An ecclesiastical history of Ireland, from the first introduction of Christianity among the Irish, to the beginning of the thirteenth century , Compiled from the works of the most esteemed authors ... who have written and published on matters connected with the Irish church; and from Irish annals an online

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{No. 44. in Usher's SyllogCy and 357 in Mabillon's ed. Tom. 1.)
" et in terra jam (tam, Mabillon) insueta, immo et inexperta ironas-
ticae religionis."' But St. Bernard is not speaking there of all
Ireland, but of a particular spot, ( Mellifont) where a monastery
was formed by Cistercians sent over by liim, and where there
liad not been already any monks; and therefore he says, that
great vigilance is requisite there, tanquam in loco novo, et in terra,
3fc. Ledwich omitted the words, loco novo, lest the reader might
understand in what sense St. Bernard used terra, by which he
meant not Ireland at large but some particular district.

(32) St, Bernard, iL

§. V, At length after a prosperous passage lie ar-
rived at his monastery of Bangor. With what joy
he was welcomed there and by the people, who
flocked from various parts to see him, it would be
superfluous to relate. This was in the year 1140.
(.S3) By this time Gillebert of Limerick either was
dead, or had resigned his see ; for we find in that
year a new bishop of Limerick, Patrick, who, owing
to the influence of the Danes, was consecrated by

Chap, xxvir. of Ireland. 115

Theobald archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he
made the following profession j " I Patrick, chosen
" to the government of the church of Limerick,
*' and to be consecrated bishop, through the grace
** of God, by thee, Reverend father Theobald,
** archbishop of the holy church of Canterbury, and
^' primate of all Britain, do promise, that I will pay
*' due subjection and canonical obedience in every
'* respect to thee and to all thy successors, who shall
*^ succeed thee canonically/' Concerning him I
ifind nothing further, except that he is said to have
held the see for only a short time, and to have been
succeeded by one Harold a Dane. (3i) In the
same year 1140 Gelasius of Armagh made a visita-
tion throughout Connaught, and was treated with
great respect by the king, Turlogh O' Conor, and
the nobles of the country, who allowed liim full li-
berty to arrange and regulate ecclesiastical matters
as he thought proper. (35) St. Malachy now set
about performing the duties of his legateship ; held,
or procured to be held, synods in various places ; re-
established good old practices, and introduced new
ones ; while every one submitted to his regulations
as if they were dictated by heaven. He went all
over Ireland, travelling on foot vvith his com-
panions, and exercising his ministry, preaching
^c. Whenever it v/as necessary to rest, he used to
stop in monasteries, adapting himself to their prac-
tices and observances, and content with the usual
fare of the respective communities. He had no
house of his own, no servants, no fixed mcnsal in-
come. (36) Some time after his return to Ireland
he sent some persons to Clairvaux, besides the four
whom he had left there, that they also might be in-
structed in the system of that establishment. (57)
On this occasion he wrote to St. Bernard, request-
ing that he would allow two of those four brethren
to return to Ireland, that they might provide a place
for a monastery ; but St. Bernard answered, that he

I 2


thought it adviseable not to separate tlicm so soon,
and to allow tliem time to be better prepared ; and
that in the mean while St. Malachy himself might
look out for and prepare a proper place for that pur-
pose. When, he adds, they shall he duly qualified,
they shall return to their father and sing the canti-
cles of the Lord in their own country. (38)

(33) Annals of InnisfalleR at A. 1140.

(34) See Ware and Harris, Bishops of Limerick. The origi-
nal of Patrick's profession is in Usher's Sylloge, and is the only
one of any bishop of that sec. It is also the last of the professions
of any Irish bishops made to archbishops of Canterbuiy.

