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

. (page 31 of 45)
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 31 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

But it is a hodgepodge half unintelligible, and scarcely worth con-
sideration. It has, however, one point, which ought not to be
passed over, viz. its calling the see of Down alias that of Dromore.
Hence it is more probable, that Dromore, during the time of its
not existing separately, was included rather in the diocese of
Down, as I have conjectured elsewhere, {Not, 106. to Chap,
XXVII.) than in that of Armagh, as some thought, ap. Ware
(Bishops at Dromore).

(14) The same. Bishops at Dromore. (Compare with Not*

(15) Ib. at Kilmer e. It has been seen, {Chap. x. J. 3 ) that
that there is no proof of St. Fedlimid, the patron saint of Kilmore,
having been a bishop, or, at least, of that see.

(16) See Chap. xxv. §. 13. 14.

(17) Hams {Bishops at Elphin) calls one Denis O'Mulkyran
bishop of Ardcarn, who, he says, died in 1224. If he be right,
the name of the see of Ardcam would have been retained at that
time, although, as he observes, it was then united with Elphin.
But said Denis v/as not a bishop, being only archdeacon or erenach
of Ardcam. (Archdall at Ardcarna.) Such archdeacons used
to be found in places, which had been once episcopal sees.

(18) It would be an endless and almost finiitless task to inquire
into the particular times, at which so many of those old monaste-
ries disappeared. The reader, on looking over Archdall's Mo-
nasticon, and noting the periods, at which the succession of their
abbots ceased, will perceive that a great number of them had fallen
off, some sooner, some later, before the beginning of the 13th

§ III. Yet a considerable number of the old mo-
nasteries, particularly the larger ones, still continued
to exist, such as those of Armagh, Deny, Bangor,
Maghbile or Moville in the county of Down,
Devenish, Clogher, Clones, Louth, Clonfert, Inch-


macnerin, the isles of Arran, Cong, Mayo, Clonard,
Kells, Lusk, Kildare, Trim, Clonmacnois, Killeigh,
Glendaloch, Saigir, the island of All saints in
Lough-ree, Roscommon, Ballysadare, DrumcliefF,
Aghaboe, Lothra or Lorra, Lismore, Molana, Cork,
Iniscatthy, Innisfallen, (19) and several others.
The great monastery of Hy was still kept up, and
considered as an Irish establishment, of which we
have a clear proof in a transaction that occurred in
the year 1203. One Kellach erected a monastery
in Hy in opposition to the elders of the place, upon
which the clergy of the North of Ireland held a
meeting, which was attended by Florence O'Ker-
vallen, bishop of Tirone (Derry), MoeliosaO'Dorigh,
bishop of Tirconnel (Raphoe) and abbot of the mo-
nastery of Saints Peter and Paul at Armagh, Amal-
gad O'Fergal, abbot of Derry, Anmir O'Cobhtaich,
and many others. Afterwards they all went to Hy,
demolished the monastery, which had been built by
Kellach, and placed over the abbey the above men-
tioned Amalgad, who was unanimously elected abbot.
(20) This election of Amalgad seems to show, that
Kellach was abbot of Hy, and that he was deposed
on this occasion. What was his object in erecting a
new monastery I cannot ascertain. Perhaps his in-
tention was to introduce a new order into the island,
perhaps of Cistercians or Augustin Canons, for both
of which there was a great predilection in Ireland ;
or it may be supposed, that bis only view was to con-
struct a new edifice for the Columbian monks more
aplendid and commodious than the old monastery,
and on a different site, which the monks objected to
on account of their attachment to every thing con-
nected with the memory of St. Columba. These
monks, as well as the whole of the Columbian order,
still adhered, as far as I can discover, to their old
rule and system ; but several other Irish monasteries
seem to have adopted before or about these times the
rule of the Canons Regular of St. Augustin. (21)


