of Christ Church, fol. 34 l>.

2 12 Henry VII. Ibid., fol. 56 h.

^ 10 Henry VII, cap. 31. King, "Primer," ii. 743.


fourteenth century of charges of heresy brought
against men of Irish race, which shows that the
opinions against which those acts of Parhament were
directed had reached them. One of the O'Tooles/
the tribe who occupied a mountainous district in the
county of Wicklovv, was condemned on several charges
of heresy, and burned to death on Hoggin Green,
near Dublin in 1326, or 1327, and two of the tribe
of Clan Coilen, or the Macnamaras, were convicted of
heresy in 1353, and burnt by order of the Bishop of
Waterford. But the masses, in the lowest condition
as to education and degraded by perpetual civil wars
could not be expected to enter into the questions now
engaging the attention of thinking men throughout

If we distinguish the Papacy as a system of Church
government from the tenets of the Roman Catholic
Church, there is little reason to think that the clergy
were dissatisfied with the latter. Deficient in educa-
tion, and reduced to poverty by the constant warfare,
they seem to have been little superior to those among
whom they ministered. Archbishop Browne, writing
i" I535> gives a description of them, which applies
also to the preceding century: "As for their secular
clergy, they be in a manner as ignorant as the people,
being not able to say mass or pronounce the words,
they not knowing what they themselves say in the
Romish tongue." Charges of immorality were freely
made against them, and appear to have been well
founded." With men such as these the Reform move-
ment had no point of contact ; they were outside the
sphere of its influence. The higher clergy, while
taking apparently no interest in the changes of doc-

1 Mant, vol. i. pp. 30, 31.

" See liardiman's " Ilistory of Galway," and the statute of Elizabeth
quoted in Mant, vol. i. pp. 34, 35.


trine then in progress, had experience of the extor-
tions and abuses of the Papal system, which must
have seriously affected their attachment to it. The
latter part of the fifteenth century supplies us with
an instance of the manner in which so important
a person as the Primate of Ireland was treated by
the Pope and the officials of the Roman Court. In
the year 1474 John Foxals, an English Franciscan
friar, was appointed to the See of Armagh and
consecrated, but being unable to pay the fees, he
obtained a loan from the Florentine merchants who
attended the court of Rome, of eleven hundred golden
florins, which he paid for the apostolic letters, ordering
the delivery of the pallium and for the furtherance of
his promotion. Dying soon after he left this debt undis-
charged, and three years later the legal question arose
as to the person responsible for it, and it was decided
by the Pope that his successor should pay the amount.
In 1477 Edmund Connesburgh was appointed and con-
secrated, and, in accordance with the Pope's decision,
was required to pay half the amount before-mentioned
within eighteen months, and the remainder eighteen
months after. Meanwhile the apostolic letters were
impounded and lodged with the merchants as their
security. He also was found to be unable to pay,
and Octavian, the Pope's nuncio in Ireland, obtained
a rescript from the Pope granting him plenary powers
in jurisdiction both as regards the diocese and pro-
vince, thus practically superseding Connesburgh, who
had been unable to obtain possession of his cathedral
owing to the official documents being in the hands
of the merchants. The Dean and Chapter would not
venture to admit him, nor would they deliver him
his archiepiscopal cross, neither was he authorised
to wear his pallium, the emblem of his rank. Even-


tually he found he had no alternative but to resign
the See in favour of Octavian, covenanting only for
the retention of his archiepiscopal dignity and a
pension of twenty marks a year. In this case there
was the same conflict between the royal and the
Papal authority which was so constantly occurring in
England. The Crown was unable to put its nominee
into actual possession, though giving him the title and
benefit of the temporalities ; the Pope, on the other
hand, was unable to confer the office or the revenues,
though investing his favourite with absolute jurisdic-
tion. Three years after the compromise, Connes-
burgh died an exile in England, and Octavian, who,
notwithstanding the powers conferred on him, was
only a priest, was now consecrated. He had cove-
nanted to defray Connesburgh's debt to the Italian
merchants, but when securely seated on his archi-
episcopal throne he refused, and in the end, by peti-
tioning the Pope and giving a lamentable description
of his See, he succeeded in evading the payment alto-
gether, and the Italian merchants lost their money. ^

Those who suffered like Edmund Connesburgh, and
we may be sure there were man}', had no redress,
for the Pope was not restrained as in England he
was to some extent by public opinion, and the King's
support was of little value. Under such circum-
stances they were not likely to make sacrifices for
the maintenance of the Papal authority, however
attached they may have been to the doctrines of the
Church of Rome, and, as we shall see afterwards, they
were ready enough to take the oath of allegiance.
The great nobles, whether of English or Irish descent,
were not indebted to the Pope for any favour ; on the

^ " Octavianus del Palacio," by Bishop Reeves, Royal Historical and
Arcliseological Society of Irelaml. Fourth seiics, vol. iii.


contrary, whenever they, especiall}' the latter, endea-
voured to cast oiT the yoke of England, they ex-
perienced his determined opposition, and as in the
case of the supporters of Edward Bruce, the terrors of
the Church were always ready to be launched against
them. It was, therefore, natural that they should be
ready to reject the Pope's authority.