(35) Life of Gelassius, cap.'\2,

(36) St. Bernard, Vit. S.^Mal. cap, 12. following the order of
Messingham's edition. What is here said of St. Malachy not liav-
ing had any fixed mensal income, or, as St. Bernard expresses it,
tliat nothing was assigned for the espiscopal mensa, on which the
bishop might live, cannot mean, that there was no property really
belonging to the see of Down, but that St. Malachy, who de-
lighted in poverty, did not choose to exact the mensal portion from
the erenachs or corbes, who had got the church lands into their
possession and management. (See Not. 63. to Chap, xxvi.) In
like manner he refused {ih. §. 9.) to accept of the lands, that had
belonged to the monastery of Bangor, and allowed them to be en-
joyed by a corbe. Even while archbishop of Armagh he possessed
no pioperty peculiar to himself; for St. Bernard states, {ib.) that
from tlic first day of his conversion until his death he lived without
any thing of his own, sine proptio mxit. Now it is certain, that
there was property, and that considerable, annexed to the see of
Armagh ; otherwise how could the usurping family liave been so
eager to keep hold of it, or why should Maui'ice, and then Niell
or.Nigellus, have seized upon it after, the death of Celsus.^ But
whatever share was due to the bishop personally, St. Malachy gave
it up ; yet it cannot be supposed, that the rents or dues necessary
for the expenses of the cathedral, the support of the officiating
clergy, the repairs of churches, «!vc. were not exacted. All that
^t. Malachy could or would do was to resign his own peculiar por-


lion, which he probably ordered to be assigned to the stock in-
tended for the poor.

(37) St. Bernard, ib. Cap, 11.

(38) St. Bernard's letter in reply to St. Malachy is No. 42. in
Usher's Sijlloge, and 341. in Mabillon's edition of St. Bernard's
works. Vol. 1. Usher assigns it to A,D. 1140; but I think it
must have been somewhat later ; for it can hardly be allowed, that
St. Malachy, who did not return to Ireland until that year, after
having but lately left the four brethren at Clairvaux, could have so
soon wished -for the return of two of them. But Usher supposed
that St. Malachy had been at Clairvaux in 1 137, a date in which
it is evident that he was mistaken. Very probably it was written
in 1141.

§. VI. Some Other letters passed between these
holy men on this subject, and St. Bernard, anxious
to gratify his friend's wish, as soon as convenient,
sent over the Irish brethren under Christian one of
themselves as their superior, who was brother to
Malchus a former disciple of St. Malachy at Bangor.

(39) He sent ak)ng with them also some of tlie
monks of Clairvaux, so as to make up a sutHcient
number of members for constituting a monastery.

(40) It was then that the Cistercian house of
Mellifont in the now county of Louth, the first
of that order in Ireland, was founded in 1 Wl, and
endowed by Donogh or Donatus O'Carrol, king
of Ergall or Oriel. (41) Some of the French
brethren returned soon after to Clairvaux, although
St. Bernard would have been better pleased if they
had remained. He mentions with much satisfac-
tion one of them, named Robert, who staid at Mel-
lifont. (42) In the same year 1142 died a worthy
and very learned priest, Cathasach O'Kirchaoracli,
who had been professor of theology at Armagh. (43)
In said year Conor O' Brian, who had been very
powerful during part of his reign, died a^t Ivdlaloe,
whither he had retired to spend his last days ni pil-
grimage, and was succeeded, as king ot Munster,


