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 32 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 32 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

determine. The Irish monks, as well as the clergy
at large, were distinguished from the laity by tlie
tonsure, of which enough has been said already ;
(44) but they had no particular habit or form of
dress, except such as became grave, sedate, and
humble persons. They wore a long tunic made of
wool, over which they sometimes threw the cuculla
or mantle of the same material. Notwithstanding
the variety of monastic rules, that existed in Ireland,
there was no difference as to the colour of their gar-
ments ; for they left the wool in the natural colour
which it had received from the sheep. (45) Accord-
ingly some of them were clad in wliite, some in
black ; for, besides white sheep, there were also
black ones in Ireland ; (45*) but there was no obli-
gation as to using any particular colour.

(41) See the Poenitentialis or Supplementary Rule of St. Co-
lumbanus passim. The practice of inflicting stripes prevailed
also in some monasteries of the Continent, ejc. c. at Clugni.
(Fleury. L. 63. §. 60.)

(42) This is the plain meaning of the 2 1st chapter or canon of


the synod, called of St. Patrick, although the text is somewhat
corrupt. Dr. Ledwich says, (.Antiquities, &c. /?. 406.) that in
this canon are noticed the Sarabaites, a sort of independent
monks, who lived as they pleased, two or three or a few more
together, chiefly in cities and frequented places, under no Rule
and without any superior, and whom St. Jerome represents as
pests of the Church. (See Bingham, Origines, SfC. B. vii. ch, 2.
sect. 4.) But in the quoted canon there is not a word about them.
Did the Doctor mean to state, that there were Sarabaites in
Ireland ? He refers also to the third canon of the synod of St.
Patrick, Auxilius, and Isserainus. Now in this canon monks are
not mentioned at all, the words of it being, " Clericus vagus non
sit in plebe," the intention of which was, that every clerk should
be attached to a church. Among the Irish monks there were
none such as the Sai-abaites ; and we have seen, (above Not. 34.)
that they are, without exception, defined persons living solitary
SfC. under the authority of a bishop or abbot. And by the 34th
canon of said synod any monk rambling about without permission
of his abbot is ordered to be punished ; " Monachus inconsulto
abbate vagulus debet vindicari"

(43) A viginti annis debet unusquisque constringi non adtes-
tando sed voto perjiciendo, ut est illud, Unusquisque sicut pro-
posuit corde suo faciat, et ut vota mea reddam in conspectu Do-
mini, quia, «&:c. {Synod of St. Patrick, cap. 17.) This does not
mean, that persons under 20 years of age could not be received
in the monasteries, and it was quite usual to instruct boys in them ;
but according to this regulation, although a young man might
have an intention, and even declare it, to become a monk, he
was not to be solemnly bound to the monastic state, until he had
reached the age of twenty. And to this, it seems, is relative the
distinction implied in tlie words adtestmido and perficiendo. That
was supposed to be a perfect age, i. e. an age, in which a person
was able to judge, whether he could fulfil the duties of that state
during the remainder of his life. Just before the words quoted
above we read, " in aelate perfecta, hoc est, a viginti annis," &c.

(44) See Chup. xvii. j. 16.

(45) Jocelin writes ( Vit. St. Pair. cap. 185.) : " Super caetera
indumenta (S. Patricius) cuculla Candida amiciebatur, ut ipse ha-
bitus forma et colore monachatus sui speciem, et candidatum hu-


militatis et innocentiae repraesentare videretur. Unde et mona-
chi in Hibernia S. Patricii sequendo vestigia per multa temporinn
volumina habitu siwplici contenti erant, quern ovium ministrahat
lana, qualibet exti-inseca tindura remota.'' The wool, which he
alluded to, was usually white. Thus Adamnan makes mention
( Vit, S. Col. L, 2. c. 44.) of the white tunic, Candida tunica^
of St. Columba ; and in the 2d Life of this saint we read (c.np.
6 ) that he instructed in Hy candidus monachorum greges. St.
Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, who, whether an Irishman or not, fol-
lowed the Irish practices, used the common sort of dress, but so
as that his was not remarkable either for nicety or dirt. And hence
it became a rule of his monastery, that no one should wear clothes
of a variegated or precious colour, and that the monks should be
content chiefly with such as the natural wool of the sheep did
furnish. (Bede, ViL S. Ciithb. cap. 16.) Of the cuculla of St.
Columba we have seen elsewhere (Not. 175 to Chap. xi). Some
cucullas were long, some short. That which Jocelin says was
worn by St. Patrick, appears to have been long, as covering his
other garments; and, as the Irish monks followed his example,
we may suppose that theirs were long also.

