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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Clemens, a Scotus and apparently an Irishman, held that doctrine
in Germany about the middle of the 8th century, (see the Letter
of St. Boniface of Mentz No. 15 in Usher's Sylloge) and was on
that account condemned, as an introducer of Judaism, in a synod
of Rome under Pope Zachary. But, prior to that time, this opi-
nion was reprobated by the Irish, and we have seen, {Chap.xviii.
j. ]0.|that St. Kilian, the apostle of Franconia, considered such a


marriage as unlawful, and consequently lost his life. Yet m later
times, and even after St. Malachy's death, an abuse of that kind
seems to have existed in some parts of Ireland, as will be seen

(52) This is a point, which, as far as I know, has been quite
overlooked by such of our ^^Titers as have endeavoured to explain
the words of St. Bernard, or to answer the calumnies of Giraldus
Cambrensis and others, relative to Irish marr'ages. To under-
stand tliis subject, it is to be observed that in the old canon law
two sorts of Sjmnsaliay or espousals, are distinguished, viz. one
called d^. futuro, and the other de jjraeseiiti The latter is exactly
the same as the matrimonial contract now used, and which ren-
ders a marriage valid ipso facto even before its consummation.
Accordingly it is otherwise called the contract of matrimony, and
used to be celebrated in facie Ecclesiae, The former was also a
contract consisting in an agreement, by wjiich the parties solemnly
promised and were pledged to join in marriage within a certain li-
mited time. As it did not require immediate cohabitation, it was
called Spotisalia defuturo, or what in English is named betrothing.
According to the Roman law, it was known under the general
name of Sponsalia, and in the Codes there is a Title, De Spon-
salibits et donationibus ante Nuptias, distinct from that De Nup-
tiisy or of marriage strictly so called. This contract of espousal
used to be entered into with great solemnity, in presence of wit-
nesses, and accompanied with donations, certain ceremonies, &c.
The violation of it was punished with the severest penalties of the
state and censures of the church, unless there appeared some just
reason for not observing it ; as if, ex. c. either of the parties pro-
tracted the time of mamage beyond two years. There are several
decrees of councils prohibiting persons from breaking in upon this
contract, and one even as late as that of Trullo, which declares it
downright adultery for a man to marry a woman, that was before
betrothed to another, during the life of him who had espoused hen
And Pope Siricius, writing to Himerius, says, that it would be a
sacrilegious act for a man to take as his wife a girl espoused to
another, because it would violate the benediction given by the
priest to her who was afterwards to be married. Hence we find
that the sacerdotal benediction was used as well in espousals as in
Strictly called marriages. As long as the Roman laws remained in


vigour, the contract of matrimony was usually celebrated some
time after that of espousals, and with a solemnity not practised by
nations, who had not been ruled by those laws. (On these sub-
jects see Bingham, Origines, &c. Book xxii. ck. 3 and 4.)

But in the middle ages all that apparatus did not appear neces-
sary, at least in some countries. The two contracts were known ;
but it began to be supposed, that either of them was sufficient in
itself, if attended with the requisite circumstances, for the validity
of marriage. In the Canon law of the Decretals they are dis-
tinguished as two particular contracts, and one of which might be
entered into without -a sing through the otiier. That, which was
strictly understood by the name of contract of matrimon(/, began,
to guard against equivocation and to facilitate the solving of ques-
tions, to be called Sponsalia de praesenti, inasmuch as it required
no future condition towards rendering the marriage valid, and was
expressed in words of the present tense, such as / take you for my
wife^ Sfc. In the fourth book of the Decretals, Tit. De Spon-
salibus et Matrimoniis^ there are many decrees relative to cases,
in which there might be a clashing between the two contracts.
There is one {cap. 15.) of Alexander III. declaring that Sponsalia
de Juturo, if followed by consummation, are not dissolved by
Sponsalia de praesenti, but that they would if it had not been so
followed ; provided, however, that the man, who, abandoning his
betrothed spouse as yet by him untouched, marries another wo-
man, had not been forced to marry her. 1 find another {cap. 30.)
exactly to the same purpose by Gregory IX. in which he decides,
that a man, who has pledged himself (by Sponsalia defuturo) to
a woman, and afterwards knows her carnally, is bound to stick to
her as his wife, and henceforth is not allowed to marry, in any
manner whatsoever, another woman during her life time. Then
he adds, {cap. 31.) that, if no carnal knowledge lias intervened,
the promise ever so solemn (by Sponsalia de fatnro) must yield
to an actual subsequent marriage, yet so as that the party violating
its pledge must undergo penance ; while, on the contrary, a mar-
riage strictly so called (by Sponsalia de praesenti) duly entered
into, cannot be set aside by any other. Now the whole mistery
of Irish marriages is cleared up. They were usually contracted
only by sponsalia de fiduro, a very old mode much like that of
the ancient Jews, whose marriages used to be valid some time*