Henry VIII. succeeded to the throne in 1509. His
supremacy had been recognised b3' the clergy and autho-
rised by the Parliament of England, and he desired
that it should be admitted also in Ireland in the same
way. It was important that such a proposal should
be made by one of high position and character, and the
See of Dublin being then vacant, he took advantage
of the opportunity to appoint George Browne, an
eminent divine who was favourable to his views.
Browne had been a monk of the Dominican Order,
which so long contended against the doctrine of the
immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. He had
risen to be Provincial of the Order, and was distin-
guished for his piety and goodness. " He was to the
poor merciful and compassionate, pitying the state
and condition of the souls of the people, and while
he was Provincial of the Augustinian Order in Eng-
land, he advised the people to make their application
for aid to Christ alone," and not to the Virgin Mary
and other saints, for which doctrine he was much
taken notice of.-^ The concurrence of the autho-
rities of S. Patrick's and Christ Church having been
obtained to his appointment, the King's mandate was
issued for his consecration, which accordingly took
place in London on March 19, 1535, Archbishop
Cranmer, Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Shaxton,
Bishop of Salisbury, being the officiating prelates.
1 Ware's Bishops, 152, 349.


When he entered on his office as archbishop, he
and some other persons of eminence were com-
missioned by the King to confer with the nobiUty and
gentry, and to procure their support for his eccle-
siastical policy, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
The principal opponent of the King's supremacy was
Archbishop Cromer of Armagh, whose character as
well as position rendered him highly influential.
Henry, he said, had no right to reject the Pope's
authority, for " the Pope's predecessors had given the
kingdom to the King's ancestors." ^

Archbishop Browne advised that a parliament
should be called, and the subject brought before
them in due form. The Lords and Commons of
Ireland were therefore summoned, and Parliament
began to sit in Dublin in May 1536. The Upper
House was composed of the Lords temporal and spiri-
tual, the latter being the bishops and the superiors
of twenty-four religious houses. The House of
Commons was returned by the counties, then twelve
in number, and by the cities and boroughs situated
in them. With Parliament were usually summoned
to the Lower House two proctors from each diocese,
whose position and rights were not clearly defined.
When the subject of the King's supremacy came
before Parliament, it was found that the proctors
were determined to oppose it. Parliament was there-
fore prorogued until the 20th of July, and in the
meantime, the legal authorities having been consulted,
gave their opinion that the proctors were merely
assessors and had no votes, and accordingly an act
was passed to that effect. This matter having been
disposed of, several bills were introduced, one enacting
that " the King, his heirs and successors, should be
1 Ball, p. iS.


supreme head on earth of the Church of Ireland,"
and investing him with power to visit and reform.
Another act took away appeals to Rome in spiritual
causes and referred them to the Crown. A further act
was directed against the authority of the Bishop of
Rome, and imposed an oath of supremacy on all eccle-
siastical and lay officers. These bills encountered
much opposition from the spiritual peers, but were
eventually passed, chiefly owing to the speech of
Archbishop Browne, who, affirming his own conscien-
tious acceptance of the principle of the supremacy,
declared that he who should oppose it was no true
subject of the King. He also argued that the Popes
had always acknowledged sovereigns to be supreme
over their dominions, quoting as an instance the case
of Pope Eleutherius and the British king, Lucius. It
is something like poetical justice to find this story,
which is known to be a forgery ^ of the fifth centur\',
intended to support Roman claims in Britain, used
on this occasion to overthrow them in Ireland.

The Parliament was essentially English, for no
native Irish layman could sit in it ; and it is highly
probable that those proctors who belonged to dioceses
outside the Pale were in a large number of cases
native clergymen, who would naturally be decided
opponents of anything the King proposed, and that
this was the special ground for desiring their removal
from Parliament. Several other acts were passed in the
same Parliament; that for first-fruits, which ordered that
all persons holding any ecclesiastical preferment should
pay to the king the profits for one year ; that the first-
fruits of abbeys, priories, and hospitals should be vested
in him ; an act for the assurance of pensions to the

^ Haddaii and Stubbs, Councils, vol, i, pp. 25, 26. It is still hnnly
believed in Wales.


abbots of suppressed monasteries ; also one for the
annual payment of the twentieth part of all spiritual
promotions to the King for ever. Lastly, Peter's
pence and all payments to the Bishop of Rome were
prohibited, as well as the procuring of dispensations,
licences, and faculties from him. The Parliament
wound up its proceedings by ordering the suppression
of thirteen religious houses, and. closed its sittings
on December 20, 1537.