(45*) Giraldus Cambrensis says, {Topogr. Hib. DisL 3. cap.
10.) that the Irish wore thin w^oollens, {laneis enim tenuiter utun-
tur) by which, as appears from what follows, he must have meant
woollen mantles, and that these were generally black, because the
sheep were black in Ireland. Dr. Ledwich, in a chapter on the
Ancient Irish dress, full of mistakes and mis-statements, tells us,
( Antiq. p. 339.) that their reason for using black clothing was,
that such was the colour of tlieir bogs, their constant retreats.
Now this great antiquary had just before quoted the passage of
Giraldus, to which I have referred ; but he could not resist his pas-
sion for casting some slur on the Irish nation. Giraldus assigns as
the cause of that part of their clothing being black, that their sheep
were black ; but the Doctor brings in the bogs. He might as well
have said, that dark colours were preferred at Rome, " Roma magis
fuscis vestitur, Gallia riifis" (Martial, Epig. 129. L. 14.) because
the Romans used to hide themselves in bogs. \Miere did he find^
that they were the constant retreats of the Irish in ancient times ?
Was it in Borlase's account of the Irish rebellion, to which he re-
fers, an author treating of the civil wars of Ireland in the 17th


century? What an antiquary! Black sheep could not have
been as general in Ireland in Giraldus' time as he seems to say,
whereas Jocelin, his contemporary, in mentioning the white wool
of St. Patrick's cuculla, and his example being followed by the
Irish monks in not dyeing the wool for their ganiients, (see Not^
jjrec.J plainly alludes to white wool. Giraldus spoke of only such
parts of Ireland as he was better acquainted with.

§. VII. As I have happened to touch upon the
mode of dress, I must be here allowed to make a
few remaks on the beastly assertion of Ledvvich,
(46) that not only the Irish laity but even their ec-
clesiastics of old times were in the habit of not wear-
ing any other dress than a short sort of mantle, that
covered the shoulders and reached only to the elbows,
leaving the rest of the body absolutely naked. (47)
This he founds on a vile mis-interpretation of a
canon of the Irish church, by which it was ordered
that, if any clerk from the ostiarius (or door-keeper)
up to the priest be seen without a tunic, or do not
cover the turpitude and nakedness of his belly, he
be despised by the laity and separated from the
Church. (48) But the object of the canon was,
the clergy should not appear dressed in a fashion,
which was very general with young and military
men, particularly of the lower orders, who below
their upper dress, reaching to the elbows or waist,
wore a sort of pantaloons covering in one piece the
thighs, legs, and feet, but so tight and litted so
close to the limbs as to discover every muscle and
motion of the parts, which it covered. (49) Pan-
taloons of this kind were justly considered as an in-
decent article of dress, and particularly unbecoming
ecclesiastics, on which account the impropriety of it
was marked in the strong terms, which occur in the
canon, representing it as tantamount to real naked-
ness. Accordingly it was enacted under the pe-
nalty of excommuuication, that no clergyman should
appear, or be seen by others, except habited, at



least, in a tunica femoralis, that is, a coat closed
behind and before, which should reach, at least, to
the knees, (50) This then is the sum total of what
Ledvvich has so shamefully misrepresented. (51) I
may here observe, that in the canon there is no men-
tion of bishops ; for they always appeared in their
full dress. The use of those pantaloons even by the
laity was disapproved of; but, in spite of the exer-
tions of the clergy and of others, it was retained
by the lower orders until a late period. (52)

(46) Antiq. S^c. p, 332.

(47) He charges the Anglo-Saxons with following the same
practice, even down as late as the 12th century; and why?
Because William of Malmesbury says, that the English wore
clothes, which reached to the middle of the knees, and that their
skins v/ere punctured with ornamental figures. The latter part
of this passage has nothing to do with the question ; but surely, if
their clothes reached to their knees, their dress was very different
from that, which he attributes to them. Here he introduces one
of his favourite nonsensical positions, viz. that the Irish were de-
scended from the same stock with the Anglo-Saxons, than which
nothing can be more false, unless our antiquaiy meant to go back
as far as the times of Noah. The Irish were derived from a
southern source, the Anglo-Saxons from a northern ; their lan-
guages were essentially different, and so was their mythology;
not to mention several other particularities, which it is not my
province to inquire into.

