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 4 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 4 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

against fixing bishops in small cities or towns, prior to one of the
Council of Sardica, which, by the bye, was not generally observed ;
for long after it we find bishops in numbers of small places in the
Eastern countries, Africa, &c. and we meet with divisions of
bishoprics into smaller ones. (See Bingham, Bookii. chap. 12.)
On the whole, notwithstanding the great corruption of discipline,
&c. in some parts of Ireland, the greatest portion of the Irish
church was, even before the times of Celsus and St. Malachy, as
pure as, I believe, any other national church of that period ;

D 2


which, if necessary, might be shown from St. Bernard'g own
works, and even from iiis above mentioned preface.

As St. Bernard had confined his severe remarks on the ecclesias-
tical state of Ireland to those times, it was not fair in Dr. Milner
to apply them in li peevish note of his agiiinst the Irish nation
{lnqui?y y aVms Tour in Ireland, Additional Notes, p. 50.) to a
later period, viz, that just prior to the settlement of the English
in Ireland, which was later by above 60 years than the accssion of
Celsus, and by near 50 than when St. Malachy had set about
reforming the diocese of Connor. Had the Doctor been more
cool on this subject, he could have learned from St. Bernard, that
a great change was brought about by those two holy prelates ;
and, had he thought it worth his while to look into our ecclesiasti-
cal histor}^, he would have found that, through not only their ex-
ertions, but likewise of others, who came after them, such as Ge-
lasius of Armagh, &c. &c, the Irish church was, on the arrival of
the English, in a very different state from wliat St. Bernard re-
presents it to have been in about the beginning of the 12th cen-
tury. Dr. Milner ought to have distinguished the times so as not
to make a reader think, that St. Bernard was describing the Irish
church as it stood when the English came over ; for surely he can-
not but know, that the saint was dead many years prior to that
event. But he throws different periods into one ; and after pro-
nouncing that the Irish were then a motley group of Irish, Scots,
and Ostmen or Scandinavians (pray what were then the English ?
Saxons, Danes, Normans, French, &c.) he goes so far as to say,
that in spite even of St. Malachy and Cardinal Paparo, the state
of religion and morality was amongst them in the most frightful dis-
order. The sequel of this work will show, that this is an unfound-
ed assertion ; and Dr. Milner would do well not to meddle again
with Irish history, until he shall have learned something more
about it. It will not do to tell us, as he does in said note, that
" most of the writers, who enlighten Ireland at the present day in
religious as well as in profane literature, are Englishmen." Be it so
and let Dr. Milner be one of them ; but certainly he has not en-
lightened us as to this part of either our civil or ecclesiastical history*
(77) See Tr. Th. p. 300. (78) lb. p. 299.

(79) /A. See above §.4.


§. XIII. In the year 1111 Celsus attended at the
great synod, or rather national convention, of Fiadh-
mac-Aengussa, together with Moelmurry O'Dunain,
archbishop of Cashel, fifty other bishops, three hun-
dred priests, and three thousand persons of the cle-
rical order; besides Murtogh 0'Brian,king of Leth-
mogha and the nobles of his kingdom ; and m which
many regulations were made for the conduct of the
clergy and people. (80) This synod is called by
some writers that of Usneach, which if it be correct,
Fiadh-mac-Aengussa was situated near the famous
hill of Usney in the now county of Westmeath. (8 1 )
Yet I find them distinguished as two distinct synods,
and that of Usneach represented as held for the pur-
pose of dividing the parishes of Meath between the
sees of Clonmacnois and Clonard. It is, however,
stated to have been held in the same year ; but nei-
ther Murtogh O'Brian, nor Celsus, nor Moelmurry,
are mentioned as having been present at it. (82j
From Moelmurry O'Dunain being called archbishop
in the accounts of the synod of Fiadh-mac-Aengussa
it appears, that the see of Cashel was by this time
generally recognized as metropolitan. Moelmurry's
predecessor Domnald O' Heine had been honoured
with that title, and enjoyed a certain precedency
over the other bishops of the southern half of Ireland.
(83) This prerogative was ratified and enlarged by
Celsus either in that synod or prior to it, so that
Cashel became in reality a truly archiepiscopal and
metropolitan see, yet with this condition that it was to
be subordinate to the primatial one of Armagh. (84)
This act of Celsus was afterwards confirmed by Pope
Innocent 11. and thus there were in Ireland two
archbishops invested with full canonical jurisdiction,
viz, the primate, who reserved to himself the Northern
half and the primatial rights over all Ireland ; and
the archbishop of Casiiel, who was charged with the
care of the Southern half.

