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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cannot Ue doubted that so memorable a visit would have been re-
corded in his Life, wliich is very particular as to his transactions,
or in some of the Irish annals. Now neither the one nor the other
have a word about it. The fact is, that Gelasius was not afraid of
Henry's displeasure ; for none of the Ulster princes, except O'Ker-
vaill or Carrol of Ergal, who was not Gelasius's sovereign, had sub-
mitted to Henry. Lyttleton conjectures, (Book 4.) that Gelasius
absented liimself on account of his unwillingness to yield the pre-
cedence in the synod to Christian of Lismore the Pope's legate.
This is a pitiful conjecture; but Lyttleton did not know, that
Gelasius had yielded that precedence in the synod of Kells of
1152, and in that of Mellifont in 1157.

(8) Life of Gelasius, cap. 29. and Tr. Th. p. 310.

(9) Giraldus (loc. citj mentions only the suiFragans of the
arbhbishops of Cashel, Dublin, and Tuam. See also Leland,
B. 1. ch. 3. and Lynch, Camhr. evers.j)- 189.

(10) Giraldus has this story, [ib. cap. 33.) but Hoveden has it

(11) Such is the summary of the decrees as given by Ho-
veden (loc cit.) whose words are ; " In concilio illo statutum est,
ut pueri deferrentur ad ecclesiam, et ibi baptizentur in aqua mun-
da, sub trina mersione, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus
Sancti ; et hoc a sacerdotibus fiat, nisi metu mortis impediente ab
alio et alias oportuerit fieri, et tunc a quolibet fiat sine exceptione
sexus et ordinis. Et ut decimae dentur ecclesiis de omnibus, quae
possidentur, Et ut omnes laici, qui uxores habere velint, eas se-
cundum jus ecclesiasticum habeant."

§. III. There is anotlier account of the decrees
of this synod, which is fuller and more correct, and
which is stated to contain the very words, in which
they were drawn up. It runs thus: ** 1. That the
** faithful throughout Ireland do contract and ohserve
" lawful marriages, rejecting those with their rela-
<* tions either by consanguinity or affinity. 2. That
•* infants be catechized before the door of the church,
** and baptized in the holy font in the baptismal
*< churches. 3. That all the faithful do pay the
<* tithe of animals, corn, and other produce to the
** church, of which they are parishioners. 4. That


" all ecclesiastical lands and property connected
" with them be quite exempt from the exactions
" of all laymen. And especially, that neither the
" petty kings, nor counts, nor any powerful men
" in Ireland, nor their sons with their families do
** exact, as was usual, victuals and hospitality or
" entertainments in the ecclesiastical districts, or
** presume to extort them by force ; and that the
** detestable food or contributions, which used to
** be required four times in the year from the farms
*' belonging to churches by the neighbouring counts,
'* shall not be claimed any more. 5. That, in case
" of a murder committed by laymen, and of their
" compounding for it with their enemies, clergy-
" men their relatives are not to pay part of the
" fine (or Erick), but that, as they were not con-
" cerned in the perpetration of the murder, so
" they are to be exempted from the payment of
" money. 6. That all the faithful, lying in sick-
" ness, do, in the presence of their confessor and
" neighbours, make their will with due solemnity,
" dividing, in case they have wives and children,
" (excepting their debts and servants wages) their
" moveable goods into three parts, and bequeathing
" one for the children, and another for the lawful
" wife, and the third for the funeral obsequies.'*
(Then come regulations relative to the disposal of
the property in case the man had no legitimate
issue, or that his wife was already dead.) *' 7»
** That due respect be paid to those, who die after
" a good confession, by means of masses, vigils,
" and decent burial. — Likewise that all divine mat-
" ters be henceforth conducted agreeably to the
" practices of the holy Church, according as ob-
'* served by the Anglican church." (12) These
decrees, being subscribed by the members of the
synod, were afterwards confirmed by the king.
They are the only ones that emanated from the
synod j and some writers have been greatly mis-


taken in supposing, that some words, in which Gi-
i-aldus Cauibrensis praises Henry to the skies, and
attributes to him a mighty reformation of the Irish
church, contain a declaration, with w^hich the synod
complimented him . (13)