The transition was not difficult ; for the old Irish
rules did not, in substance, differ much from that of
said Canons, inasmuch as they were not as strictly
monastical as those of the Egyptian, Basilian, or
Benedictine monks, and allowed, without particular
dispensation, the union of the active service of the
Church, such as practised by the secular clergy, with
the observance of monastic regulations, which,
although varying more or less, were, as I have
often remarked, founded on the system, which St.
Patrick had seen followed in Lerins and at Tours,
and which he introduced into Ireland. (^22) Now
the characteristic feature of the Canons Regular,
which distinguishes them from monks emphatically
so called, is, that, although they make vow^s and are
bound to observe certain laws similar to those of the
monks, they are capable of practising the functions,
which usually belong to the secular clergy.

(19) See Archdall at these places.

(20) Tr, Th,p. 501. Florence O'Kervallan, or O'Cherballen,
is called by Ware bishop of Deny. His being here styled bishop
of Tirone is owing to a considerable part of that territory having
been in these times comprized in the diocese of Derry. This
was not the case until after Mm-edach O'Coblitaich became bishop
of Derry in the place of Flathbert O'Brolcan. For before that
time the title of bishop of Tirone, or Kitiel-Eogain, used to be
given to the bishop of Ardstraw. (See Chap, xxix. {. 5. and
Not. 100. to Chap xxvii.) Anmir O'Cobhtaich, who attended the
meeting, was a Columbian monk ; for he was afterwards abbot of
Derry. (Tr. Th.p. 505.)

(21) See Ware, Opuscula S. Patr. S^c.p. 117.

(22) See Chap. iv. f . 9. 12. and vii. §. 15.

§. IV. Yet the system of the ancient Irish com-
munities was much more severe than that of the
Canons Regular, as is clear from the Rule of St.
Columbanus, which was taken from those of the mo-
nasteries in Ireland, particularly that of Bangor, of


which that great saint had been a member. After the
great law of loving God and our neighbour, the first
thing required of a monk was implicit obedience to
the orders of his superior without complaining or
murmuring. Silence was strictly enjoined, except
on necessary and useful occasions. Their fare was
of a very simple kind, consisting of herbs, pulse,
farinaceous substances mixed with water, and a small
allowance of biscuit. Their meal was late in the
day ; but, although scanty, and such as to render
every day a sort of a fast-day, it was sufficient for
the necessities of nature without injuring the health
or impairing the strength of the body, or preventing
the monks from fulfilling their duties of praying,
working, and reading. (23) They were not allowed
to eat any thing before None (three o'clock in the
afternoon) on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout
the year, a regulation which was observed, and, ac*
cording to some accounts, still oftener in all the
Irish monasteries. (24) Independently of the great
fast of Lent, which did not begin, at least as late as
the tenth century, in Ireland until the Saturday
previous to the first Sunday of that holy season, (25)
the regular weekly fast-days, observed by the whole
Irish church, were Wednesdays and Fridays, nor
was the fast, or, as now practised, the abstinence
on Saturday, which has been substituted for that of
Wednesday, received in Ireland until a very long
time after it had been established in other parts of
the Western church. (26) The ancient Irish monks
generally abstained, as far I can discover, at all times
from flesh meat, but they were allowed to eat fish,
(27) and even in Lent the use of eggs was not pro-
hibited. (28) Yet some monasteries possessed sheep
and cows, (29) the former chiefly for the sake of the
wool, of which the monks made their garments, and
the latter on account of the milk, which was much
used hy them, and allowed even on the days of the
strictest fast. (SO) They used, however, to treat


guests and strangers with flesh meat. (31) Their
usual drink was milk or water ; yet they occasionally
drank beer and even wine. .(3^) The Irish monks
were at the same time instructed, that the external
observance of fasts and abstinence does not in itself
constitute sanctity, and that it is not enough to chas-
tise the body, unless the soul be cured of malice
and iniquity. (33). In fact, the greatest part of
the Rule of St. Columbanus is relative to the neces-
sity of suppressing cupidity and even a wish for
superfluities, and of a total contempt of the things
of this world ; (34) the strict obligation of shun-
ning vanity and pride, of observing chastity not
only externally but inwardly in the mind, and of
adhering to the straight rule of all the Christian
virtues, but with discretion and prudence ; the con-
stant spirit of mortification, humility, patien«,e, and
abandonment of self will.