After the synod of Fiadh-mac-Aengussa another


was held at Rath -Breasail, over which presided Gille
or Gillebert, bishop of Limerick and then apostolical
legate in Ireland. (85) The precise year of this
synod I cannot ascertain ; but it must have been later
than is commonly supposed, and, on comparing va-
rious circumstances, it appears to me that it w^as
about A. D. 1118. (86) As Gillebert was at this
time apostolical legate, he must have received his
appointment from Pope Pascal II. as appears most
probable, or perhaps from Gelasius II. (87) Our
writers do not tell us where Rath-Breasail was situ-
ated ; but, if we are to judge from the name, I
should think it was in the district anciently called
Hy-Bressail, now Clanbrassil in the county of Ar-
magh, or in the other Hy-Bressail, that formed
part of Hy-falgia (the ancient Offaly) in Lein-
ster. (88)

(80) lb. from the 4 Masters. The true date of this synod
was not, as Ware (Bishops at CelsusJ in his usual mode of
adding a year insinuates, 1112, but 1111, as have also the Annals
of Innisfallen, which give the following account of it, " ^4. 1 1 1 ] .
** A general convention of the noblemen of Ireland, both clergy and
" laity, was held by IVIurtogh O'Brian, monarch of Ireland, at
** Fiadh-Aengussa, wherein were assembled the nobility of Mun-
" ster, and Maolmuire O'Dunain archbishop of Ireland, and Ceal-
" lach (Celsus) Mac-Aodlia successor of St. Patrick — the num-
" ber of men in holy orders, who were at that convention, 58
** bishops, 317 priests, 160 deacons, and a vast number of
*' clergy of inferior degree ; and in that synod many regulations
<* were made." Keating {Book 2. p. 100. Dublin ed.) also at-
tributes the summoning of this synod to Murtogh O'Brian, and
calls Maolmuire O'Dunain archbishop, but differs from the an-
nals as to the number of clergymen present. Their calling Maol-
muire archbishop of Ireland must be understood relatively to
that part of it, which formed Murtogh's kingdom, viz. Leth-mogha.
The Annals of Connaught, quoted by Ware, fib. J give him the
title of archbishop of Cashel ; and the 4 Masters (ap. Tr. Th.p,
308.) style him archbishop of Minister, Henry of Marleburgh,


whose Annals, or rather part of them, are at the end of Haamer'j
chronicle, places at said year a great council of bishops, &:c. con-
vened, he says, by Maurice Mac-Lochlin king of Ireland. He
confounded this Maurice, i. e. Murchertach, or Murtogh v/ho
did not become king of Ireland until many years later, with Mur-
togh O'Brian. In like manner they have been confounded by the
BoUandists, wlio (at Celsits 6th April) misunderstanding Colgan
make Murtogh O'Brian, king of the South, a nephev/ of Dom-
nald Mac-Lochlin the king of the North.

(81) Colgan says [Tr. Th. p. 299.) that in the margin of the 4
Masters the synod of Fiadh>mac-Aengussa is called that of Us-
neach. Harris has in a note {Bishops at Celsus) ; " Fiadh-mac-
Aengussa, as much as to say, the land or the wood of the son of
Aengus, was in very ancient times called Coendi-uim^ and after-
wards Usneach, It is now called the hill of Usney, and stands in
the barony of Rathconrath, and county of Westmeath, about six
miles S. W. of Mullingar."

