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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(101) 11th. canon, above §. 7.

(102) Ex. c. the Lives of saints Patrick, Columba, Ita, Se-
nan, &c. &c.

(103) De rebus, &c. L. 2. c. 14.

(104) See Chap. xxix. §. 3. (105) lb. §. 4. and Not. 18.

§. XIII. Giraldus exerted all his malignant cun-
nino- to decry the Irish bishops, being apparently
jealous of the reputation of the great and holy pre-
lates, who had in those times illustrated the Irish
church. Besides his endeavours to detract from the
good character, which he was forced to give of the


clergy at large. (106) he accuses the bishops of neg-
ligence and sloth in not correcting the vices of the
people, and not content with alluding to those of his
own time, he charges with this fault all the Irish
prelates since the days of St. Patrick. (107) The
impertinence of this scribbler is really intolerable.
Did he not know, that in the very century, in which
he wrote, some of the most active and zealous bishops
of the whole Christian Church were to be found in
Ireland, such as Celsus of Armagh, Gillebert of Li-
merick, Malchus of Lismore, St. Malachy, Mure-
dach 0*Dubthaig of Tuam, Gelasius of Armagh,
Christian of Lismore, St. Laurence O'Toole, &c.
who not only preached and instructed the people, but
likewise held several synods, which were constantly
well attended, and made many useful regulations re-
lative to ecclesiastil discipline and Christian morality?
As a proof of his base charge, he alleges that none
of them had fought for religion and the Church so
as to suffer martyrdom. It is true, that we do not
find mentioned any of our bishops, who were put to
death by Irishmen ; but this merely proves what is
very honourable to the national character, and shows
that, notwithstanding whatever opposition the early
preachers of the Gospel met with in Ireland, their
adversaries were not of a sanguinary disposition, and
entertained a great degree of respect for the Chris-
tian clergy. And it is remarkable that, although
Christianity was not propagated in Ireland by the
blood of martyrs, there is no instance of any other
nation, that universally received it in as short a space
of time as the Irish did. Yet we had plenty of mar-
tyrs in Ireland, and some of them bishops, during
the fury of the Danes ; (108) and as to Irish pre-
lates, who were crowned with martyrdom in foreign
countries, I need only refer the reader to what we
have seen concerning St. Livinus in Brabant, St.
Kilian of Wurtzburg, St. Rumold of Mechlin, and
St. John of Mecklenburgh. Geraldus relates, that


in a conversation with Maurice, archbishop of Cashel,
whom lie calls a learned and discreet man, in the
presence of another Giraldus, a clerk of the Roman
church, who had come to Ireland with some mes-
sage, (109) he pressed him with this argument
against the Irish bishops, to which Maurice replied;
** It is true that, although our nation may seem bar-
" barous, uncultivated, and rude, yet they were al-
*' ways wont to pay great honour and reverence to
" ecclesiastical men, and not to stretch their hands
" on any occasion againt the saints of God. But
" now a nation is come into this kingdom, which
" knows how and is accustomed to make martyrs.
" Henceforth Ireland shall, like other countries, have
" martyrs." (llO)

(106) See above }. 6.

(107) Topogr. Hid. Dist. 3. cap, 28. and De rehus, S^^c. Z. 2.
c. 14.

(108) See Lynch, Cambr. evers. cap, 31.

(109) Ware, or his translator, was mistaken (Annalsy at 1185)
in calling this Giraldus a legat from the Pope, He was merely a
messenger on some particular business.

(110) Topographiay Sfc, Dist, 3. c, 32.

§. XIV. Much of this pretended indolence of the
Irish bishops is attributed by Giraldus to their being
usually chosen out of monasteries ; and he says that,
while they strictly fulfil their monastic duties, they
neglect their pastoral obligations. (Ill) Passing by
a sort of affected jingling rhetoric, with which he
enlarges on this subject, I shall, although I do not
pretend that monks are the fittest persons to be ap-
pointed bishops, merely observe, that some of our
greatest bishops of those days had belonged to that
class. Malchus of Lismore, Gelasius of Armagh,
St. Laurence O' Toole, Christian of Lismore, had
been monks, and St. Malacy, although originally
not one, yet practised the monastic life. It seems