and often considerable, before the parties went to cohabit to-
gether. The Irish were more in the habit of contracting mamage
in this way than by that de praesejiti; and hence Giraldus Cam-
brensis has said of them, {Topogr, Hiu. Dist. 3. c. 19) that
" nondum matrimonia contrahunty' that is, as he ought to have
explained, that they did not practise the form of Sponsalia de
praeseyiti, or matrimony strictly so called, as usually as the English
and some other nations of those times. This is also what it seems
more probable St. Bernard alluded to in the phrase corit7-act of
marriages (above Not. 48); for he does not upbraid the marriages
themselves, but merely remarks the want of the contract peculiarly
distinguished by the name conjugium or matrimonium, viz. the
Sponsalia de praesenti. That the other fonn was more generally
followed in Ireland, and to a much later period than St. Bernard's
days, is positively stated by Good, an English priest, who writing
at Limerick, where he kept a school about A. 1566, says, (ap.
Camden at the end of Ireland) that they used to celebrate mar-
riage by Sponsalia defoturOy not de praesenii. _ The same system
continued more or less in some othel* countries, until it w^as pro-
hibited by the Council of Trent and the civil laws of Christian
states. I may here observe that, although Good, more majorum,
speaks badly enough of the Irish, yet he does not give occasion
for a monstrous he advanced by Ledwich, (A7it. Sfc. p, 431.) and
attributed by him to Camden. What Ckraden has is taken from
Good, who says, that the Irish " seldom marry out of their own
town." These plain words have been changed by Ledwich, and
as if uttered by Camden, into the following ; Beyond the precincts
qfto'vons marriage was rarely contracted. Who does not see, that
there is a most material difference between these two passages ?
But any thing for Ledwich, so as that he might abuse the Irish.
Good talks about their being prone to incest. Of this charge,
which was connected with their notHhaving been very strict with
regard to the consanguineal impediments ol' miirriage, an occasion
will occur of treating hereafter.

§. VII. St. Malachy, doubting of his being suffi-
ciently acquainted with the discipline of the Church,
and wishing to be better informed concerning it,
thought it adviseable to place himself for some time


under the instruction of the venerable Malchus,
bishop of Lisniore, who was then held in the highest
estimation for his great learning and extraordinary-
virtue, joined with the gift of miracles, so that he
was resorted to by persons not only from all parts of
Ireland, but likewise from Scotland. Although an
Irishman, he had been a monk of Winchester, whence
he was taken to be raised to the see of Lismore. (53)
He was probably the immediate successor of Mac-
mic-Aeducan, who died in 1113. (54) St. Malachy,
having received the benediction of his master Imar,
was directed by his bishop Celsus, to this holy man,
who was then far advanced in life, and remained
with him some years at Lismore. His arrival there
was probably about A. D, 1123. {55) During his
stay there he became acquainted with Cormac Mac
Carthy, the pious king of Desmond, who was in
11*27 deprived of his principality by Turlogh O'Co-
nor, king of Connaught, his brother Donogh
Mac Carthy being set up in his stead. Cormac bore
his lot with great fortitude, and throwing himself
into the hands of Malchus refused to be treated with
distinction, and requested, rather than run the risk
of occasioning bloodshed, to be allowed to lead a
pioLis and retired life. Malchus, admiring his re-
signation and fervour, provided him with a small
house, and placed him under the direction of St.
Malachy. There he lived on bread and salt and wa-
ter, leading also in other respects a penitential life.
He was delighted with St. Malachy's society, and
became exceedingly attached to him. After some
time it pleased God to restore Cormac to his king-
dom, by means of Conor O'Brian, who, from having
been king of Munster, {56) then held the principa-
lity of Thomond under a sort of vassalage to Tur-
logh O'Conor. Determined on shaking it off, he
V repaired to Lismore, visited Cormac in his poor ha-
Vtation, and encouraged him to follow him, engaging
himself that he would re-instate him. Cormac was


unwilling to quit his retirement ; but, as the good of
the country required his appearing among his friends,
he was ordered by Malchus and advised by St. Ma-
lachy to submit, and was soon after re-established in
Desmond by Conor O'Brian, assisted by various
chieftains, who banished Donogh Mc Carthy to
Connaught. (57) On this occasion Cormac erected,
or set about erecting, two churches at Lismore, and
one at CasheL (58)