Here, it will be observed, there is no mention of
convocation, and the clergy were taxed, not as in
England, by their own Order, but by Parliament.
Ireland did not at this time possess a convocation,
nor was one summoned until the reign of James I.
Soon after the rising of Parliament, the Pope took
active measures to counteract the King's plans, for
in April 1538 a letter was written to O'Neill by the
Bishop of Metz, in the name of the Pope and Cardinals,
urging him to suppress heresy. On this occasion
the familiar device was employed of bringing for-
ward a pretended prophecy of S. Laserian or Molaise,
erroneously said to be Bishop of Cashel, but really
Abbot of Leighlin in the seventh century. He was
affirmed to have said that " the mother Church of
Rome falleth when in Ireland the Catholic faith is
overcome," ^

In further pursuance of his policy it seemed to
Henry desirable that the title of Lord of Ireland
borne by him and his predecessors should now be
exchanged for that of King. The former designation
was connected in the popular mind with the donation
of Pope Adrian, the belief being that the regal estate
of Ireland consisted in the Bishop of Rome, under
whom the kings of England ruled as Lords.'"^ To
^ Mant, i. 140. - State Papers, ii. 4S0.


remove this erroneous impression, an act was passed in
1542, providing that the King, his heirs and successors,
Kings of England, should be always Kings of Ireland.^
While these changes in the laws were going for-
vv^ard, Archbishop Browne was diligent in seeking
the spiritual welfare of the people by preaching ; but
finding, as he says in a letter to Cromwell in April
1 5 38, that " the relics and images of both his cathedrals
took off the common people from the true worship," ^
he besought that an express order might be sent
from government for their removal, and the canons
rebuked for their lukewarmness in the matter. In
consequence, probably, of this remonstrance, several
of those objects of veneration were taken away and
destroyed. Amongst these was the famous Bachall,
or Staff of Jesus, which was publicly burned.^ The
antiquary will regret the loss of this venerable
memorial of the early Church, but in revolutionary
times such feelings meet with slender sympathy.
The "Annals of the Four Masters" thus refer to
these proceedings. " They (the King and council)
burned the celebrated image of Mary which was at
Trim, which used to perform wonders and miracles ;
which used to heal the blind, the deaf, and the lame,
and the sufferers from all diseases ; and the Staff of
Jesus, which was in Dublin performing miracles from
the time of Patrick down to that time, and which
was in the hand of Christ, while He was among
men." ^ Meanwhile a letter from the Council of Ire-
land in 1538 assured the Lord Privy Seal that they
were diligent in setting forth the Word of God,
abolishing the Bishop of Rome's usurped authority

^ Ball, 25. 2 Mant, i.

^ In 1538, according to one authority, "Book of Obits," p. xvi., but
this does not seem quite certain. See p. xviii., note zf.
* Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1537.


and extinguishing idolatry. In tlie same year the
Archbishop, taking advantage of a circuit of assize,
accompanied the judges to the counties of Carlow,
Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary, and in all those
towns preached to large congregations. At Kil-
kenny he preached on New Year's Day, at Wexford
he preached " on the Epiphany Day, having great
audience." At Waterford, again, he preached on
Sunday, having a " very great audience." At his
sermon at Clonmel all the bishops of Munster attended
by his command. An incident of great importance
occurred at Clonmel, two archbishops and eight
bishops, after the archbishop had preached, in open
audience took the oath mentioned in the Acts of Parlia-
ment, both touching the King's succession and primacy
before the King's chancellor, and divers others there
present did the like. It is evident that these men must
have drawn a distinction between the Papal system
and the Roman Catholic religion, just as Bonner and
others had done in England, and entertained no real
objection to renouncing the former. A letter from
Clonmel of January 15, 1539, asks that thanks may
be given to him for his pains and diligence in setting
forth the Word of God on that occasion. An interest-
ing feature in the Archbishop's plans is detailed in
a letter written about a week later, " I intend," he
says, " to travel the country as far as any English is
to be understanded, and whereas I may not be under-
standed, I have provided a suffragan named Doctor
Nangle, Bishop of Clonfert, who is not only well-
learned but also a right honest man, and undoubtedly
will set forth as well the Word of God as our prince's
cause in the Irish tongue to the discharge and trust
of my conscience." ^ This seemed to afford a promise
1 Mant, i. 153,


of a reversal of the policy so long pursued in Ireland
of proscribing the language of the people. It was a
bold policy on the part of the Archbishop, for the
laws were still on the Statute Book forbidding the
use of the language within the Pale ; nevertheless,
he disregarded them, deeming it his duty to con-
sider the spiritual welfare of the people rather than
to comply with the law. But the traditions of
government were too inveterate to be overcome by
his zeal, and we hear no more of his employing an
Irish preacher.