by his brother Tnrlogh. (44) A great quarrel ex-
isted in these times between Tnrlogh O' Conor,
king of Connaught, and Murrogh O'Melaghlin..
king of Meath, to put an end to which Gelasius of
Armagh and some other prelates were fixed upon as
arbitrators. They succeeded in concluding a treaty,
in the year 1 143, between those princes before
the altar of St. Kieran (at Clonmacnois) and many
reliques of saints. But some time after, notwith-
standing this agreement, O' Conor made an irrup-
tion into Meath, and took O'Melaglilin, as if he
were guilty of a violation of the treaty, whom he
placed as a prisoner in the castle of Dunniore. On
this news Gelasius hastened to Connaught, and
uniting with Murcdach O'Duhhthaich, the worthy
bishop of Tuam, the abbot of Fore, and several other
distinguished persons, both ecclesiastics and laymen,
induced O'Conor to allow the matter to be inquired
into, as it was not ri.dit that O'lvlelatrhlin should
be punished in that manner, unless he were really
guilty. Nothing v^as proved against him ; but still
O'Conor refused to enlarge him, except on condi-
tion of his giving \\\) his principality of Meath for
a while to Conor O'Conor a son of Turlogh. This
condition, however disagreeable to the prelates, was
accepted by O'Melaghlin ; but Conor did not
long enjoy his usurped power ; for within little
more than half a year lie was killed by O'DubhIach,
chieftain of Fera-Tulach (now the barony of Fer-
tullagh in Westmeath), who could not bear to be
subjected to any prince different from his lawful
one. (45) A great synod, consisting chiefly of the
clergy of Connaught, is stated to have been held
in 114S, over which Murcdach O'Dubhthaich of
Tuam presided. It is said that tv.elve bishops and
five hundred priests were present at it, and that its
principal object was to procure the liberation of
Roderic O'Conor, son of Turlogh, who happened
to be then a captive. (4G) Another synod is men-


tioned as having sat in 1144, in wliicli were present
the archbishop of Armagh (Gelasius), O'Lonergan
(either the archbisliop of Casliel or the bishop of
KiHaloe), the bishop of Roscommon, the king
Turlogh O'Conor, &c. and in consequence of
which Iloderic O'Conor and others recovered
their their liberty. (47) This was in all proba-
bility no other thiui the assembly, in which, as we
have just seen, Gelasius and others stipulated for
the enlargement of O'Melaghliii. At this year
1 144, I find marked the death of a bisho]) of
Leighlin, Sluagad O'Catan, (48) and that of Gi!la-
Patrick Mac-Comgall, a very learned priest, scho-
lastic of Cionard. (49)

(39) See Chap. xxvi. §. 9.

(4-0) St. Bernard, Vit. S. Mai. cap. II. See also his letters to
St. Malachy, No. 43, U, in the Sj/lluge, and 356, 357 in Ma-
billon's ed.

(41) Ware, A/itiq. cap. 26. at County Louth. The Annals
(the same as those of Mary's Abbey) quoted by Usher {Not. to
£p. 43. Sylloge) have the same date and circumstances. Hence
it appears, that those were mistaken, who calculated, that Melli-
Ibnt v.as founded in 1141, for instance Fleury, Hist. L. 68. §. 59.
This mistake proceeded from another, viz. that St. Malachy had
returned to Ireland in 1139. But they were not mistaken in
stating, (see Fleury's Index) that the abbey of Mellifont was the
first Cistercian one in Ireland, as is quite clear from St. Malachy 's
speaking of the brethren, whom he left at Clairvaux, as the per-
sons who would introduce that order into Ireland, and from St.
Bernard's representing ( Vit. S. Mai. cap. 1 1 .) the community un-
der Christian, that is, the abbey of Mellifont, as the parent oi^
the other Cistercian houses in this country. Therefore wliat Ware
lias, {ib. at Dublin) and which he took from the Annals of Ma-
ry's Abbey, viz. that this abbey adopted the Cistercian rule in
1 1 39, in imitation of the abbot of Savonac or Savigni in France,
cannot be true ; whereas there were no Cistercians in Ireland until
three years after that date. Besides, the abbey of Savigni was not
Cisterciaa itself until 1148, (Fleury, ib. L. &X §. 35.) Ledwicli,