(23) St. Columbanus has in his Rule (cap. 3. De cibo et potu):
<' Cibus sit vilis et vespertinus monachorura, satietatera fugiens et
potus ebrietatem, ut et sustineat et non noceat. Olera, legumina,
farinae a(|uis mixtae cum parvo paximatio, ne venter oneretur
et mens sufFocetur ; et enim utilitati et usui tantum consulendum est
aetema desiderantibus praemia ; ideo temperandus est ita usus
sicut temperandus est labor ; quia haec est vera discretio, ut possi-
bilitas spiritualis profectus cum abstinentia camem macerante re-
tentetur. Si enim modum abstinentia excesserit, vitium non vir-
tus erit ; virtus enim multa sustinet bona et continet. Ergo quo-
tidie jejunandum est, sicut quotidie reficiendum est ; et dum quo-
tidie edendum est, villus et parcius corpori indulgendum est, quia
ideo quotidie edendum est, quia quotidie proficiendum est, quo-
tidie orandum est, quotidie laborandum, quotidieque est legen-
dum." The word, paximatium, has been explained by some as
meaning bread baked under anbers, but is more usually under-
stood of biscuit, and often occurs in old documents. One of them
weighed six ounces, and Cassian says, (Collat. 19. cap. 4.) that
two of them used to be given to each monk every day. (See Du-
cange at paximatium.'^


(24?) In the Poenitentialis or second part of the Rule of St.
Columbanus (see Not. 15 to Chap, xiii.) it is ordered that, if any
monk eats before None on those days, unless he be sick or infirm,
he must fast for two days on bread and water. " Si quis ante
horam nonam quarta sextaque feria manducatf nisi infirmus / duos
dies in jmne et aqua,'' St. Aidan brought this practice from
Ireland to Northumberland, where, according to his example,
it was followed, except in the Paschal time between Easter Sunday
and Whitsuntide, by the religious men and women, as Bede
thus informs us {Eccl. Hist. L. 3. c. 5.) : " Cujus (Aidani) ex-
emplis injormaliy tempore illo, religiosi quique viri ac Jbeminae
consuetudinem fecerunt per totem atmum, excepta remission^
quinqiiagesimae paschalis, quarta et sexta sabbati jejunium ad
7ionam usque horam protelare," Whether St, Columbanus ex-
cepted the paschal time I do not find mentioned ; but it is probable
that he did. Ratramn of Corbie, who hved in the 9th centuiy,
goes still further, and says in his fourth book against the Greeks,
that all the monks and persons belonging to religious communities
throughout Ireland used to fast enery day, except Sundays and
holidays, until None or even later. There he writes, as quoted
by Usher [Pr,p. 731); " Scotorum natio Hiberniam insulam in-
habitajis consuetudinem habet per monasteria monachorum sen ca-
nonicorumy vel quorumcunque religiosorum, omni tempore praeter
Dominicam Jestosqne dies jejunare^ nee riisi vel ad nonam vel ad
vesperam corpori cibum indulgerey We have seen {Chap. xxx.
§. 6.) that even in the latter part of the 12th century the Irish
clergy in general, a great part of whom were monks, observed
the practice of fasting almost every day until late in the evening.
Many pious persons, hermits, <Src. used to live merely on water
herbs, cresses,, and water, which they took at the close of the day.
In the sixth or metrical Life of St Brigid we read, that she and
her virgins were wont for some time to go in search of such fare ;

" Vespere flumineas quaerebant fontibus herbas,
Antiqui soliti quels vitam ducere sancti
Frigida cum crispis sumebant pocula et herbis.