(48) This canon is No. 6. of the synod, called of Patrick,
Auxilius, and Isserninus, ap. Ware, Opnsc. S. Pair. p. 42.) and
is thus in the original ; " Qiiicumque clericus, ah ostiario usque
ad sacerdotem, sine tunica visus fuerit, aut turpitudinem ventris
et nuditatem non tegat—pariter a laicis contemnentur, et ab
Ecdesia separentur." In Martene s edition of this canon fNov.
Thes. Anced, Tom. 4. col. 5.) the words, Patricius ait, are pre-
fixed to it, and instead of simply tunica, we find tunica femorali,
as also, instead of aut, lihdiS quae; and after panVer it has con-
demnahuntur, et ab Ecdesia separahuntur. But St. Patrick
could not have been the author of this canon, whereas it contains


likewise an order for observing the Roman tonsure, an order,
which could not have been made until, at the earliest, after the
Southern Irish had received the Roman paschal computation and,
what usually accompanied it, the Roman tonsure, which they did
not prior to about A. D. 633. (See Chap. xv. §, 6.) Ware was
mistaken in assigning this canon, whatever may be thought of the
other canons of that synod, to St. Patrick and his companions ;
and hence he supposed, (ib. p. 124.) that the ancient author of
the old catalogue of the three classes of Irish saints, ( ap. Usher,
Pr. p. 913, seqq.) of which I have elsewhere treated at large,
was wrong in stating, that the two first classes used the old Irish
tonsure. Now the fact is, that said author was right ; and if St-
Patrick had commanded the use of the Roman tonsure, the Irish
clergy would never have adopted any other. Accordingly it fol-
lows, that the canon in question was passed some time in the 7th
or 8th century. I say the 8th, beause the MSS. whence D'Achery
and Martene published their collections of Irish canons, were as
old as that period.

(49) Tills sort of dress is described by Giraldus, who (Topogr.
Jiib. Dist. 3. cap, 10.) writes ; " Caputiis namque modicis assu-
eti simt et arctis, trans humeros deorsum, cubito tenus protensis,
variisque colorum generibus panniculorumque plerumque consutis ;
sub quibus phalingis laneis quoque palliorum vice utuntur, seu
braccis caligatis, seu caligis braccatis, et his plerumque colore fu-
catis." It is not my business to enter into a minute explanation of
this passage, which is not as clear as Dr. Ledwich (Antiq. p.
339.) imagined. It would indeed be clear enough, were we
to understand it as he does. For he introduces, besides the ca-
puche, a jacket as placed between it and the braccae or panta-
loons. But Giraldus makes no mention of a jacket, unless it be
supposed, that he comprized it under the name of capuche. And
it is probable, that he did ; whereas he places immediately be-
neath it either the phalingae or the braccae. But the Doctor, who
understands by phalingae or falliri a jacket, makes him say, that
the braccae were worn below the fallin. Now Giraldus has no
such thing ; and liis plain meaning, as appears from the particle
seu^ is that below what he calls the capuche some wore the fallin,
and others the braccae. The fallin was certainly not a jacket^
According to O'Brien's and Shaw's dictionaries (at Fallain) it


was the Irish cloak or mantle, and this corresponds with Giraldus'
observing, that they were used palliorum vice. Yet I allow, that
the poorer Irish wore a jacket ; (see Walker's Histor. Essay on
Irish dress, pi. 1 . Jig. 2.) and it seems that the fallin, which
some of them wore, was only a sort of a petticoat. (See ib. pi. 1.
Jig. 6.) Yet Walker is sometimes incorrect on these points ; for
instance, he translates (p. 28.) Giraldus' words, phalingis laneis
&c. as if he had said, that the Irish, or some of them, wore the
fallin, besides large loose breeches or trovosers. Instead of besides
he should have written or ; nor had he any right to bring in the
words large loose, particularly as he himself had (p. 3.) spoken
of the straight bracca, that was fitted exceedingly close to the
limbs. Troivsers, or trotvses as in Ware's Antiquities (ch. 11.)
and in Harris's additions (ch. 23.) is a mis-translation of the ^mc-
cis caligatis of Giraldus, whereas he meant the tight sort of
covering used by many of the Irish, and not the wide one called
trowsers or trowses. Lynch (Cambr. Evers. ji' 122.) gives a very
accurate description of it in these words; " Apud Hibernos
bracca indumentum est continuum, non intercisum, succos, tibi-
alia, et foeminalia complectens quo uno ductu quis pedibus, suris,
et foemoribus induat. Nee enlmjluiians erat (ut ait Tacitus)
sed strictum, et sitigulos artus exprimetis — Inguinem tegunt qui-
dem braccae, ita tamen ut plane nudare videantur, nisi longiora
timicarum peniculamenta eidem obtenderentur.'' His using nudare
comes to the same point as the turpitudinem ventris et nuditatem
of the canon. By longiora timicarum peniculamenta he means
the fi'inges of the short tunic or jacket, that hang down from it
over the bracca. The reader will form a clear idea of both the
jacket and bracca, or pantaloons, by looking over the figures of
O'More's (of Leix) soldiers in two drawings ap. Ledwich, ib. at
7). 354.

