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The Transformation of the Irish Church in the Twelfth Century

The Transformation of the Irish Church in the Twelfth Century

MARIE THERESE FLANAGAN
Volume: 29
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt3fgn63
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  • Book Info
    The Transformation of the Irish Church in the Twelfth Century
    Book Description:

    The twelfth century saw a wide-ranging transformation of the Irish church, a regional manifestation of a wider pan-European reform movement. This book, the first to offer a full account of this change, moves away from the previous concentration on the restructuring of Irish dioceses and episcopal authority, and the introduction of Continental monastic observances, to widen the discussion. It charts changes in the religious culture experienced by the laity as well as the clergy and takes account of the particular Irish experience within the wider European context. The universal ideals that were defined with increasing clarity by Continental advocates of reform generated a series of initiatives from Irish churchmen aimed at disseminating reform ideology within clerical circles and transmitting it also to lay society, even if, as elsewhere, it often proved difficult to implement in practice. Whatever the obstacles faced by reformist clergy, their genuine concern to transform the Irish church and society cannot be doubted, and is attested in a range of hitherto unexploited sources this volume draws upon. Marie Therese Flanagan is Professor of Medieval History at the Queen's University of Belfast.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-901-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-vii)
    MTF
  4. ABBREVIATIONS AND SHORT TITLES
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xi-xii)

    This study offers an account of the Irish church during the twelfth century, a time of institutional restructuring and religious renewal associated with a reform movement that was a regional manifestation of a much wider European phenomenon. The sources for such an undertaking are problematic, with serious gaps in the evidence, making a comprehensive portrayal difficult to achieve for a time when elsewhere in medieval Europe there was a widespread increase in the quantity and quality of written sources. Although the focus is the pre-Anglo-Norman twelfth century it has sometimes proved necessary, in light of evidentiary problems, to extend the...

  6. 1 CHARTING CHANGE IN THE TWELFTH-CENTURY IRISH CHURCH: THE PROBLEM OF SOURCES
    (pp. 1-33)

    The Irish church underwent a radical transformation during a ‘long twelfth century’,¹ but the sources of inspiration, as well as the modes of implementation of change, remain frustratingly obscure. There is no substantial or coherent body of material bearing on the movement for renewal, and, consequently, evidence has to be pieced together from a wide variety of disparate and often fragmentary sources. The annals, originating within monastic institutions, constitute an important source, although their value for the twelfth century is greatly reduced by gaps in the principal collections. There are lacunae in the Annals of Ulster between 1131 and 1155,...

  7. Bishops and dioceses

    • 2 ‘REGULATING THE DIOCESES OF THE BISHOPS OF IRELAND’
      (pp. 34-91)

      A radical restructuring of episcopal jurisdiction is conventionally attributed to two landmark synods of the twelfth-century Irish church, the synod of Ráith Bressail (1111)¹ and the synod of Kells (1152). According to the seventeenth-century historian Geoffrey Keating, who preserved in Irish translation a version of its acts, the synod of Ráith Bressail ‘regulated the faircheadha or dioceses of the bishops of Ireland’.² It delimited territorially cohesive diocesan boundaries by naming four compass points, while within each diocese a specific church was designated as episcopal see. It also determined an archiepiscopal and primatial hierarchy: two archiepiscopal provinces with metropolitan sees located...

    • 3 ‘A MIRROR AND MODEL’: EXEMPLARY BISHOPS AND EPISCOPAL CULTURE
      (pp. 92-117)

      In the absence of a substantial body of episcopal legislation, acta or treatises testifying to a discourse of reform, some insight into the conception of the exemplary way of life and pastoral responsibilities of a bishop, as formulated in an Irish reformist context, is afforded by hagiographical sources. Of these, Bernard of Clairvaux’s Life of Malachy and the anonymous Life of Flannán are especially useful because their composition may be dated reasonably accurately. The Life of Flannán can be assigned to 1162×67, a date-range determined by an allusion to the recent (noviter) capture of Milan by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, which...

  8. Varieties of monasticism

    • 4 ‘RESTORING THE MONASTIC AND CANONICAL RULES OF THE CHURCH IN IRELAND’: ST MALACHY AND MONASTIC REFORM
      (pp. 118-168)

      One of the most distinctive features of the religious revival that gathered pace throughout Europe from the eleventh century onwards was the great variety of interpretations of the religious life that emerged in a relatively short time-span. The proliferation of diverse interpretations of the monastic life had initially created, in the words of Pope Urban II, ‘a schism in the house of God’.¹ Although, at first, there had been tensions between old and new monks, a gradual acceptance of variety emerged and the positive value of ‘diversity but not adversity’ had come to be accepted by the mid twelfth century,²...

  9. Lay society

    • 5 ‘RULES AND GOOD CONDUCT’: THE RE-FORMATION OF LAY SOCIETY
      (pp. 169-202)

      Few questions are more essential, yet more difficult to answer, than the impact that reformist ideology may have had on lay society. It is well-nigh impossible to penetrate the religious aspirations, beliefs and responses to clerical teaching of lay people in twelfth-century Ireland since most were illiterate. The very term laity obscures the fact that there may have been a wide spectrum of different viewpoints among the varied social gradations. It is equally difficult to discern the points of contact and the differences between lay and clerical attitudes. Educated clergy might issue instructions: how the teachings of the church and...

    • 6 ‘RIGHT FAITH AND GOOD ACTIONS’: LAY PIETY AND DEVOTION
      (pp. 203-242)

      What churchmen by the twelfth century generally expected from the laity by way of regular religious practice can be summarised as: observance of Sunday rest from labour and attendance at Mass; proper and timely recourse to the sacraments of baptism, the eucharist and penance; the celebration of the liturgical seasons, especially the various periods of fasting and abstinence; almsgiving, and the regular payment of tithes on all income; compliance with the canon law of marriage and specified periods of sexual abstinence. Religious observances on the part of the laity should not, of course, necessarily be taken to imply religious understanding....

  10. CONCLUSION: UNIVERSAL IDEALS AND REGIONAL RESPONSES
    (pp. 243-248)

    By the time Anglo-Norman infiltration into Ireland began in 1167 the Irish church had acquired structures that were broadly in line with those in the rest of Latin Christendom, which itself had undergone rapid and radical transformation in the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Personal and intellectual contacts had been formed with ecclesiastics on the Continent and in England that were highly influential in informing the self-understanding of Irish churchmen in a wider European context. The Irish church was now led by the archbishop of Armagh, who was not only acknowledged as the venerable comarba Pátraic (‘successor of...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 249-282)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 283-296)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-299)