Tr, Th. p. 593.

We meet with in some Lives of Irish saints accounts of extraor-


dinary fasting from any food for some days ; but this excess was
not authorized by the monastic rules, wliich required that, as the
monks had daily duties to perform, they should eat every day.
(25; See Not. 105. to Chap. v.

(26) It has been said, that in this point the Irish followed the
practice of the Greek church, whose weekly fast days are Wednes-
days and Fridays, rather than that of the Roman. But the fact
is, that the ancient Roman church had the same practice ; and
it does not appear, that the fast of Saturday was observed at Rome
until some time, and apparently a late one, in the 4th century.
It might seem that it was first introduced there by Pope Innocent
I., (see the 6th lesson of the Roman Breviary at 28 July, and
Platina at Innocent I.) whose pontificate began in 402 and ended
in 417 ; but some writers undertsand his approbation of it as con-
firming a practice already observed and not establishing a new one.
(See Sandini, Vitae Pontif. Roman, at Innocent I.) St. Augustin,
who was contemporary with that Pope, remarks, (Ep. 86. ad
Casulanum) that in his time it was observed at Rome and in some
Western churches, but that in others it was not. The first cer-
tain account we find of it is in the 26th canon of the council of
Eliberis in Spain, held in the year 305. (See Bingham, Origines
S^c. B. XX. ch. 3. sect. 6.) I think he is mistaken in saying, that
it was practised a little earlier at Rome. It was not received at
Milan in the times of St. Ambrose, nor, I believe, for a consi-
derable time after in the Gallican church, the discipline of which
was brought to Ireland by St. Patrick. Wherever it was kept,
this fast did not at first set aside that of Wednesday ; but its observ-
ers had, instead of two, three fast days in the week. (Bingham,
ih. B. XXI. ch. 3. sect. 6.) Wednesday was universally kept as a
fast day in Ireland down to the times of Colgan. (See Not. 182. to
Chap. XI.) From the long permanence of this fast, or at least
abstinence, it has come to pass, that to this day there are numbers
of persons in this country, who scrupulously abstain from flesh
meat on eveiy Wednesday in the year. Ware mentions, {Opusc.
S. Patr. p. 99.) that some explain Dia Cedain, the Irish name
for Wednesday, as signifying the first fasting day of the week.
But O'Brien {Irish Diction, at Dia) gives a quite different ety-

(27) The monks of Hy had a sort of sea-water pond, in which


were kept sea-calves or seaU for the use of the monastery (see NoL
183 to Chap, xi) ; for that kind of fish used to be eaten in those
times. Their taking of other sorts of fish is mentioned by Adam-
nan fvit. S. CoL L. 2. cap. 19). St. Gallus was employed at
Bregentz in fishing for the use of the brethren and of others.
(Chap. XIII. J. II.)

(28) The holy bishop Cedd, who had been educated at Liiidis-
farne by Aidan and Finan, while strictly observing a Lent fast,
used every day, except on Sundays, to take in the evening only
a little bread, one e^^^ and a small quantity of milk mixed with
water. (Bede, Eccl. Hist. L. S. cap. 23.)

(29) St. Columba had sheep in Hy. (See Not. 183. to C/i«;;.
XI.) He had also cows, (Adamnan Vit. S. CoL L. 2. cap. 16.)
whereas milk was much used by liis monks. The Irish Columbian
monks of Northumberland possessed some cattle. (See Chap.
XVIII- §. Land ib. Not. 5.) St. Bridgid had sheep, cows, and
even swine. (Cogitosus, Vit. S. Brig. capp. 8, 16, and 20.)

(30) See above Not. 28.