(50) The tunica Jhemoralis must, as the very name shows, be
carefully distinguished from the short tunic or jacket. Figurcg
of persons wearing it may be seen passion in Walker's Histor. &c.
ex. c. pi. I. Jig. 1. III. Jig. I. 2. 3. &c, Ledwich has, (pi. 20
at p. 282.) after Walker, from paintings in the abbey of Knock-
moy, similar figures, in some of which it comes down to the knees?
or even lower, and in others not quite so far.

(51) The practice of the Protestant bishops, who, when ap-


pearlng In public in the short dress used in our times, wear a kind
of apron, might have taught him to explain the words of the canon
in a manner v^uite different from what he has done.

(52) Lynch §ays, {loc ciL) that the higher orders had ceased
before his times to wear them, but that the plebeians could not be
persuaded to drop the use of them, until at length some time
before the war, that began in 1641, they, partly of their own
accord, and partly through the exhortations of the priests, ex-
changed them for breeches. He thinks, that the reason, for
which they had been so much attached to the use of those panta-
loons, was, that no sort of covering was so convenient for their
running with that innate swiftness of foot, for which they were so

§. VIII. In the canon now treated of* there is a
clause, relative to the wives of clerks, from which
it has been inferred, that even our priests were mar-
ried, at least at the time when said canon was made.
After the order for not being seen without the long
tunic, and that for using the Roman tonsure, (53)
it is enjoined, that the clerk's wife shall not v.alk
out without having her head veiled. (54) Now, as
in the text of the canon the name clerk comprizes
the various orders from the lowest, the ostiarius, up
to the priests, it may be supposed, that by a clerk's
wife may be understood one also of a priest. Yet
this is not certain ; for the name priest might have
been inserted not inclusively, but exclusively, as if it
were said, that all the members of the clerical orders
lower than that of the priest should wear the tunic
reaching, at least, to the knees. For it may be
conjectured, that the priests were not chargeable with
following the lay fashion above described, and that
only some of the younger clerks, including even
deacons, had adopted it. As a priest could not
have been in those times under thirty years of age,
and as a peculiar appearance of gravity was required
from him, it is hard to think, that he would have
appeared in such a dress. According to this suppo-


sition, the regulation relative to the wives of clerks
did not extend to priests. I have not met with a
single instance of a married priest in Ireland until
the arrival of the Anglo-Normans and Welsh, among
whom such priests were to be found. (55) Yet I
allow that the words of the canon seem to favour the
marriage of the Irish clergy, at least of the orders
inferior to the priesthood, although they do not agree
with other documents. The abbot Commian, who
was an Irishman, and in all probability lived in the
seventh century, has in his penitential (56) a canon
condemning the marriage not only of a monk, but
likewise of a clerk, after he had devoted himself to
God, and sentencing the delinquent to a penance of
ten years, three of which on bread and water, besides
abstaining from the use of matrimony. (57) There
may have been a variety of practices in Ireland re-
lative to this matter, but some other arguments,
besides the quoted passage of the sixth Irish canon,
would be necessary to prove, that our priests were
allowed to have wives. Perhaps it will be said that,
although a priest was not permitted to marry after
his ordination, he might have been allowed to re-
tain a wife, whom he had before it, as now practised
in the Greek church, and that thus this canon may
be reconciled with that of Cummian, who mentions
after he had devoted himself to God. But I find
no reasons for admitting, that this practice was ever
received in Ireland ; where, on the contrary, it seems
to have been condemned. (58) This mucli is certain,
that not only in the times of Giraldus Cambrensis,
but likewise as far back as those of Lan franc, arch-
bishop of Canterbury, there were no Irish married
priests ; for, if there were, he would undoubtedly
have taken notice of a practice so contrary to the
then general discipline of the Western church, as
he did of other Irish customs, some of which were
of much less importance.


(53) See above Not. 48.