that Giraldus had a secret object in view, viz, to pre-
vent monks from being raised to bishoprics. (112)
He mentions, but without any reprehension, the
great veneration, in which were held the portable
bells, and the staffs of saints, curved at the top, and
covered with gold, silver, or brass, observing that a
similar veneration was paid to them in Scotland and
Wales. (113) These staffs were originally, as we
have often seen, the crosiers of holy bishops or ab-
bots. Among other singular and strange things he
relates several standing miracles of Irish saints, the
accounts of which he picked up from the stories of
vulgar and ignorant people. (114) He mentions one
wdth extraordinary admiration, the book containing
a concordance of the four Gospels, according to the
correction of St. Jerome, which was preserved at
Kildare, and states that it was made up miraculously
through the intervention of an angel and the prayers
of St. Brigid. The almost inriumerable figures and
miniatures, he says, with which it is all through or-
namented, are so exquisitely beautiful and elegant,
and the colours so fresh, that it is easy to perceive,
that it was the work rather of an angel than of a
man. (115) But we need not look for a miracle to
account for the composition of that beautiful book ;
and it merely proves, that the arts of calligraphy and
miniature had been carried to great perfection in Ire-
land. (116)

(111) lb. cap, 29, 30. and De rebus, 8fc, L, 2. c. U,

(112) It appears, that Giraldus had an aversion to monks.
One of his tracts was entitled De Cisterciensium nequitiis. We
find him afterwards contending against a monk, the prior of Lhan-
thony, for the see of St. David's, in which contest he was foiled.
(See Harris, Writers at Gerald Barry.)

(113) Topogr, Dist. 3. c, 33.

(114-) lb. Dist. 2. capp. 28-29. seqq. Ledwich, to, show his
learning, has brought forward (Antiq. S^-c. p. 37.) some of these
stories relative to St. Kevin, and talks of the impious and foolish


tales of ignorant and superstitious ecclesiastics. Wlw told him,
that all these tales were invented by ecclesiastics ? And what a
mighty theologian and lover of truth is this so-called antiquary !

(115) Giraldus, ib. capp. 38, 39.

(116) That painting was anciently cultivated in Ireland is clear
fi-om Cogitosus, who ( Vita S. Brig. cap. 35.) speaks of the pic-
tures, with which St. Brigid's great church at Kildare was deco-
rated. Several persons are marked in our history as elegant tran-
scribers and ornamenters of books, ex. c. St. Dagaeus, of whom
above ( Chap. x. §. 14.), and the monk Ultan, who was famous in
this respect. (See Dr. O'Conor, Re)'. Hib. Ser. Ep. Nunc. p.

§. XV. Giraldus talks about some wonderful islands
in Ireland, and mentions strange things, not worth
inquiring into, concerning what is vulgarly called
Patrick's Purgatory. (117) He tells us, that in
North Munster there is a lake, containing two islands,
one larger and the other smaller. The larger one,
he says, has a church of ancient veneration ; the les-
ser a chapel, which is devoutly served by a few un-
married men, who are called Colidei, which in his
manner, he wisely explains by coelicolae, or wor-
shippers of heaven. He then goes on with some
nonsensical stories, as how no female of any species
could ever enter the larger island without dying im-
mediately, and how in the smaller one nobody ever
dies, ever did die, or could die, for which reason it
is called the islaiid of the living. But its residents
are subject to grievous diseases, and, when tormented
with them to such a degree that all hopes of being
freed from them are gone, they get themselves re-
moved in a boat to the larger island, which as soon
as they touch they immediately give up the ghost.
(118) This wonderful island is no other than that
called by some Iiichinemeo, or rather Inish-na-rnbeo
corresponding to Island of the living, by others
ImS'locha-cre (119) (the island of the lake or bog
about three miles from Roscrea) and since known by


the name of Monaincha. According to GIraldus
the Colidei, who lived there, were not, properly
speaking, monks j for he merely calls them coelibes
or unmarried men. (KiO) In his time the island
was a place of pilgrimage ; but afterwards the resi-
dents removed to Corbally, a place not far from it
without the lake, where they became Canons Regular
of St. Augustin, and had a priory under the name of
St. Hilary or St. Mary. (121) As to the name,
Island of the living, it meant nothing more than
that it was a place where men might live in the ser-
vice of God, in the same manner as monasteries were
called De Valle salutis; De Beatitudine, S^x\; and
the fable of no one dying there was unheard of by
our old historians and annalists. We have an in-
stance of how people could and did die there in the
case of a very respectable man, Moelpatrick O'Dru-
gan, who died in that island A, D. 1138. (122)
How Giraldus picked up that stuff is of no conse-
quence ; he was probably imposed upon by some
droll fellow, who explained the name in a new way
peculiar to himself. The other story concerning fe-
males not daring to enter the larger island was in all
appearance founded on there having been there of
old some religious community, which made it a rule,
not uncommon in some parts of Ireland, not to ad-
mit women within their precincts.