(31) We read in the Life of St. Molua, ( concerning whom see
Chap. XII. §. 7.) that, on his being visited by St. Moedoc, bishop
of Ferns, he ordered a calf to be killed to serve as part of an en-
tertainment for him. But he afterwards discovered, that St.
Meodoc did not eat flesh meat. {AA. SS. p- 221.) It is related
{ib. p. 421.) that, on the holy bishop Aedus, son of Brec, ar-
riving at the monastery of lois-Bofinde in Lough-ree, the abbot
St. Rioch, not knov/ing that the bishop abstained from such meat,
prepared a great supper of it for him. St. Brigid used to treat
guests and strangers with bacon and other sorts of meat. ( Cogi"
tosus, tap, 4 and 15.)

(32) The great St. Finnian of Clonard did not scruple to take
a cup of beer on festival days. (See Chap. x. J. 5.) It is said in
the first Life of St. Kieran of Saigir, [cap. 33.) that at a dinner,
with which he entertained Kieran of Cionmacnois and the two
Brendans, the Lord provided them with a sufficiency of wine.

(33) See Chap. xvi. §. 8.

(34) In the 17th chapter of the synod called of St. Patrick,
after its being stated, that monks are persons who live solitary,
without earthly property, under the authority of a bishop or abbot,
we find the following words ; " Non sunt autem monachi, sed Fac-



troperki, hoc est, contemptores solliciti ad vitam perfectam in
aetate perfecta." The meaning of this passage seems to be, that
monks ought to be like the Vactroperiti, who despised all worldly
things. Ware confesses (Opusc. S. Pah: p. 117.) that he did
not know, to what language Vadro belongs. Dr. Ledwich {p.
423.) very wisely pronounces, that it is latinized from the Irish
Vaigneas, solitude. But, as Ducange observes, Vactroperiti is
the same us Bactroperataey a name given to certain philoso-
phers from their carrying bactron, a staif, and pera^ a sack or
bag. St. Jerome says of them, (ad. cap. 19 Matth.) " quod con-
temptores secidif et omnia pro nihilo ducentes, cellarium suum vc'
hebant'' In the same chapter of the synod is added, " quia in
frigore et nuditatCy in fume et sitiy in vigiliis et jejuniis vocati

§. V. The Irish menks used to live by their own
labour, (^35) and accordingly certain times of the
day were assigned for their respective manual occu-
pations, except on Sundays and festivals, which were
spent in celebmting the divine offices. (36) The in-
tervals between those times of the day were occupied
in reciting psalms, anthems, and prayers, or the
canonical hours, according to the office prescribed
for each day. Having read these parts of the office
together, every one was bound to pray privately in
his own cell. They assembled again in the begin-
ning of the night and read the first Nocturn, con-
sisting of a certain number of Psalms. The second
Nocturn, which contained an equal number, was
read at midnight ; but about twice that number was
read early in the morning. A much greater num-
ber was read on Saturday night, coming Sunday,
than on any other. St. Columbanus established a
distinction between the long and the short nights of
the year, as he thought it too severe to make the
monks recite as many Psalms in the short ones as in
the long ones ; and accordingly he directed that,
when the nights began to grow long, the number of
Psalms should be augmented, and so proportionally


until they reached their greatest length, and vice
versa diminished according as the nights became
shorter and shorter. (37) On the whole it appears,
that our ancient monks used to read a much greater
number of Psalms than is usually enjoined by the
present discipline of the Catholic church ; yet the
canonical hours of the day, Prime, Tierce, Sexte,
and None, were much the same as at present ; for,
independently of the annexed versicles and prayers,
each of them consisted of only three Psalms. (38)
Thus the monks were not overloaded with those long
offices observed in some continental monasteries, and
which scarcely allowed time for other occupations.
(39) Consequently, although they were also bound
to work more or less every day, except Sundays and
holidays, they had leisure enough for study and for
attending the instructions of the professors or lec-
turers, who, as we have seen innumerable instances
of, were to be found in every Irish monastery.
Time was allowed likewise for that most useful and
laudable employment, which they were among the
first to introduce into monasteries, viz. that of trans-
cribing books, which was in itself a labour equiva-
lent to any other, and in which many of them used
to be engaged. (40)