(54) " Et uxor ejus si non velato capite amhulaverit, pariter" Sec.
Usher {Discourse of the Religion, Sfc, ch. 5.) take notice of these
words, as indicating, that the Irish clergy were not prohibited
from marrying. But he gives no other proof, except its being
related, that St. Patrick was son of a deacon and grandson of a
priest. This, however, does not prove, that the law of ecclesi-
astical celibacy did not exist in Irelaud. He speaks of the clergy
in general, but without the least allusion to bishops, as they are
not mentioned in the canon. And, as already observed (Not. 75
to Chap. XXV.) he had changed his opinion with regard to them.
As to what he says about the British clergy, it has nothing to do
with the discipline of the Irish church. Toland (Nazarenus,
Letter 2. Sect. 2. §. 12.) has followed Usher, adding what St.
Bernard has about the eight so called archbishops of Armagh,
who were married. But, as we have seen, those eight were merely
nominal archbishops, as Toland well knew, who accordingly calls
them absolute laymen. He talks also of the Culdees being mar-
ried ; but he tells us, {ih. sect. 3.) that said Culdees were commonly
laymen. Whether they were or not, the Irish Colideior Culdees
were out of the question ; and Toland observes, (ib.) that he
confines his discourse to the Scotch Culdees alone, omitting those
of Ireland. Yet Dr. Ledwich refers to Toland, as if he had said
that the Irish Culdees were married ; (see Not. ii to Chap, xxxi.)
and elsewhere he gives us with exaggeration the fable of the mar-
riage of Celsus, archbishop of Armagh. (See Not. 75 to Chap,


(55) See Chap, xxx, §. 6.

(56) Concerning this Penitential, or De poenitentiarum men-
sura, see Chap. xv. §. 8. and ib. Not. 55.

(57) This canon is in cap. 3. and in these words ; *' Si clericus aut
monachus, postquam se De voverit, ad secularem habitum iterum
reversus fuerit, aut uxorem duxerit, decem annis poeniteat, tri-
bus ex his in pane et aqua, et nunquam postea in conjugio cO'
puletur. Quod si noluerit, sancta synodus vel sedes apostolica
separavit eos a communione et convocationibus Catholicorum."
(Compare with Not. 72. below.) By clericus Cummian must have
understood only the clerks of the higher or holy orders, whereas
those of the four minor ones, as they are now reckoned, were


not prohibited from returning to the world and taking wives, un-
less we are to suppose, that his rules and those of the Irish church
were more severe than those of others. And in fact the words,
postquam Deo voverit, seem to indicate, that he alluded only to
the higher orders.

(58) If we are to judge of the discipline of. the Irish church
from the treatise of St. Columbanus entitled Liber de poenitenti'
arum mensura taxanda, (ap, Bibl. Pair. Tom, 12. p, 2\,S€qq'
A. 1677.) which is different from the penitential for monks annexed
to his Rule, (see above Not. 24 and 41.) clergymen, whose wives,
which they had before their ordination, were still living, were
bound to abstain from them after they had taken orders. His 20th
canon is as follows ; " Si quis autem clericusy aut diaconus, vel
alicujus gradus, qui laicus fuit in seculo cum Jiliis et JiliabuSy
post conversiojiem suam iterum suam cognoverit clientelam, et Ji-
lium iterum de ea genuerit^ sciat se adulterium joerpetrasse et nan
minus peccasse quam si ab Juventute sua clericus Juisset^ et cum
puella aliena peccasset, quia post votum suum peccavit, postquam
se Domino consecravit, et votum suum irritumjecit ; idcirco simi-'
liter septem annis in pane et aqua poeniteat.'' That by clientelam
he meant a wife is evident from the whole context, and is confirmed
by a parallel canon of the penitential annexed to a Missal found at
Bobbie (of which herafter) and much the same as the Liber de
poenitentiarum mensura^ Sec. The 12th canon of this penitential
has ; " Si quis clericus vel superior gradus, qui uxorem habuitj
et post honorem iterum earn cognoverit^ sciat se adulterium com-
misisse, Clericus quatuor, diaconus sex, sacerdos septem, epis-
copus duodecim, singuli in pane et aqua juxta ordinem suum."
Mabillon observes [Not. on this canon) that by clericus perhaps is
meant a subdeacon. The rules of this penetential were in all
probability founded on the practices of the Irish church,

§. IX. It is very probable, that the Roman litur-
gy and offices were universally received in Ireland
about the end of the 12th century, and there can be
no doubt that they were observed in those parts,
where the English power prevailed. Giraldus Cam-
brensis, amidst all his grumbling, does not charge
the Irish with differing in this respect from the Eng-


llsh or Romans. The exertions of Gillibert, bishop
of Limerick, had paved the way for setting aside the
old various Irish liturgies, &c. ; (59) but St. Ma-
lachy's authority and influence contributed much
more to the establishment of the Roman practices.
(60) Add the seventh canon of the synod of Cashel,

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 32 of 45)