(82) Immediately after the account of the synod of Fiadh-mac-
Aengussa the Annals of Innisfallen add ; " In the same year the
great synod of Usneach was also held ; wherein the parishes of
Meath were equally divided between the bishops of Clonmacnois

and Clonard There attended at these regulations in that synod

Morogh O'Maolseachlain, Eocha O'Kelly, and the clergy of the
religious house of St, Kieran (Clonmacnois), together with Giolla-
Criost O'Maoillean abbot of Clonmacnois."

(83) See Chap. xxiv. §, 6. and above ^.7. Keating says, {B.
2. p, 6.) that the archbishop of Cashel used to be called arch-
bishop of Lethe-mogha, the southern half. But, as far as I can
judge, no bishop of that see was thus distinguished until the reign
of Murtogh O'Brian, or, at the earliest, of his father Turlogh.

(81) St. Bernard, having observed ( Vit. S. Mai. cap. 7.) that,
owing to the reverence and honour, in which the memory of St.
Patrick as apostle of Ireland was held, all the bishops, priests,
and the whole body of the Irish clergy, &c. acknowledged the
metropolitan of Armagh as their chief superior, says (cap. 10.)
that " there was another metropolical see, which Celsus had
newly appointed, yet subject to the first see, and to its archbi-
shop as primate." The phrase appointed is not in opposition to
what has been said of the bishops of Cashel having been styled


archbishops, before Celsus not only confirmed that title, but in-
vested them with more than honorary jurisdiction, and thus ap'
pointed Cashcl a truly archiepiscopal see. That Cashel was the
see alluded to by St. Bernard, it would be silly to call in question.
Its bishop is the only one, who, besides the primate, is called
archbishop in the account of the synod of Fiadh-mac-Aengussa
and in other documents of those times. Harris need not have
been so cautious as lie was, {Bishops at ^7. Malachy) where he
says that the ne'.v metropolis spoken of by St. Bernard is sup-
posed to be Cashel. He refers to ]Mac-r>Iahon's Jus Primat. Ar-
mach. Now Mac-IVIahon not only supposes it, but asserts it as an
undoubted fact. Thus at No. 7 he writes; " novam metropolim
— patet fUisse Casseliensem ex vita S. Cliristiani Lismorensis et ex
numerosa synodo (Fiadh-mac-Aengussa) &c. (See also ib, Nos.
62, and 201.) He seems to say, that Celsus transferred the me-
tropolitical power from Enaly to Cashel ; but whatever preroga-
tive Emly had enjoyed, and which, as I have already observed
more than once, was never truly metropolitical, it had lost it be-
fore Celsus' time, as is clear from what we have seen concerning
Domnald O'Heine.

(85) Keating, History, &c. B. 2. p. 100. Gratianus Lucius
(Lynch) thought, f Cambr. Evers. p. 37.) that this synod was the
same as that of Fiadh-mac-Aengussa, and strives to prove it
from the Annals of Innisfallen, which, as far as I can dis-
cover, make no mention of Rathbreasail, or, as he calls it,
Muighbrassel, He may perhaps have found in some copy of said
annals a marginal note indicating that the synod was called by
both names j but Keating, who treats of both those synods, fib, J
expressly distinguishes them ; and from his account of that of
Rathbreasail, which he took from the Book of Clonenagh, it is
evident that they were different assemblies. Besides, were they
one and the same, would he have omitted in his account of that
of Fiadh-mac-Aengu?sa the name of Gille, who undoubtedly pre-
sided over the synod of Rathbreasil ?