(12) These are the decrees detailed by Gh-aldus, {Hib. exp.
c. 34.) and in all appearance, faithfully and correctly. The short
account, which I have just copied from Hoveden, is not in the
words of the synod, but is partly abiidged and partly paraphras-
tical. For the clearer understanding of the proceedings of the
synod, I here lay before the reader the whole account of it as
drawn up by Giraldus, ib. capp. 33, and 34. After having men-
tioned Henry's spending the Christmas holidays in Dublin, he
writes : " Silente igitur insula in conspectu regis, tranquilla pace
gaudente, Ecclesiae Dei decus Christique cultum in partibus illis
magniflcandi ampliori desiderio rex accensus totius cleri Hibemiae
concilium apud Cassiliam convocavit. Ubi requisitis et auditis
publice terrae illius et gentis tam enormitatibus quam spurcitiis*
et in scriptum, et sub sigillo legati Lismorensis, qui caeteris ibidem
dignitate tunc praeerat, ex industria redactis, constitutiones sacras,
quae adhuc extant, de matrimoniis contrahendis, et decimis dandis,
et ecclesiis debita devotion e venerandis et frequentandis, quam-
plures emisit, ecclesiae illius statum ad Anglicanae ecclesiae for-
mam redigere modis omnibus elaborando. Quas constitutiones
sub eisdem verbis, quibus et promulgatae sunt, hie intersere non
superfluum reputavi."

<' Anno igitur Dominicae Incamationis 1172, primo autem
anno, quo illustrissimus Anglorum rex et Hibemiae triumphator
ipsam insulam acquisivit, Christianus, Lismoriensis episcopus, et
apostolicae sedis legatus, Donatus Cassiliensis, Laurentius Dub-
liniensis, et Catholicus Tuomenensis, archiepiscopi cum sufFraga-
neis suis et coepiscopis, abbatibus quoque, archidiaconis, priori-
bus, et decanis, et multis aliis Hiberniensis ecclesiae praelatis, ex
ipsius tnumphatoris mandate, in civitate Cassihensi convenerunt,
et de utilitate ecclesiae, et statu ejus in meliorem formam produ-
cendo, ibidem concilium celebrarunt. Huic concilio interfuerunt
iisti a rege missi ; venerabilis vir Radulphus, arcliidiaconus de Lan-
daff, Nicolaus capellanus, et alii clerici, et nuncii domini regis.