In the course of the Archbishop's tour he published
the King's injunctions as well as his translation of the
Pater Noster, Ave Maria, the Articles of Faith, and
the Ten Commandments in English. There was at
this time little actual change of doctrine either in
England or Ireland, and the form of beads (or prayers)
which he put forth to be addressed by all the clergy to
the people directing them what they should pray for,
dwells chiefly on the King's supremac}', and the duty of
repudiating " the unlawful jurisdiction usurped by the
Bishop of Rome." The conclusion of the document,
however, indicates the change which was approaching.
" Let us," the Archbishop says, " put all our confidence
and trust in our Saviour Jesus Christ, which is gentle
and loving, and requireth nothing of us when we
have offended Him but that we should repent and
forsake our sins, and believe steadfastly that He is
Christ, the Son of the living God, and that He died
for our sins and so forth, as it is contained in the
Creed, and that through Him and by Him, and by
none other, we shall have remission of our sins
according to His promise made to us in many and
divers places of Scripture." ^

^ Mant, i, 146.


The letter of the Bishop of Metz to O'Neill pro-
duced the desired effect, and that chieftain imme-
diately took up arms against the King. Negotiations
had been going on between him, the King of Scot-
land, and the Pope, and in the spring of 1539 a plan
was drawn up for a campaign in Ireland in combina-
tion with projected movements on the Continent. The
Emperor Francis was to invade England, the King of
the Scots was to cross over to Ulster, and to march on
Dublin with the united forces of the North ; the Ger-
aldines were to rise in the Pale ; O'Neill to proclaim
himself king at Tara. One is reminded here of the
complaint of Donald O'Neill and the nobles of Ireland
in the year 13 18, when they trace the bloodshed and
cruelty through which Ireland had then passed to the
Papal interference. The clergy now threw themselves
into the struggle. " The friars and priests of all the
Irishry did preach daily that every man ought, for the
salvation of his soul, to fight and make war against
the King's Majesty and his true subjects ; and if any
of them did die in the struggle, his soul that should
so be dead should go to heaven as the souls of S.
Peter and S. Paul, which suffered death and martyrdom
for God's sake." But the scheme came to nothing,
O'Neill and the Ulster chiefs were the only ones who'
moved, and he, preferring plunder to mart^'rdom for
the faith, drove off the cattle and movables of the
Pale, and retreated towards Ulster. He had arrived
at Bellahoe, on the borders of Meath and Monaghan,,
when he was overtaken and defeated with great
slaughter by Lord Leonard Grey with the forces of
the English colony. This battle broke for years the
power of the Ulster chieftains.^ The victory of the
Royal forces produced a marked effect on the Irish
1 Kichey, pp. 311, 312.


and Anglo-Irish lords. O'Neill's true feeling on the
subject of the Papal system, as distinguished from the
Roman Catholic religion, was shown when he solemnly
renounced the Pope's authorit}', an example followed
by that of most of the Irish chieftains. Not only the
other Northern chieftains, but those of Connaught,
Meath, and Munster, of both races, executed indentures
of submission, and acknowledged the King's supremacy.
The great Earl of Desmond, whose privilege it was
never to enter a walled town, now waived his riglit,
and made his submission. The renunciation of the
Pope's supremacy was made a necessary article in
those submissions. None of the chieftains seem to
have had any hesitation on the subject. The instru-
ments remaining are so numerous as to forbid our
considering the arrangement less than universal.^ In
O'Neill's case the words are : " I entirely renounce
obedience to the Roman Pontiff and his usurped
authority, and recognise the King to be supreme head
of the Church of England and Ireland under Christ,
and I will compel all living under my rule to do the

In the year 1540 there is a list of twent3^-seven
indentures of submission, and in 1542 another list, in
which we find O'Donnell, O'Neill, M'Mahon, O'Con-
nor, O'Brien, O'Moore, Maguire, M'Donnell, O'Byrne,
O'Rourke, the De Barries, &c." It is worthy of
notice that before January 1 541, the date of the earliest
of these submissions, they must have had full notice
that the Pope denounced submission to the King, and
called upon all true Catholics to support the Holy
See.^ But the antagonism between patriotism and
rehgion, which had characterised the whole period
between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation,
1 Richey, p. 363. - Ibid., p. 333. ^ Ibid., p. 364.


had rendered the gentry, whether of native or English
origin, lukewarm in their attachment to the Papal
system, and even to religion. The Papacy imposed
on them by the Synod of Cashel, in which they were
not represented, was associated in their minds with
the invaders, whose cruelty and treachery the Annals
of the period sufficiently prove. Hence the acceptance
of the King's supremacy met with little objection on

Online LibraryThomas OldenThe Church of Ireland → online text (page 23 of 34)