(53) St. Bernard, Vii. S, Mai. cap. 3. Usher thought, {Not.
ttdEp. 38. Sylloge) that JNIalchus of Lismore was the same as Mal-
chus of Waterford, whom we have treated of Chap, xxv. ^. 6.
Besides the name, the circumstance of his having been a monk
of Winchester seems to render this opinion very probable. But St.
Bernard says that Malchus was removed fi-om Winchester straight
to Lismore, whereas the original see of the Malchus already men-
tioned was Waterford. There were in those times other persons
named Malchus^ one of whom is metioned by St. Bernard himself
(ib. cap. 5.) ; and it seems to have been a latinized appellation
for one or other of those many Irish names that began with MaoL
There rmght have been two persons, so called, monks at Win-
chester. If a union really took place between Waterford and
Lismore, as Keating (or perhaps his translator) insinuates to have
been ordered by the synod of Rathbreasil, (see Chap, xxv §. l^.)
it might be supposed that one and the same Malchus was bishop
of both sees. But the matter is so obscure, that I cannot pre-
tend to decide upon it. Gratianus Lucius (Lynch) held the same
opinion (Canibr. Ev.p. 167) as Usher, but has given us no proof
of it.

(54) See above §. 2. Ware and Harris have (at Lismore J
a pretended bishop, whom they call Gi/la-Mochiidu O' Rehacairt.
and whose death they assign to A. D. 1129. But surely Mai-,
chus was bishop there some years before that time, as is clear
from S. Malachy's having repaired to him thither about 1123.
In consequence of that mistake they were puzzled as to the pre-
cise period of Malchus' incumbency, Ware saying that he flour-
rished in 1140, (when he was probably dead) and Harris, that ii
was in 1134-. Indeed Harris has shamefully bungled the whole


business, telling us elsewhere, (see above Not. 44. ) that St. Ma-
lacliy v/ent to Lismore when only twelve yjiirs old, that is, about
A. 1107. He throws in a caveat, that Malchus was not yet a
bis]iop. Had he read or did he understand St. Bernard, who
tells us in the clearest terms, that Malchus was a bishop, and a
celebrated one, of Lismore before he was waited upon by St.
Malachy? The O'RebacaIn, whom he and Ware have foisted
into the see of Lismore, was undoubtedly no other than an abbot
there of that name, who died in 1128 (^^ee Archdall at Lismore)
a date, to v.]iich Ware, as usual, added a year.

{55) As St. Malachy was ordained priest, when about "25 years
of age, and accordingly about A, 1120, and was afterwards em-
ployed as Vicar general of the diocese of Armagh for some time,
which can scarcely be supposed to have been less than two or
three years, it will follow that he did not gato Lismore until about

{56) See above §. I. ^

(57) Tlie substance of these transactions is related by St. Ber-
nard (ib. cap. 3.) without n lentioning names or times. Yet he has
the name of Cormac, cap. 6. The details are given in the Annals
of Innisfallen at A. 1127. According to them Cormac became a
pilgrim, and took a crosier (pilgrim's staff) at Lismore. His libera-
tion is related in the following manner : " In the same 3''ear Conor
O' Brian disavowed the authority of Turlogh O'Conor, and went
to Lismore, and gave his hand to Cormac Mac-Carthj, and
brought him again into the world, and made him king of Des-
mond, and dethroned and banished Donogh Mac-Carthy into Con-
naught ; in dohig which he was abetted by Turlogh O'Brian (his
brother), and by O' Sullivan, O'Donoghue, O'Mahony, O'Keefe,
O'Moriarty, and O'Faolain."

(58) Same Annals ib. This church of Cashel either must not
be confounded with Cormac's Chapel, (see Chap. xxii. ^ 6.) or
must be considered as not newly built but only repaired. And, in
fact, the said Annals state, (at A. 1138.) that Cormac Mac-Car-
thy had built or repaired the church called Teampoll Chorntaic
in Cashel. They add, that it was so called from him. But, if
they meant what is known by the name of Cormac s Chapel, this
cannot be correct, for the architecture of this building indicates a
period long prior to the times of Cormac Mac Carthy ; and it would


have been more proper proper to say, that two Cormacs liad been
concerned in it, viz. Mac-Cuhnan the original founder and Mac-
Carthy the repairer. It is very probable, that Cormac's chapel
was injured in 1121, when Turlogh O'Conor burned Cashel (above
§. 1.) and that this gave occasion to a reparation by Cormac
Mac-Carthy. Perhaps what said Annals have about his having
built two churches in Lismore ought to be understood in the same
manner ; for Turlogh had burned also Lismore. Whether M'Carthy
erected a new church in Cashel, or only repaired an old one, the
work was not completed in 1 127, whereas the consecration of it did
not, as will be seen, take place until 1134?.