Concilli autem statuta subscripta sunt, et regiae sublimitatis aucto-
rite firmata. Primo statutum est, quod universi fideles per Hiber-
niam constituti, repudiate cognatorum et afHnium contubemio,
legitima contrahant matrimonia et observent. 2. Secando, quod
infantes ante fores ecclesiae catechizentur, et in sacro fonte in ipsis
baptisraalibus ecclesiis baptizentur. 3. Tertio, quod universi fide-
les Christi decimas animalium, frugum, caeterarumque proven-
tionum ecclesiae, cujus faerint parochiani, persolvant. 4. In
quarto, quod omnes terrae ecclesiasticae et earum possessiones ab
omnium secularium hominum exactione penitus sint immunes. Et
specialiter, quod nee reguli, nee comites, nee aliqui potentes viri
Hiberni^e, nee eorum filii cum familiis suis cibaria et hospitalitates
in territoriis ecclesiasticis, secundum consuetudinem, exigant, nee
amodo violenter extorquere praesumant ; et quod de villis ecclesi-
arum cibus ille detestabilis, qui quater in anno a vicinis comitibus
exigitur, de caetero nullatenus exigatur. 5. In quinto, quod pro
liomicidio a laicis perpetrato, quoties inde cum suis inimicis com-
ponunt, clerici videlicet eoruni cognati nihil inde persolvant, sed,
sicut in homicidii perpetratione, sic in pecuniae solutione sint im-
munes. 6. Sexto, quod universi fideles in infirmitate positi, con-
fessore suo et vicinis astantibus, cum debita solennitate testamen-
tum condant, bona sua mobilia, dummodo uxores et liberos ha-
beant (acre alieno et servientum mercede exceptis) in tres partes
dividant, unam liberis, alteram uxori legidmae, tertiam propriis
exequiis relinquentes. Et si forte prolem legitimam non habuerint,
bona ipsa inter ipsum et uxorem in duo media dividantur. Et si
legitima uxor decesserit, inter ipsum et liberos bipartiri debent.
7. Septirao, ut cum bona confessione decedentibus et missarum
et vigiliarum exhibitione et more sepeliendi obsequium debitum
persolvatui'. Item, quod onniia divina ad instar sacrosanctae Ec-
clesiae, juxta quod Angiicana observat ecclesia, in ommibus par-
tibus ecclesiae (Hiberniae) amodo tractentur." Wilkins has the '^
whole of this Concilia M. B. &c. VoL I. p. 472. seqq.

(13) To his report of the decrees Giraldus added, {ib. cap. 34.)
that it was worthy and most just, that Ireland should receive a
better form of living from England ; whereas to its magnanimous
king she entirely owed whatever advantages she enjoyed both as to
church and state ; and that the manifold abuses, which had pre-
vailed in Ireland, had since his coming gone into disuse. ! ! !


It is suqjrizing, that both Lyttelton and Leland have attributed
this trash to the synod itself, notwithstanding its being self-evident
from Giraldus' text, that it was not announced by the synod.
Surely the synod could not, while sitting for the purpose of com-
mencing the work of that mighty reform, have said, that the ma-
nifold abuses had gone into disuse, in desuetudinem ahiere. Gi-
raldus might have spoken so, as he did not wTite his tract until
many years after the synod was held. Lyttleton and Leland, or
whosoever they took their idea from, were aware of this difficulty,
and accordingly translated the words, in desuetudinem abiere by
m-e noiv abolished; meaning to insuate, that this was then done
through the proceedings of the synod. But surely a schoolboy,
who liad not yet passed his Cordery, would not translate those
three Latin words in that manner. Wilkins saw, that the passage
in question v/as not a part of the acts of the synod, from which he
consequently separated it; nor is it united with them by other au-
thors, v/ho have given a list of the synod's decrees, ex, c. Fleury,
L. 72. f 36.

§. IV. Here then we have the sum total of that
great reform, which the Irish church stood in need
of, and for attaining which the English pope Adrian
made a grant of Ireland to Henry II. (14) There
is nothing relative to religious dogmas, to matters of
faith, or to points of essential discipline ; and some
of those decrees refer to matters rather of a political
than of an ecclesiastical nature. Great attention
was paid to the immunities and comforts of the cler-
gy, Henry's policy leading him to fiivour as much
as possible that body in Ireland, that he might
draw them over to his party ; although he had but
a short time before been doing his utmost to cur-
tail rhc privileges of their brethren in England.
While he was so kind to the Irish clergy, he seemed
to forget his stipulation concerning what Adrian
had so much at heart, the payment of the de72a'
riiis or Peter-pence out of every house in Ire-
land. There is not yet a word about it in the trans-
actions of the synod; nor did Henry, as far as I