(86) Ware (Bishops at Gille) says, that it was held in 1110.
In this case it should have been prior to that of Fiadh-mac-Aen-
gussa, vvhich sat in 1111. But this cannot accord with what will
be soon seen concerning the number of Irish bishops having been
reduced by a decree of the synod of Rathbreasail much below


that of fifty or more, who attended at Fiadh-mac-Aenguss^.
. Lynch says, (loc, cii.) that Keating assigns it to 1110; and I be-
lieve that it was from him that Ware took this date. But in the
English translation of Keating's history the year marked for it is
1115. Whichsoever of these dates were the original one of
Keating, whose notation of years is frequently wrong, we need
not inquire ; for neither of them is correct. In fact, the sjmod
of Rathbreasail could not have been held before 1118, whereas
it was attended by Moeliosa, archbishop of Cashel, the successor of
Moelmuny O'Dunain, who died in the latter end of 1117. On
the other hand it could not have been later than the early part
of 1119, if it be true, as Keating says, that it was summoned in
the reign of Murtogh O'Brian, who died on the 13th of March in
said year. (See Chap. xxiv. §. 14-.) What Keating calls the
reign of Murtogh must be understood of his life ; for Murtogh
had been dispossessed of the throne in 1116, {ih.) and accord-
ingly before the meeting of that assembly.

(87) Neither St. Bernard who makes mention ( Vit. S. MaL
cap. 7 and 11.) of Gillebert as apostolical legate, nor Keating,
who gives him that title, when treating of the synod of Kath-
breasil, nor any of our historians, as far as I can discover, has
marked the time of his being raised to that office. It could not
have been before the pontificate of Pascal 11. which began m
1099, whereas Gillebert was not a bishop at that time. (Above
§. 9) Pascal lived until January in 1118, and might have been
acquainted with Gillebert, who had travelled in his younger days,
or perhaps was informed of his character by St. Anselm. It is
much more probable that Gillebert was appointed legate bj him
than by liis successor Gelasius II. whose troublesome pontificate
did not last quite a year.

(88) See for the Hy-Bressail in Co. Armagh A A, SS. p. 62,
and Tr. Th. p, 293 ; and for the other Hams Antiq. cJi. 7 at Hy

Jalgia. According to Lynch's system Rathbreasail would have
been in Westmeath ; but, as it is unfounded, (above Not. 85.) so
is also this consequence.

§. XIV. This synod was attended, like that of
Fiadh-mac-Aengussa, not only by bishops and cler-
gymen of various ranks, but likewise by distinguished


laymen from, it seems, all parts of Ireland. The
only names, which I find recorded, of its members
are those of Celsus of Armagh and Moeliosa (servant
of Jesus) Mac-Ainmhire, alias O'Foghlada, arch-
bishop of Cashel, and successor of Moelmurry
O'Dimain, who died at Clonard in tlie 77th year of
his age, on the 24th of December A.D, 11 17, having
left a great reputation for wisdom, virtue, and
liberality to the poor. (89) The synod was occupied
chiefly in forming a regular division of dioceses
throughout Ireland, and in fixing their boundaries.
It was decreed that, exclusive of Dublin, which was
left subject to Canterbury, there should be 24 dioceses,
12 in Leth-cuin subject to the archbishop of Armagh,
and 12 others in Leth-mogha subject to the archbishop
of Cashel. Of the former, five were in Ulster, viz,
Clogher, Ardsrath, Derry, Connor, Down ; ^"^q in
Connaught, viz, Tuam, Clonfert, Cong, Killala, Ard-
carn ; and two in Meath, which by order of this
synod were to be considered as the only fixed sees
for that territory, Duleek and Clonard, (90) Of
the twelve sees of Leth-mogha besides Cashel, were
in Munster, viz. Lismore, or Waterford, Cork, Rath-
maighe Deisgirt, Limerick, Killaloe^ Eraly ; (91)
and five in Leinster, viz, Kilkenny, (Q*'^) Leighiin,
Kildare, Glendaloch, and Ferns. On looking over
the boundaries marked for those dioceses, a very
great part of which can scarcely be pointed out at
present on account of the changes of names, it is
clear that the synod intended, besides reducing the
number of sees, to render all the dioceses of Ireland
nearly of equal extent ; but it did not succeed, at
least to any considerable degree in reducing the
number ; whereas we find at the time of the coun-
cil of Kells in 1 1.32 many more sees than those here
laid down, and, on the other hand, some of said 24
sees not even spoken of, as if, notwithstanding the
decree of Rathbreasail, they had either not been
established or had in a very short time ceased to
exist. (93) Another important regulation was, that