who knew not how to be correct, says, (Antlq. p. 438.) that St.
Malachy introduced the Cistercian order into this khigdom in
1140, and settled it at JNIelKfont, Newry, Bective, Boyle, Bal-
tinglas, Nenagh, and Cashel. Now this order was not at Melli-
font until 1142, which he might have known from Usher, Ware»
Harris, Archdall, &c. There was no Cistercian abbey at or near
Cashel until about A. D. 1270, above 120 years after St. Ma-
lachy's death. Nenagh, the well known town in the county of
Tipperary, never had a Cisterian establishment; but Ledwich con-
founded it with Nenay, a place in the county of Limerick, where
there was one, the time of whose foundation some place after the
death of the saint, which, as will be seen was founded that of
Newry, notwithstanding Usher's having thought {Not. to Ep. 43)
that it was established about 1144, which he took from a mistake
of Ware in his Coenol, Cisterciensia. When St. Bernard was
writing the Life of St. ^lalachy, there were only five Cistercian
houses in Ireland besides Mellifont ; (see ib. cap. 11.) yet Led-
wich reckons up six before St. Malachy 's death. What an an-
tiquary !

(42) See Ep. 44. al. S57. (43) Tr. Th. p. 305.

(44) Annals of Innisfallen at A. 1142.

(45) Life of Gelasius, cap. 13- and Tr. Th. p. 305. In the
fomier place Colgan marks these transactions at A, 1143, and in
the latter at 1144. This can be easily reconciled by supposing,
that the assembly, in which the treaty was entered into by Tur-
lough O'Conor and O'Melaghlin was held in 1143, and the other,
in consequence of which O'Melaghlin recovered his liberty, in

(46) Annals of Innisfallen at A. 1143. This synod must have
been different from the assembly, in which Gelasius of Armagh
appeared in 1143 as one of the arbitrators between Turlogh
O'Conor and O'Melaghlin ; for the Annals make no mention of
Gelasius, and represent it as presided by O'Dubhthaich, which
could hardly have been the case, were Gelasius present. I do not
well understand what said Annals have about Roderic O'Conor's
captivity; but Harris {Bishops at Tuam, Muredach O'Dubhai)
says, from certain anonymous Annals, that he had been taken
prisoner by Tiernan O'Roirk.

(47) Annals of Innisfallen at A. 1144.


(4-8) Ware and Harris, Bishops at Lelghlin. Harris has (at
Meath) one Eochad O'Kclly, who, according to certain anony-
mous annals, is called archbishop of the men of Meath, and died
in 114<0. And (at Kildare) he introduces Cormac O'Cathsuig,
who is styled bishop of Leinster, and whose death is assigned to
ll'l'S. From the title, bishop ofLcimter, it docs not follow, that
he was bishop of Kildare ; for it may mean merely that he was a
Leinster bishop, that is, a bishop somewhere in that province. In
fact, Colgan makes no mention of him in his catalogue of bishops,
&c. of Kildare, Tr, Th. p. 630. Of these two bishops I can find
nothing further than what Harris says of them.

(49) AA, SS. p. 407.

§. VII. Gelasiiis, liaving laboured for the restora-
tion of peace and tranquillity, now set about repair-
ing the cathedral of Armagh and the adjoining sa-
cred edifices. (50) Meanwhile St. Malachy was
busily employed in various parts of Ireland, exer-
cising the functions of his legatine authority ; and it
is related, that during his excursions he wrought se-
veral miracles. At Coleraine, Lismore, and other
places, he delivered persons possessed with evil spi-
rits ; he cured paralytics, one instance of which oc-
curred at Cashel, and relieved many persons afflicted
with divers infirmities. At Cloyne being requested
by a nobleman, whose lady was pregnant and hav-
ing passed the usual time of labour, was supposed to
be in danger of her life, and by the bishop Nehe-
mias (O'lMoriertach) to do something for her, he
blessed a drink, which he ordered to be given to her,
and in consequence of whicii she was soon after safely
delivered. Happening to be in an island somewhere
off the the Irish coast, near which the sea, from
having once abounded in fish, was then very deficient
in that respect, St. Malachy was supplicated by the
inhabitants to obtain from the Almighty a larger
supply. Having told them that lie came among
them to catch not fish but men, he, however, moved
by their faith, prayed to God in favour ot them,