(117) Topogr. S^c. Dist. % c. 5. Although it was not very long
since this purgatory came into vogue, (see Chap, vii. §. 14.) yet
Giraldus found it out. But, as Lynch has shown, ( Cambr. evers.
p. 10.) his account of it does not agree with that of Henry of Sal-
terey, of whom see Not. 150. to Chap.vn.

(118) Giraldus, ib. cap. 4^. What I have translated. The larger
one has a church of ancient veneration, is in the original, " Ma-
jor ecclesiam habet antiquae religionist Here we meet with an

egregious sample of Ledwich's profound ignorance even of Latin.
He translates (p. 69.) the words now quoted ; "In the greater is

u %


a church of the ancient religion,'' meaning to insinuate, that there
had been before Giraldus' times another and a different Christian
reh'gion in Ireland, wz. that of his dear Culdees, concerning
wliom he has a heap of intolerable trash, of which more by and
by. Who, that knew any thing of Latin, could, except this
blockhead, have rendered those words in that manner ? Sure-
ly, when the word, religio, is used in speaking of places, it means
vene7'ati^n, respect, sacred feeling. Thus Ovid has (x Metam,
693) Religione sacer prisca (recessiisj; and Virgil (viii. Aen,
S^-l".) Jam turn religio pavidos terrebat agrestes — Sacra loei. Gi-
raldus was fond of using this phrase, when describing places of
ancient religious celebrity. Ex. c. he says {ib. cap. 30.); "In
australi Momonia, circa partes Corcagiae, est insula quaedam, ec-
clesiam continens sancti Michaelis antiquae nimis et autenticae re-
ligionis, that is greatly and justly respected from very old times.
If Giraldus meant, as Ledwich would interpret it, by religionis
faith or Christian doctrine, how would not this passage disconcert
our antiquar}^, whereas Giraldus calls it authentic, which he cer-
tainly would not have done, had it been different from the faith
and Christianity, which he professed himself.^ Elsewhere (as ib*
cap, 5.) he has probatae religionis ecclesiam, which Ledwich {p.
70.) translates a church of the orthodox faith, wishing to show,
that it belonged to what he calls the ancient religion and to Cul-
dees, although Giraldus does not (ib.) make the least alllusion to
such persons. He is there speaking of Lough Derg, and its is-
V land in which is Patrick's purgatoiy, one part of which, he says,
is very pleasant and attended by angels, while the other is full of
devils. Here Ledwich complains, that Giraldus breathes a vindic-
tive spirit against the ancient religion. It is difficult to convey to
the reader the meaning of the muddy effusions of this stupid Doc-
tor ; but he seems to charge Giraldus with transforming the poor
Culdees into the devils of Lough Derg. Now Giraldus was at
that time no more thinking of Culdees or of old religion than he
was of Ledwich himself. Instead of the word coelibes, which
Giraldus has speaking of the Colidei of the smaller island, Led-
wich inserted (p. 69.) monks ; for he did not like that the Cul-
dees, whom he represents as married men, should be expressly
said not to have been married.


(119) This is the name given to it by Colgan. Tr. Th,p. 281.
and 304.

(120) I do not understand, why Archdall (at Monnincha) says,
that the Culdees of this place, whom he inaccurately calls monhj
had an abbey under the invocation of St. Columba. For this lie
gives us no authority, and I strongly suspect that he had none,
except the preconceived unfounded supposition, that the persons,
called Culdees, were Columbian monks.

(121) Ware, Antiq. cap- 26 at Tipperary, Here again we
meet with the mighty Ledwich, who (p. 74) talking about Au-
gustinians (he did not understand the difference between them and
the Canons Regular) and the removal to Corbally, conjectures
that the present abbey of Monaincha, L e. what remains of it,
was erected about the beginning of the 1 3th century. Be it so ;
but it is amusing to observe, how he proves his thesis. " The
August inians (he should have said, August in Canons) did not ap-
pear in this kingdom until 1193 ; for at that time earl Strongbow
brought four from Bodmyn, in Cornwall, to his abbey of Kells in
the county of Kilkeny." This is antiquarian lore with a vengeance.
In the first place there were Augustin Canons, alias Canons Re-
gular of St. Augustin, long before 1193; for, as has been seen,
we had some of them since the times of St. Malachy and the holy
Iraar of Armagh ; O'Carrol, prince of Ergall, and Edan O'Kil-
ledy, bishop of Clogher, founded an abbey for them at Louth in
1148; Hugh de Lacy formed establishments for them in Meath
about 1182; John de Courcey erected a priory for them at Down
in 1183; and, ^ not to tire the reader with repetitions,, the very
abbey of St. Thomas near Dublin, which v*as founded in 1177,
belonged to them, that is, to the particular branch called the
Congregation of St. Victor. Next, the Doctor tells us, that
Strongbow brought four members of this order from Cornwall to
Ireland in said year 1193. How could that be, whereas Strong-
bow was dead since 1 176. He refers to Archdall, who (at Kells)
mentioning the foundation of that priory by Geoffry Fitz-Robert
in 1193, says something in a confused manner about Strongbow.
But he does not state, that it was Strongbow that brought over
those four persons. Supposing, however, that he had, was it not
our great antiquary's duty to correct him ? The poor man was not
able ; what an antiquary ! Or what must be thought of a man, who