(35) In the Life of St. Brendan of Clonfert it is laid down as a
rule, that a monk ought to be fed and clothed by the labour of
his own hands ; *' Monachum oportet labore manuiun suarum vesci
et vestiri ;" and it is stated, that it was thus his 3000 monks main-
tained themselves. (See Chap. x^§. 7.) A similar rule is found in
one of the visions of St. Fursey (See Vit. S. Furs. L. 1. cap. 26);
<' Qui vero in monasteriis degiint, cum silentio operantes smun
panem rnanducent," St. Moedoc, bishop of Ferns, used to join
his monks in their agrucultural labours. (See Chap. xiv. ^. 10.)
The monks, placed by St. Colman at Mayo, earned their bread
with their own hands. {Chap, xviii. §. 2.) In a matter so clear
I need not quote further instances,

^ %'^) Columbkill, on occasion of the death of a I^einster bi -
A A 2 ' '


shop, named Columbanus, gave orders, that the monks, who were
preparing on a working day to set about their daily labours, should
rest on that day, saying, that he intended to celebrate the sacred
mysteries of the Eucharist. (See Not. 182 to Chap, xi.)

(37) Rule of St. Columbanus, ck. 7. He observes, that it was
the practice of some to read the same number of psalms every
night, whether long or short, and that between night and morn-
ing or matines they used to meet in choir four times ; 1. at the
beginning of night, 2. at midnight, 3. at the crowing of the
cocks, 4. in the morning.

(38) See ib.

(39) See, for instance, what Ileuiy has (Hist. Eccl. L. 63. §.
60.) concerning the practices of Clugni.

(40) Columbkill set a glorious example for his followers with re-
gard to this occupation. We find him a short time before his
death copying part of the Psalter. (See Chap. xii. §. 14.)
Adamnan makes mention {L. 2. cap. 9.) of a book of hymns and
other books transcribed by him. If we are to believe O'Donnel,
{L 3. cap. 42.) he left 300 manuscripts of sacred books in his own
handwriting. Baithen, one of his chief disciples and his imme-
diate successor in Hy, having written a copy of the Psalter,
brought It to the saint, telling him, that it was necessary to get it
revised by one of the brethren. Columbkill answered ; " Why do
you give us this trouble ? for there is no mistake in the whole of
it, except that one vowel, /, is wanting." This shows, how
careful they were in rendering their transcripts correct. There is
a proof of the attention paid to correctness also in the request
made by Dorbeneus relatively to the transcribing of Adamnan's
Life of Columbkill. (See Not. 44. to Chap, xix.) In a Life of
St. David of Wales, published by Colgan, (at 1 March) and
written, I believe, in Ireland, as in great part it is taken up with
accounts of Irish friends or disciples of that saint, the practice of
writing in the monastery is mentioned (cap. 12.) as a usual occu-
pation, after the monks had returned from their rural labours,
just as was that of reading or praying. How ungrateful are some
modern petty foggers in literature to those good and indefatigable
monks, who have preserved for us so many monuments of ancient
learning, history, poetry, &c. !


§. VI. The discipline observed by our monks was
exceedingly strict. Penances were enjoined for the
slightest transgressions and omissions relative to
morality, observance of the Rule, and decent be-
haviour. Those penances consisted in the infliction
of blows or stripes, fasting on one biscuit and water
for two or more days, and in reading an addi-
tional number of Psalms. (41) The monks were
bound to remain in the community, to which they
had been first attached; but the abbot could permit
or command them to go elsewhere, if he thought if:
would tend to their greater proficiency, or to the
good of religion. (42) I find in one of the Irish
canons the age for making the monastic vow marked
at ^0 years ; (43) but whether that age was gene-
rally considered as suilicient, or whether it was re-
quired in all our old monasteries, I am not able to

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 31 of 45)