§. VIII. While St. Malachy vv^as at Lismore, his
sister died. He was so displeased with her on ac-
count of her worldly mode of living, that he had
determined never to see her again during life. On
a certain ni^ht he heard in a dream a voice announc-
ing to him, that his sister was standing out in the
court-yard and had tasted nothing for thirty days.
Awaking he immediately understood what food she
wanted, and recollected that for said number of days
he had not offered for her the bread of life from
heaven. This he took care to repeat ; and after
some short time she appeared to him in a vision as.
having reached the door of the church, but so as
not to be able to enter it, and clothed in a dark
garment. As he continued to offer for her, she ap-
peared to him a second time, in a whitish dress and
as within the church, but not allowed to touch the
altar. But at length he saw her again, united with
the assembly of the white-robed, and wearing a
white garment. (59) Meanwhile Celsus and Imar
were anxious, that St. Malachy should return to his
own country, and accordingly wrote to him to that
purpose. Being now well stored with what he had
wished to learn, he obeyed their summons. His
return was probably in 11'27, the year in which he
became intimate with Cormac Mac-Carthy at Lis-
more. (60j During his absence Celsus completed


in 11 2o the reparation and roofing of the cathedral
of Armagh, which had remained partly uncovered
since 995, in which year the city had been laid waste
by a dreadful conflagration caused by lightning. In
1 126 he consecrated the church of St. Peter and Paul,
which had been erected, or, as some say, re-erected
by Imar O'Haedhagain, the same as Imar the master
of St. Malachy. Afterwards he spent thirteen
months out of his diocese, going through various
parts of Ireland, preaching peace, harmony, and
good conduct, and endeavouring to put a stop to the
civil war, that raged throughout almost the whole
island. He is said to have succeeded in establishing
a truce for one year between the Conacian and
Momonian princes. (6l)

(59) S. Bernard, ib. cap. 4.

(60) Amidst other mistakes Harris says, (Archbishops, S^c. at
Malachy) that he returned to Ulster in 1120, and was then or-
dained priest by Celsus. But we have seen, that he was a priest
before he went to Lismore, and that he did not go thither until later
than 1 120. One would imagine, that Harris had not read the Life
by St. Bernard, although he refers to it. Besides its being positively
stated, that St. Malachy was not only a priest but Vicar general of
Armagh before he removed to Lismore, surely Harris ought to have
perceived, that, as he celebrated mass at Lismore, he must have
been then a priest.

(61) Tr. TJu p, 300. Of the dreadful state, in which the
geatest part of Ireland was in those times, the reader will find
sufficient proofs in the Annals of Innisfallen, at A. 1125, 1126,

§. IX. When St. Malachy returned to Ulster, the
monastery of Bangor was waste, and seems to have
been in that state for a considerable time, not having
been re-established after some great devastation,
which it had suflered. (6^) Yet the lands belonging
to it, which were extensive, still continued to be held
by persons, who used to be called abbots, and who


wei^ even elected to that sinecure situation. (63)
They were then in possession of a maternal uncle
of St. Malachy, who offered them all up to him,
together with Bangor itself, that he might build or
rather reb-nld a monastery there. But the saint was
so much addicted to poverty, that content with
merely the site of the monastery he refused to accept
of the lands, and allowed them to be transferred to
another person, who was chosen, according to custom,
for that purpose ; for his uncle resigned them, and
placed himself under his direction as a monk. (64)
St. Malachy taking with him, by order of Imar,
about ten brethren, set about erecting the necessary
accommodations at Bangor, on which occasion, as
he was cutting wood with an axe, one of them hap-
pened to put himself in way of the stroke and received
a most violent blow on the back, by which it w^as ap-
prehended that he was alnjost killed. But provi-
dentially he was scarcely hurt, and his escape was
considered miraculous. In a few days they finished
a handsome oratory constructed of boards, and, when
every thing was ready, St. Malachy, according to the
direction of Imar, re-established, as head of the
community, the old discipline of Bangor as it had
been formerly, with this only difference that the
number of monks was smaller. A m.an named
Malchus, who was sick at Bangor, w^as urged by
an evil spirit to be hostile to the saint, whc, on being
informed of it, recurring to prayer cured him both
of his infirmity and of the tempatiton. Malchus,
when recovered, was not ungratefil, and embraced
the monastic state under him. He was brother to
Christian, who afterwards became abbot of Mellifont.
A cierk of the name cf Michael, whom he cured
twice of illness, also joined him, and the reputation
and community of St. Malachy went un constantly