can find, ever set about enforcing the payment of
it. The reasons for enacting the two first decrees
have been most falsely and basely misrepresented by
some English writers. They tell us, that the one
relative to marriages was made in consequence of the
Irish having been in the habit of marrying as many
wives as they pleased. For this foul charge there is
not the least foundation in any part of our church
history ; (15) and from the very words of the de-
cree it is as clear as day-light, that the only object
of it was to establish in Ireland th'e system of the
seven prohibited degrees, as then followed by the
greatest part of the Western church, but which it
was not very long after found necessary to modify ;
(16) and the only abuse alluded to in the decree,
consisted in the intermarriages between near rela-
tions. (17) As to the second decree, the intention
and meaning of which are as plain as possible, viz. that
children should henceforth be baptized not in pri-
vate houses or even oratories, nor in chapels of ease,
as seems to have been not unusual in Ireland, nor,
in short, any where except in the parochial churches,
or in such as were reputed baptismal churches, from
their being furnished with baptismal fonts. (18) A
most infamous fable has been fabricated, as if to ex-
plain the cause of said decree. It states, that before
the holding of this synod it was customary in divers
parts of Ireland, that, as soon as a child vv^ould come
into the world, his father or any other person used to
dip him three times in water, or if his father were
rich, three times in milk ; and that afterwards they
used to throw that water or milk into the sewers or
other unclean places. Were this stated as a custom,
which had nothing to do with Christian baptism,
and which was followed immediately on the birth of
a child, there would, whether true or not, be no
harm in it, but represented, as it has been, as the
cause of the second Cashel decree, and consequent-
ly as the sort of baptism used in various parts of

p 2

212 a:% KCCLESIASTICAL history chap. XXIX.

Ireland, the account given of it is one of the most
atrocious lies ever invented. (19) In the whole
course of my inquiries I liave not met with any the
smallest allusion to errors or mistakes, even of the
slightest kind, relative to the via tier, as the theolo-
gians call it, of the sacrament of baptism ; while, on
the contrary, I have uniformly found water menti-
oned as the only liquid, in which it could be admi-
nistered. ('20) Perhaps the notion of baptizing in
milk was taken from the Irish having probably re-
tained the ancient practice of giving milk to the
newly baptized, (21) which, as those ignorant ca-
lumniators did not understand the meaning of, they
changed into actual baptism in milk. In that fable
there is another vile insinuation, as if the Irish were
careless about getting their children baptized by
clergymen ; whereas there never was a nation more
observant and cautious than they were in this res-
pect. (22)

(14) Leland remarks [B, 1. ch, 3.); " Such was the plan of re-
formation, which required the interposition of the Pope, which
obh'ged him to transfer the sovereignty of Ireland to a foreign
prince, and demanded the presence of the Enghsh monarch and a
royal army to enforce ! As if the same futile ordinances had not
been repeatedly enacted in every synod held almost annually by
the Irish clergy from that of Paparo to this of king Henry."

(15) Neither Lanfranc nor Anselm of Canterbury, who in their
letters to Irish kings complain of the practice of the Irish marrying
within the degrees prohibited by the then Canon law, and of that
of exchanging wives ; nor St. Bernard, even when {Vit. S. Mai.
cap. 6.) railing against the abuses of the diocese of Connor, and
where he touches on those relative to the matrimonial contract ;
Tior Giraldus Cambrcnsis, although [Topogr. Hib. Dist. 3. c. 19.)
he charges the Irish with not observing the more usual matrimo-
nial contract, that is, the one called de praesenti, and with their
not atieniling to the far extended prohibited degrees, as marked
by the canoiiists of those days, ever accuse the Irish of the crime
of polygamy, j-or do they even hint at it. The fust English writer,


who, as far as I can discover, advanced this vile falshood, is John
Brompton, abbot of lornal, or rather lorval, a Cistercian monas-
tery in the diocese formerly of York and afterwards of Chester. He
wrote his chronicle, which may be seen among Twysden's
X Script ores J in the 14th century, during the reign of Edward III.
In giving an account {ib. col. 1071 ) of the synod of Cashel, he
does not follow the order of the decree nor the words, as detailed
by Giraldus, but partly follows Hoveden. At the decree on mar-
riage he introduces the calumny we are now treating of, and of
which Hoveden makes no mention.* His words are; " plerique
enim illorum (Hibernorum) quot uxores volebant tot habebanl, et
etiam cognatas suas et germanas habere solebant uxores." Here
he seems to go so far as to say, that the Irish used to marry even
their sisters. Yet perhaps the blockhead meant in his bad Latin
by germanas not sisters, but cousin germans.