by an act of " this convention the revenues of the
'• clergy and the Church lands were confirmed to the
*« several bishops of Ireland for their maintenance
" and support of the episcopal character ; which
** lands were to be exempted from tribute and chief
*^ rents and other public contributions, and so remain
*' in that state of freedom and independency for
" ever." (94) It is probable that some other
decrees were enacted by this assembly ; but, as far as
I know, there remains no account of them. Its
proceedings concluded with the following declaration :
** The blessing of God Almighty y and of St, Peter
and SL Paul, and of the representei^ of St. Peter's
successor, the legate Giolla-Aspiiic bishop of Li-
meric/i, and of Ceallach St, Patrick's successor,
primate of Ireland, and of MaoiUIosa mac-Ainm-
hire archbishop of Cashel, and of all the bishops,
gentry, and clergy in this holy synod of Rath-
breasail light aiid remain upon every one, that shall
approve, ratify, and observe these ordinances : andy
on the other side, their curses on the infringers of
them." (95)

(89) Annals of Innisfallen at ^.1117 and 4 Masters ap. Tr.
Th. p. 308. Ware (Archbishops of Cashel) has in his usual
manner, and ^vithout necessity, changed 1117 into 1118. lam
sui-prised at his saying, (ib.) that Moeliosa OToghlada is not called
archbishop ; whereas not only the 4 Masters {ib.) expressly style
him archbishop of Cashel, but likewise Keating gives him the
same title, and the Annals of Innisfallen (at A. 1131) call him
archbishop of Munster. He was the son of one Ainmhire of a
family surnamed OToghlada.

(90) Keating ib. Lynch in his endeavours to show, that the
synod of Rathbreasil was the same as that of Fiadh-mac-Aengussa
or Usneach, refers to this regulation, by which two sees were
fixed for Meath, setting aside some others, wliich it had before.
But he did not consider, that there was a material difference be-
tween what passed at Usneach, and the decree of Rathbreasil.
The two sees mentioned in the proceedings of Usneach were, as


we have just seen, (§. 13.) Clonmacnois and Clonard, whereai
those named and established by the regulation of Rathbreasil were
Duleek and Clonard.

(91) In Keating's enumeration of the sees of Leth-mogha, the
names of which he gives twice, there is a contradiction, owing to
his wretched translator. At first this bungler reckons seven of
them in Munster, besides Cashel, making Rathmaighe and Deis-
girt two distinct ones. Afterwards, when marking the boundaries
of the dioceses, he joins Rathmaighe and Deisgirt into one name
and as if of one place ; and so the matter stands in Keating's ori-
ginal in both passages ; thus the number of the Munster dioceses,
besides Cashel, was six. The diocese of Rathmaighe Deisgirt
was undoubtedly the same as that of Ardfert, as appears from
Cean-Meara (Kenmare), Feil (the river Feal), and Doirbre (the
same as the now barony of Iveragh) being reckoned among its
boundaries. Rathmaighe was surnamed Deisgert (Southern) to
distinguish it from Rathmuighe in the North of Ireland. It is worth
observing that, according to this decree, Waterford was united to
Lismore, a union which was afterwards broken.