(62) St. Bernard says (ib. caj). 5.) that Bangor had been for-


merly destroyed by pirates, and that, seemingly as if on that oc-
casion, 900 monks were reported to have been killed by them ow
one day. This was probably an exaggerated tradition. Of such
great slaughter I find no mention in our Irish documents ; but we
read that Tanudius, abbot of Bangor, was killed by the Danes in
956 (AA SS. p. 107.) It is probable, that on this occasion many
of the monks also were put to death ; and perhaps we may thence
date the devastation spoken of by St. Bernard. To its having been
80 ancient cannot be opposed the circumstance of one or two
abbots of Bangor being mentioned as having Hved between that
year and St. Malachy's times ; for, although monks had ceased
to be there, the title of abbot and the emoluments were, as will
be just seen, still continued. Harris thought ( State of the County
of Down, p. 64.) that St. Beraard applied by mistake the slaugh-
ter of the British monks of Bancor by the Northumbrian king
Aedilfrid (see A^o^, i'2. to Chap, xv.) to the Bangor of Ireland.
But Aedilfrid and his army were not pirates, such as St. Bernard
mentions; and the number of those British monks killed was
much greater than that stated by him. Harris has the in-
famous lie about Aedilfrid having been instigated by Augustin the

(63) If it be true, Uiat Gillebert had been abbot of Bangor,
before he became bishop of Limerick, (see Chap. xxv. §. 9.) he
must have been an abbot of this sort, or what the French call an
Abbe Commendataire.. The abuse of church lands, particularly
those belonging to monasteries, beinpj possessed by laymen had
long since crept into the church. In England we find it in the
eighth century, and at the same period it was usual in France, where
the possessors of abbatial lands were called Abbaccviites. (See
Ducange at Abbacomitcs, and at In comniandum mitterc. The
earliest instance I meet with of it in Ireland is that of the occupa-
tion of the revenues of the see of Armagh by the lay so called arch-
bishops. But about the times we are now treating of it became ra-
ther prevalent; an<l Giraldus Cambrensis informs us, (Ttmer.
Cambr. L. c. 4.) that there were several lay abbots in Ireland and
Wales. The passage is curious and worth transcribing : " Notan-
" dum autem, quod haec ecclesia (S. Paterni) sicid et aliae per
'• Hiberniam et Walliam plures, abuatem laicum habet, Usus
'' enim inolevit etprava consuetudo. ut viri, in parochia potentes.


" primo tamquam oeconomi seu potius ecclesiarum patroni et de-
" fensores a clero constituti, postea processu temporis aucta
" cupidine totum sibi jus usurparent, et terras omnes cum
" exteriore possessione sibi impiidenter appropriarent ; oOiiim
" altaria ; cum decimis et obventionibus clero relinquentes ; et
" haec ipsa filiis suis cjericis et cognatis assignantes. Tales
" itaque defensores seu potius ecclesiarum destructores abbates se
" vocari facere, et tam nomen indebitum quam rem quoque sibi
" assignari praesumpsere." He says, that those lay abbots, retaining
the lands and other properties to themselves^ left to the clergy only
the altars and the tithes and dues. As to tithes, he alluded to
Wales ; for they were not paid in Ireland before his time. In the
course of ages this system became very general in Ireland, parti-
cularly in Ulster ; and hence the origin of that singular class of
persons called Corbes and Erenachs, concerning whom much has
been written but in gi'eat part incoiTect. Usher has left a disserta-
tion on this subject, (see Collectan. de Reb, Hibern. vol. 1.) which
he wrote when young, and in which he pretends, that the Corbes
were originally the same as the Chorepiscopi, of which Coi'be was
a corruption. This was a fundamental mistake, and has been
guarded against by Ware, [Antiq. cap. 17.) who justly observes
from Colgan, that Corba or Comorba signifies a successor in an
ecclesiastical dignity. Usher himself tells us, that " some of the
Irish have detorted the name in Latin to Converbius, or Confur-
bach in Irish, which importeth as much as conterraneous." This

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 7 of 45)