(16) See Chap, xxiv. }. 12. and xxvi. §. 6. and ib. Not. 51.

(17) It was found difficult to put a stop to such intermarriages
in Ireland on account of the system of clanships, and of the Irish
laws relative to the right, by which landed property was held, and
to the rules of succession thereto. On this subject see Ware,
Antiq. cap. 8. and Harris, ib. ch. 11.

(18) Without recurring to the Apostolical age, it is well known
that for, at least, the three or four first centuries of the Christian
church baptism used to be performed in any place, where water
was to be found, whether in the sea, or in a lake, pond, river,
fountain, &c. Tertullian has made this observation, (^De Bapt.
cap. 4.) and we find it also in other writers of about his times.
Afterwards baptisteries were erected near the churches, and it be-
came a rule in the Roman empire that baptism should be ordina-
rily not administered except in them. Yet in St. Jerom's time
priests and deacons did not scruple to confer baptism in villages,
castles, or other places remote from the bishop's or principal
church. (See Dial, cum Lucifer, cap- 4.) St. Patrick used to
baptize his Irish converts in rivers, lakes, or fountains ; and it is
said in the Life of St. Finian of Clonard, {cap. 2.) that lie was
baptized in the water of two united rivers. Other instances might
be adduced, if necessary. But the laws of the Roman empire did
not extend to Ireland. The emperor Justinian enforced the rule
relative to baptisteries, and some Greek councils, although no^


early ones, exerted themselves to prevent the administration of
baptism elsewhere, except in cases of necessity or by a special
licence of the bishop. (See Bingham, Origines, &;c, B,xi.ch.6,
sect, 12. segg.) Baptisteries were built also in the western parts of
Europe, and are kept up to this day in many great cities of the
continent. But the more general practice became, after the old
discipline of baptizing only on certain solemn days of the year had
ceased, that of placing baptismal fonts in all parochial and in some
other churches, in which alone children should be ordinarily bap-
tized. Even in Ireland the usual rule was, after Christianity be-
came well established, that baptism should be performed in the
churches. Thus in the case of St. Finian above mentioned, it is
related, {ib.) that after his birth some women were carrying him
to the church of Roscur to be there baptized by the bishop For-
chera, when they were met by a St. Abban, who stopped them
and baptized him, as already stated. And in the metrical Life of
St. Senan of Inniscathy we read, (^cap. 3.) that his parents took
him to the church to be baptized: ♦* Parentes autetn pueri, — ditati
prole nobili, — tit 7-eligiosi admodum, — exortum recens parvulum —
tideruvt ad ecclesiam, — iit per divinajji grntiam — baptismi tinctus
Jlumine" &c. Lynch observes {Cambr. evers, p. 202.) from the
Life of St. Grillan, or Grellan, the patron of the O'Kellies, that
the seniors of that family used to be baptized in a church
called from this saint, who, by the bye, flourished at a place
called Cradibh in Connaught, in the latter part of the 6th cen-
tury, and had been a disciple of Finian of Clonard. {A A, SS. p.
337, 339, 396.) The very decree of the synod of Cashel indi-
cates, that there were churches in Ireland supplied with baptismal
fonts ; but it seems that some negligence, how much diffused I
cannot tell, prevailed vA'ith regard to bringing children thither for
baptism, and that some parents used to get the ceremony per-
formed in country chapels, or private oratories, or perhaps in their
own houses, as is usual with us at this day. From the words of
the decree it evidently appears, that this was the only defect or
abuse to which the synod intended to apply a remedy. But Ho-
veden, to show his learning, made up a decree on baptism (see
above }. 2. and Not. 11.) quite different from the genuine one,
in which he introduces clean water, triple immersion, the name of
the Father, (ic. priests, &c. points, upon which there was no