had the assurance to patch up and publish a big book on the An-
tiquities of Ireland, while he was so little acquainted with the his-
tory of the country as not to know even the year of Strongbow's
death ; and what of the asinine readers, who have praised that
farrago of ignorance and petulance! ! !

(122) ViL S. Gelasiiy cap, 9. Tr. Th. p. 281 and. 304-. and
above Chap, xxvii. §. 2.


The Colidei or Culdees, inquiry concerimig them—'
Deaths of several bishops, priors, professors,
<§"C. — Priory of St, John Baptist, Dublin, found-
ed'-^John De Courcey defeated by the Irish —
Donald O^Loghlin killed in battle — Death of
Henry IL^^Irish Bishops 'who attended his fu-
neral — Cathedral of St, Patrick, Dublin, erected
on the site of an old parochial church — Founda-
tion of different abbeys — Deaths of more bishops
— Synod at Dublin under Matthew O'Heney, the
Pope's legate — Glendalogh united to Dublin — Se-
veral religioics houses founded — The See of Meath
i^emoved from Clonard to Newtown near Trim —
Religious houses founded by Donald O' Brien —
Death of Donald — Cruelties practised on his fa-
mily by the English — Contest for the See of Ross
— Hamo de Valois, Justiciary of Ireland, invades
ecclesiastical property — Seizes on several lands
belonging to the See of Dublin, and on the tem-
poralities of Leighlin, 8(c, — Death oj^ King Ro-
deric — Conlention of the Connaught princes for
the kingdom^ — Foimdation of several religious



TH E mention made by Giraldus of the Colidci af-
fords us an opportunity of examining, what way the
description of persons understood by that name. If
ever subjects plain and easy in themselves have been
distorted, misrepresented, and corrupted through
ignorance and religious prejudice, this question me-
rits a distinguished place among them. Tiie obscu-
rity, in which it has been involved, is owin^ to some
Scotch writers, who took it into their heads to an-
nounce, that before the coming of Palladius the
Scots were taught and governed by priests and monks
alone without bishops. (1) By Scots they meant
the inhabitants of North Britain, as if the real Scots
were settled there at that time, or as if there were
then a Scottish kingdom in that country, a silly sup-
position, which we have over and over seen to be
false. (2) Had those writers merely said, that in
Ireland, the then only country of the Scots, there
were some priests without any bishop until Palladius
was sent to them, their assertion would im})ly no-
thing vvrong or fabulous. (3) Other later Scotch
authors have added, that those priests or monks were
called Culdei, and that they were in Scotland as far
back as the reigns of the emperors Decius, Aurelian,
and Diocletian, that is, in the third century. (4)
Several antiepiscopalian writers^ particularly Scotch,
seized upon this fable, endeavouring to prove from
it, that the primitive government of the Christian
church was presbyterian ; for, say they, those Cul-
dei used to elect their superiors or superintendents,
either under the title of bishop or not, ^vithout re-
quiring a consecration by any bishop strictly so cal-
led. (5) But, it having been proved that there
was not any church governed in this manner at that
early period in Scotland, nor any such persons there