who was pleased to restore to that part of the sea an
abundance of fish, greater perhaps than what it for-
merly had. On a certain occasion St. Malachy, with
three other bishops, came to Focliart, the pkce
where St. Brigid was born. (51) The priest, in
whose house they stopped, said to him ; ** wliat shall
I do, for I have no fish ?" The saint desired him
to apply to the fishermen, to which he answered,
that for two years back the river had been destitute
of fish. Yet, replied St. Malacliy, let them cast
their nets in the name of the Lord. They did so,
and at the first throv/ took twelve salmons, and at
the second as many more. A very remarkable case
is narrated in nearly the following words. The wife
of a nobleman, who lived near the monastery of
Bangor, being sick past hopes of recovery, St. I\Ia-
lachy was asked to administer to her the sacrament
of Extreme unction. lie went to the house ; but, as
he was preparing to anoint her, his assistants thought
that, as it was then evening, it would be better to
wait until the next morning. (52) He followed their
advice, and giving her his blessing retired. But
scarcely had he left the house, (o3) when he heard
shouts and cries announcing, that she was dead. He
immediately ran back, followed by his companions,
and, when at the bed-side he ascertained that she
had expired, became sorely troubled in mind, im-
puting to himself that she had not received the grace
of the sacrament. Lifting his hands towards heaven
he said ; " O Lord, I have acted foolishly, I have
sinned, who deferred administering, not she, who
wished for it." He then declared, that he could
not enjoy any comfort or peace of mind, unless that
grace might be granted to her. Ordering his com-
panions to watch and pray, as they did singing
psalms, &c. he remained the whole night near the
bed, praying and pouring out floods of tears. When
morning came, she opened her eyes, as if awaking
out of a heavy sleep, and raising herself on the bed


saluted St. Mai achy. Great was the joy and admi-
ration on this occurrence ; and the saint returned
thanks to God. He then anointed her, and she re-
covered so as to live for some time after, and to pre-
pare herself for a happy death by a good confession
and by the performance of the penance, which he
enjoined on her. (54)

(50) Life of Gelasius, cap. 14. and Tr, Th. p. 305.

(51) See Chap. Yin. §.2.

(52) Probably the reason of this opinion was, that it was
thought more becoming that the sacraments should not, except in
cases of urgent necessity, be administered by the clergy unless
fasting. In Butler's Life of St. Malachy, the cause assigned for
waiting until morning is, that she might then be better disposed
for the sacrament. But St. Bernard, who is the only authority
on this subject, assigns no other motive than that it was evening,
erat enim vespera,

(53) In Butler's Life St. Malachy is represented as having re-
tu*ed to a chamber in the nobleman's house. If so, his compa-
nions also must have had chambers allotted for them in said house.
Now it would not have been consistent with the rules of monastic
discipline for monks to stay out of their monastery at night with-
out necessity ; and in this case tliere was no pcirticular necessity
for doing so, as the monastery was so near the house that, if
called for, they could be there in a very short time. St. Bernard's
words plainly indicate, that St. Malachy and his companions had
left the house ; " exivit cum his, qui secum erant"

(54) St. Bernard, Vit, S. Mai cap. 13. Messingham's cd. 24.
Mabillon's. The other miraculous facts which I have touchcti
upon, and several others, are related by him in said cap. 13. (Mes-
shigham) although by oversight or through a typographical error
marked 8, In a part of said chapter, or cap. 21. (Mabilion)
Cloyne is en-oneously called Diien'vania or Duevania, instead of

