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EARLY HISTORY]
761
IRELAND

churches and schools and educate a priesthood which should provide the most effective and certain means of conversion. It would be a mistake to suppose that his success was as rapid or as complete as is generally assumed. There can be no doubt that he met with great opposition both from the high-king Loigaire and from the druids. But though Loigaire refused to desert the faith of his ancestors we are told that a number of his nearest kinsmen accepted Christianity; and if there be any truth in the story of the codification of the Brehon Laws we gather that he realized that the future belonged to the new religion. St Patrick’s work seems to fall under two heads. In the first place he planted the faith in parts of the north and west which had probably not yet heard the gospel. He also organized the already existing Christian communities, and with this in view founded a church at Armagh as his metropolitan see (444). It is further due to him that Ireland became linked up with Rome and the Christian countries of the Western church, and that in consequence Latin was introduced as the language of the church. It seems probable that St Patrick consecrated a considerable number of bishops with small but definite dioceses which doubtless coincided in the main with the territories of the tuatha. In any case the ideal of the apostle from Britain was almost certainly very different from the monastic system in vogue in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.

The Early Irish Church.—The church founded by St Patrick was doubtless in the main identical in doctrine with the churches of Britain and Gaul and other branches of the Western church; but after the recall of the Roman legions from Britain the Irish church was shut off from the Roman world, and it is only natural that there should not have been any great amount of scruple with regard to orthodox doctrine. This would explain the survival of the writings of Pelagius in Ireland until the 8th century. Even Columba himself, in his Latin hymn Altus prosator, was suspected by Gregory the Great of favouring Arian doctrines. After the death of St Patrick there was apparently a relapse into paganism in many parts of the island. The church itself gradually became grafted on to the feudal organization, the result of which was the peculiar system which we find in the 6th and 7th centuries. Wherever Roman law and municipal institutions had been in force the church was modelled on the civil society. The bishops governed ecclesiastical districts co-ordinate with the civil divisions. In Ireland there were no cities and no municipal institutions; the nation consisted of groups of tribes connected by kinship, and loosely held together by a feudal system which we shall examine later. Although St Patrick endeavoured to organize the Irish church on regular diocesan lines, after his death an approximation to the lay system was under the circumstances almost inevitable. When a chief became a Christian and bestowed lands on the church, he at the same time transferred all his rights as a chief; but these rights still remained with his sept, albeit subordinate to the uses of the church. At first all church offices were exclusively confined to members of the sept. In this new sept there was consequently a twofold succession. The religious sept or family consisted in the first instance not only of the ecclesiastical persons to whom the gift was made, but of all the céli or vassals, tenants and slaves, connected with the land bestowed. The head was the coarb (Ir. comarba, “co-heir”), i.e. the inheritor both of the spiritual and temporal rights and privileges of the founder; he in his temporal capacity exacted rent and tribute like other chiefs, and made war not on temporal chiefs only, the spectacle of two coarbs making war on each other not being unusual. The ecclesiastical colonies that went forth from a parent family generally remained in subordination to it, in the same way that the spreading branches of a ruling family remained in general subordinate to it. The heads of the secondary families were also called the coarbs of the original founder. Thus there were coarbs of Columba at Iona, Kells, Derry, Durrow and other places. The coarb of the chief spiritual foundation was called the high coarb (ard-chomarba). The coarb might be a bishop or only an abbot, but in either case all the ecclesiastics in the family were subject to him; in this way it frequently happened that bishops, though their superior functions were recognized, were in subjection to abbots who were only priests, as in the case of St Columba, or even to a woman, as in the case of St Brigit. This singular association of lay and spiritual powers was liable to the abuse of allowing the whole succession to fall into lay hands, as happened to a large extent in later times. The temporal chief had his steward who superintended the collection of his rents and tributes; in like manner the coarb of a religious sept had his airchinnech (Anglo-Irish erenach, herenach), whose office was generally, but not necessarily, hereditary. The office embodied in a certain sense the lay succession in the family.

From the beginning the life of the converts must have been in some measure coenobitic. Indeed it could hardly have been otherwise in a pagan and half-savage land. St Patrick himself in his Confession makes mention of monks in Ireland in connexion with his mission, but the few glimpses we get of the monastic life of the decades immediately following his death prove that the earliest type of coenobium differed considerably from that known at a later period. The coenobium of the end of the 5th century consisted of an ordinary sept or family whose chief had become Christian. After making a gift of his lands the chief either retired, leaving it in the hands of a coarb, or remained as the religious head himself. The family went on with their usual avocations, but some of the men and women, and in some cases all, practised celibacy, and all joined in fasting and prayer. It may be inferred from native documents that grave disorders were prevalent under this system. A severer and more exclusive type of monasticism succeeded this primitive one, but apart from the separation of the sexes the general character never entirely changed.

Diocesan organization as understood in countries under Roman Law being unknown, there was not that limitation of the number of bishops which territorial jurisdiction renders necessary, and consequently the number of bishops increased beyond all proportions. Thus, St Mochta, abbot of Louth, and a reputed disciple of St Patrick, is stated to have had no less than 100 bishops in his monastic family. All the bishops in a coenobium were subject to the abbot; but besides the bishop in the monastic families, every tuath or tribe had its own bishop. The church in Ireland having been evolved out of the monastic nuclei already described the tribe bishop was an episcopal development of a somewhat later period. He was an important personage, his status being fixed in the Brehon laws, from which we learn that his honour price was seven cumals, and that he had the right to be accompanied by the same number of followers as a petty king. The power of the bishops was considerable, as they were strong enough to resist the kings with regard to the right of sanctuary, ever a fertile source of dissension. The tuath bishop in later centuries corresponded to the diocesan bishop as closely as it was possible in two systems so different as tribal and municipal government. When diocesan jurisdiction was introduced into Ireland in the 12th century the tuath became a diocese. Many of the old dioceses represent ancient tuatha, and even enlarged modern dioceses coincide with the territories of ancient tribal states. Thus the diocese of Kilmacduagh was the territory of the Hui Fiachrach Aidne; that of Kilfenora was the tribe land of Corco-Mruad or Corcomroe. Many deaneries also represent tribe territories. Thus the deanery of Musgrylin (Co. Cork) was the ancient Muscraige Mitaine, and no doubt had its tribe bishop in ancient times. Bishops without dioceses and monastic bishops were not unknown outside Ireland in the Eastern and Western churches in very early times, but they had disappeared with rare exceptions in the 6th century when the Irish reintroduced the monastic bishops and the monastic church into Britain and the continent.

In the 8th and 9th centuries, when the great emigration of Irish scholars and ecclesiastics took place, the number of wandering bishops without dioceses became a reproach to the Irish church; and there can be no doubt that it led to much inconvenience and abuse, and was subversive of the stricter discipline that the popes had succeeded in establishing in the Western