question whatsoever proposed to or treated of by the synod, whereas
there was not the least discrepancy of opinion or practice concern-
ing them. The worthy Brompton in a sort of abridgment of Ho-
veden's farrago makes the synod resolve, " pueros in ecclesia bap-
tizari in nomine Pai7-is, et Filii, et Spiritus Sa?icti, et hoc a sa^
cei'dotibus Jieri" This is far from being the real decree. As to
catechizing the infants before the door of the church, this alludes
to the practice, ordered in the Ritual, of proposing, previous to
the baptism, certain questions at the church-door, which are an-
swered, not indeed by the infant, but by the godfather.

(19) Brompton, besides some other English writers not worth
naming, has given us, as the reason of the decree, that base stuff.
He writes (loc. cit.) ) ; " Mos enim erat prius per diversa loca
Hiberniae quod, statim cum puer nasceretur, pater ipsius vel qui-
libet alius eum mergeret ter in aqua. Et si divitis filius esset,
ter in lacte mergeretur. Postea vero aquam illam vel lac in clo-
acis suis vel aliis locis immundis pi'ojicere solebant," Had such
a practice existed in Ireland, would it, not to appeal to all our
Irish writers and documents, or to St. Bernard, or to Lanfranc
and Anselm, have been unheard of by Hoveden and Giraldus,
neither of whom makes the least allusion to it ? I was greatly
surprised to find Fleury (L. 72. §. 38,) repeating this nonsense.
But he copied his account of the synod of Cashel from Brompton,
and consequently has given us also his lie concerning the charge
of polygamy. Fleury did not, in all appearance, see Giraldus'
account of the synod, and was very litile acquainted with the ec-
clesiastical history of Irekmd. But I was still more surprized to
observe, that Dr. Milner, who lives much nearer to us, and who
ought to know more of our ecclesiastical history than Fleury, has,
not very long ago, brought forward the same falshoods of Bromp-
ton against the Irish nation, when he states, {Additional note to
p. 50 of his Letters on Ireland) that it was not until the Eng-
lish invasion that the Irish prelates were enabled to abrogate the
prevailing polygamy^ incestuous marriages, the practice of hap^
tizing the children of the rich tvith milk, &c. Strange that he
could imagine, that polygamy ever prevailed among the Irish
Christians, or that their children were baptized in milk ! As to
their incestuous marriages, they were not such, except inasmuch
as the system of the prohibited degrees, made up by the canon-


ists, had not been generally received in Ireland. I think Dr.
Milner would do well to retract some way or other these un-
founded assertions.

( 20} Baptism is spoken of several times in the Irish canons ;
but in none of them is it ordered, that it should be performed in
water alone, whereas there was no idea of any other liquid being
sufficient for it. Adamnan relates, ( Vit. S. Col. L. 2. c. 10.) that,
when Columbkill was journeying through the country of the Picts,
an infant was brought to him by its parents to be baptized, and
that, as there was no water in the neighboui-hood, the saint
prayed for a while upon a rock and blessed a part of it, whence
water immediately flowed out in abundance, with which he bap-
tized the infant. So absolutely necessary was water considered
for the administration of this sacrament.

(21) St. Jerom observes, fin Esai. 55. 1.) that milk and wine
used to be given in the western churches to persons newly bap-
tized ; " Lac significat innocentfam parvulorum. Qui mos a typus
in Occidentis ecclesiis hodie usque servatur, ut renatis in Christo
vinum lacque tribuatut." In some churches milk and honey used
to be given to them. (See Cone. Carth, 3. ca?!. 24.) It is not

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 19 of 45)