(92) In another part of this enumeration instead of Kilkenny we
find Kilcullen ; but Keating's original has not Kilcullen but Kil-
kenny alone. And, what makes it still more clear, a place called
Mileadhach near the river BaiTow is laid down as an eastern
boundary of the diocese in question, being marked at the same
time as a western one of the diocese of Ferns, and also as a bound-
ary of that of Wateiford or Lismore. Tliis could not answer for a
diocese of Kilcullen, and accordingly the true reading is Kilken-
ny, Whether the synod used this name, or Keating adopted it
inasmuch as Kilkenny had become before his time the residence
of the bishops of Ossory, I am not able to tell ; but the name
Kilkenny has never adhered to the see, nor was it until many
years after the synod of Rathbreasil that its bishops began to re-
side in that city,

(93) At the time of the council of Kells there were, as will
be seen, besides the archiepiscopal sees, 34 bishopiics. That
council was attended by some bishops of old sees omitted by the
synod of Rathbreasil, such as those of Clonmacnois, Achonry,
Ardagh, &c. On the other hand in the account of the council d*
Kells are not mentioned the sees of Cong and Ardcarn.


(94) Keating, ib,

(95 ) I have taken these words from Peter Walsh's Prospect of
the state of Ireland (p. 24;8.), who professes to have copied them
from Keating, whose translator has omitted them, merely stating,
that the synod left the blessing of God and its own upon those,
who should support and vindicate the regulations made with re-
gard to the bishoprics and their limits, &c.

§. XV. Before the synod of Rathbreasil was held
Celsiis had made two visitations of Connaiight, the
second of which was in 1116. (96) The first might
have been in 1106, the year, in which he made his
circuit of Ulster and Munster, and perhaps, in mak-
ing his way from the former to the latter province,
took his route through Connaught. It is related,
that in 1121 Celsus was appointed bishop also of
Dublin with the common consent of-'the Irish and
Northmen or Danes. (97) This must have been
after the 4th of July of said year, on which the
bishop Samuel O'Haingly died. (98) It is not easy
to understand, what is meant by the appointment of
Celsus to the see of Dublin ; for surely it cannot be
supposed, that he intended to become a pluralist.
The probability is, that on the death of Samuel he
wished to bring that see under his jurisdiction, and
that his views were favoured by a part of the clergy
and people, who applied to him to take upon himself
the administration of the diocese until matters could
be properly arranged. Anselm of Canterbury, for
whom the Irish prelates entertained great respect,
was dead since the year 1 109 ; and it was now
thought full time to put an end to the jurisdiction o^
Canterbury over any part of Ireland. Waterford
and Limerick had been already, by the decree of Rath-
breasil, placed under the archbishop of Cashel (99)
and the Irish bishops, particularly Celsus, considered
it very unbecoming, that the church of Dublin should
remain separated from the body of the Irish hierarchy.
Whether Celsus actually governed the see oi Dublin


for some time, in consequence of said appointment,
however it may be understood, I am not able to
ascertain ; but the fact is, that a majority of the
burgesses and clergy of the city opposed his plan,
and elected Gregory, (100) who was as yet not a
deacon, for their bishop. They sent him to Eng-
land with a letter directed to Ralph, archbishop of
Canterbury, (iOl) from which it appears, that there
had been a contest relative to the dependence of
Dublin on that see. This is clear from the very
terms of the head or address, in which the electors,
not content with calling themselves the burgesses
and clergy of Dublin, represent themselves as all the
burgesses and ^// the clergy. (102) Then they tell
him, that they think it fit to send to him Gregory
their elect ; for, they add, "we were always willingly
'' subject to the direction of your predecessors, from
" whom we remember that our people received the
" ecclesiastical dignity. Know then, that the bishops
" of Ireland entertain a very great jealousy against
" us, and most of all the one who resides at Armagh,
" because we are unwilling to submit to their ordi-
'' nation, but wish to be always under your dominion.
*' Therefore we supplicantly request, that you will
** promote Gregory to the holy order of episcopacy,
" if you wish to retain any longer this diocese, which
" we have preserved for you during a considerable
** time."

(96) Tr. Th. p. SOO.

(97) lb. from the 4 Masters, and Hams, {Bishops at Celsiis)
who refers also to the Annals of Multifernan, which have at A.

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 4 of 45)