in those times as Culdei or Culdees, (6) a new sys-
tem was formed, according to which the Culdees
were the disciples and followers of Columhkill, and
who preserved for centuries the purer doctrines and
discipline of Christianity, presbyterianism, &c. un-
til at length they w^re put down by the church of
Home. (7) One of the chief grounds alleged for
this hypothesis consists in a false preconception, that
Columbkill did not consider bishops necessary for
ordaining priests, (8) and thence it was concluded
that the monks oi' Hy, and accordingly the Culdees,
held the same opinion. This stuff was founded on
the singular circumstance of Columbkill and his suc-
cessors at Hy having, although merely priests, ex-
ercised a sort of jurisdiction over the bishops of the
Northern Picts, and perhaps of the British Scots.
(9) But it has been proved over and over, that the
exercise of this privilege did not imply any such idea
as that of the equality of bishops and priests, and
that Columbkill and his followers strictly maintained
the superiority, by divine right, of the former over
the latter. (10) Now it happens unluckily for this
fanciful theory of the Culdees being derived from
C>olumbkill, that in none of the Lives of that saint,
nor in Bede, who very often treats of the Columbian
order and monks, nor in the w^hole history of the
monastery of Hy and of its dependencies, the name
of Culdees or any name tantamount to it, ever once
occurs. (11) This would have been impossible, had
the Culdees been Columbians and members of the
order or congregation of Hy.

(1) John of Fordon, who lived in the 14;th century, laid down
this position, adding that such was the rule of the primitive church.
See more about him Not, 130. to Chap. 1.

(2) Ex, c. See Not, 29. to Chap. 1. and Chap. ix. ^. 1.
(S) See Chap. \.§.\5. and ib. Not. 132.

(4-) Hcct. Boethius, Scot. Hist. L. 6. Buchanan, Rer. Scot,
rex, 35. &c.


(5) This fictitious system has been supported by Blondel (see
Not. 130 to Chap. 1.) and Selden, {Preface to Tvvysden's x Scrip-
tores) who, on occasion of a passage relative to the Keledei (whom
he calls Culdei) in an account given of Turgot of Durham, when
made bishop of St. Andrews, and which will be seen lower down,
heaps together in his usual overwhelming and obscure manner a
multitude of quotations, which, for the far greatest part, are quite
irrelevant to the question, and all of which prove nothing at all as
to the special fact or rights of the Culdei, unless we are to receive
as good authorities such writers as Hector Boethius. It was a
shame for Selden to stoop to some silly conjectures in treating
those points ; for instance, after striving to insinuate that Adam-
nan of Hy and Adamnan of Coludi (see Chap, xviii, §. 5.) w^ere
one and the same person, he relates as probable, that Coludi was
so called from its being frequented by Culdei.

(6) Lloyd [On Church government, chap.1,) has treated this
subject with great clearness and strength of argument, and has
demonstrated the falsehood and absurdity of the whole of that
wretched story. Toland (^Nazarenus, Letter 2. sect. 3.) carps at
Lloyd, but without being able to overturn the main points laid
down by him. He attacks Lloyd for having called that Culdee
system a monkish dream; for, as he argues, there were persons in
Scotland called Culdees, or rather Keldees. But this, so far from
being denied by Lloyd, is admitted by him ; and he even quotes
passages, whence it appears that there were such persons there since
about the ninth century. What Lloyd styled a monkish dream is
the fable of there having been from very old times in Scotland a
presbyterian chm'ch governed by the so-called Culdees. Now
'lt)land, although in his cavilling way he quotes Fordon, &c. does
not attempt to prove, that there was such a church ; for he had
learning enough to know, that so senseless a paradox could not
be maintained.

(7) A number of Scotch writers have laid down as a truism,
that the Culdees were originally Columbian monks. Smith sup-
poses it as a fact, {Life of St. Columba, p. 118.) wljere he has
some raving about " a large body of pastors and people in the
isles and mountains of Scotland, who, like the Waldenses of the
Alps, maintained the worship of God in its simplicity, and the
Gospel in its purity for many generations, when it was greatly


corrupted in other places." He says, however, that this is a fact
not generally known. And indeed how could it, or how did he
know it himself? What a shame to make such assertions without
any authority whatsoever of the many documents, relative to the
ecclesiastical state of these countries, that were drawn up during
those generations, and in not one of which is there the least
allusion to those holy Waldenses of Scotland, unless the true
worship of God and purity of the Gospel be supposed to consist
in celebrating Easter at a particular time, and using a peculiar
sort of tonsure ! But on these points, the mighty arguments of
the discoverers of the Scotch Waldenses, I have said more than
enough in their own place. The system of the Culdees being
derived from Columbkill is followed also by Jamieson in his His-
torical Account of the Ancient Culdees^ a big book replete with
errors of various sorts. This writer has picked up a good deal
from Ledwich, whom he now and then honours with referring to ;
whereas our antiquary also makes Columbkill the founder of the
Culdeess, but with this difference that, instead of allowing that
they were presbyterians, he maintains, {A?ttiq. p. 60 ) that they
w^ere episcopalians.

(8) Jamieson strives (Historical, S^c, p. 48. segq.^ to prove

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 26 of 45)