§. VIII. St. Malachy happened to be somewhere
near Cork at a time tliat the see of that city was
vacant. On the election of a bishop^a great contest


arose, which when lie heard of he repaired to Cork.
Summoning the clergy and people, he strove to unite
the discordant parties, and induced them to leave the
matter to himself as being invested with the legatinc
power. He immediately named not any one of the
nobles of that country, but a poor man, a native of
a different part of Ireland, whom he knew to be holy
and learned. This man is looked for, and the ac-
count given of him was, that he was lying in bed so
weak, that he could not stir out except carried by
others. The saint said ; ** Let him rise in the name
of the Lord ; I command him ; obedience will cure
him." Wliat could the man do ? He was unwilling
to obey, and, even were he strong, was afraid to be
made a bishop. Yet not knowing how to resist St,
Makchy's order, and wishing for his health, he ex-
erted himself to get upland gradually felt himself
becoming stronger and soon able to walk with ease.
When he appeared before the assembly, he was placed
on the episcopal chair with the acclamations of the
clergy and people. (^55) The name of this worthy
bishop is not mentioned ; but I think there can be no
doubt, that he was the same as the celebrated Gilla
Aeda O'Mugin, who v/as a truly good and learned
man, and who afterwards assisted at the council of
Kells in 1152. He was a stranger in Cork, being a
native of Connaught, and belonged to the monastery,
called of St. Finbar's cave, near that city, and which,
according to some writers, was at that time possessed
by Canons regular of St. Augustin. (56) St.
Malachy being at Lismore met w'ith a clerk there, a
man it is said of good conduct, who denied the real
presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He
often expostulated with him in private, but could
not induce him to retract his error. This clerk
was at length brought, but not in a public man-
ner, by some laymen to a meeting of clerical
persons in the presence of St. Malachy, and al-
lowed to defend himself. Notwithstanding hi^


being fully refuted by St. Malachy, and the unani-
mous opinion of the meeting against him, he still
remained obstinate, pretending that he was worsted
not by argument but by the bishop's (St. Malachy's)
authority. The saint much grieved for his obduracy,
and dreading some injury to the Catholic faith,
found it necessary to summon a general assembly of
of the church, before which this man was made to
appear. Although publicly admonished by St.
Malachy, and earnestly requested by the other
bishops, who attended, and all the clergy, to recant
his error, he still persisted in it, so that they were
obliged to anathematize him and declare him a here-
tic. Still determined not to submit he said, that
they were all flivouring the man, not the truth.
Well then, replied St. Malachy, may the Lord make
thee confess the truth, even through necessity ; to
which he answered Amen, or be it so. Thus the
assembly broke up, after which he resolves on quitting
Lismore, where he knew he would be looked upon
as infamous. But he had not gone far, when he
was seized with a sudden illness and forced to throw
himself on the ground. A wandering ideot, who
was passing that way, asked him what was the matter
with him. He said that he was so ill, that he was
not able to go forward or to return. The ideot then
helped him back to his habitation, and the man's sen-
timents were so changed, that the bishop is sent for,
to whom he acknowledges that he had been in erroi',
which he retracts, and confesses the truth. Ho is
then reconciled to the Church, makes his con-
fession and is absolved, asks for the holy viaticum,
which he receives, and very soon after departs this
life. (57)

{55) St. Bernard, ib. cap. 13. or 23. Mabillon.

(56) This monastery has been mentioned above Not, 13, and
also Not. 73, to Chap. xxvr. It is to be observed, that it was
founded, or rather re-founded, for strangers from Connauglit as


the countrymen of St. FinbaiT. (See Arclidall at Cork.) Gilla
Aeda O'Mugin is reckoned among its abbots, and from him it has
been called Gill-abbe}/ ; but it is probable, that he did not as-
sume the government of it until after he was bishop ; and thus
we may answer the only objection, that can be brought against
his having been the same as the poor man spoken of by St. Ber-
nard J for, it may be said, had he been an abbot before he be-
came bishop of Cork, v/ould St. Bernard have called him merely

Online LibraryUnknownAn ecclesiastical history of Ireland, from the first introduction of Christianity among the Irish, to the beginning of the thirteenth century , Compiled from the works of the most esteemed authors ... who have written and published on matters connected with the Irish church; and from Irish annals an → online text (page 11 of 45)