whole island into a state of anarchy. Although beaten on the field of battle the Norsemen still retained possession of their fortified cities, and gradually they assumed the position of native tribes. The Dalcassian forces had been so much weakened by the great struggle that Maelsechlainn was again recognized as king of Ireland. However, the effects of Brian’s revolution were permanent; the prescriptive rights of the Hy Neill were disputed, and from the battle of Clontarf until the coming of the Normans the history of Ireland consisted of a struggle for ascendancy between the O’Brians of Munster, the O’Neills of Ulster and the O’Connors of Connaught.
From the Battle of Clontarf to the Anglo-Norman Invasion.—The death of Maelsechlainn in 1022 afforded an opportunity for an able and ambitious man to subdue Ireland, establish a strong central government, break up the tribal system and further the gradual fusion of factions into a homogeneous nation. Such a man did not arise; those who afterwards claimed to be ardrí lacked the qualities of founders of strong dynasties, and are termed by the annalists “kings with opposition.” Brian was survived by two sons, Tadg and Donnchad, the elder of whom was slain in 1023. Donnchad (d. 1064) was certainly the most distinguished figure in Ireland in his day. He subdued more than half of Ireland, and almost reached the position once held by his father. His strongest opponent was his son-in-law Diarmait Mael-na-mBó, king of Leinster, who was also the foster-father of his brother Tadg’s son, Tordelbach (Turlough) O’Brian. On the death of Diarmait in 1072 Tordelbach (d. 1086) reigned supreme in Leth Moga; Meath and Connaught also submitted to him, but he failed to secure the allegiance of the northern Hy Neill. He was succeeded by his son Muirchertach (d. 1119), who spent most of his life contending against his formidable opponent Domnall O’Lochlainn, king of Tír Eogain (d. 1121). The struggle for the sovereignty between these two rivals continued, with intervals of truce negotiated by the clergy, without any decisive advantage on either side. In 1102 Magnus Barefoot made his third and last expedition to the west with the express design of conquering Ireland. Muirchertach opposed him with a large force, and a conference was arranged at which a son of Magnus was betrothed to Biadmuin, daughter of the Irish prince. He was also mixed up in English affairs, and as a rule maintained cordial relations with Henry I. After the death of Domnall O’Lochlainn there was an interregnum of about fifteen years with no ardrí, until Tordelbach (Turlough) O’Connor, king of Connaught, resolved to reduce the other provinces. Munster and Meath were repeatedly ravaged, and in 1151 he crushed Tordelbach (Turlough) O’Brian, king of Thomond, at Moanmor. O’Connor’s most stubborn opponent was Muirchertach O’Lochlainn, with whom he wrestled for supremacy until the day of his death (1156). Tordelbach, who enjoyed a great reputation even after his death, was remembered as having thrown bridges over the Shannon, and as a patron of the arts. However, war was so constant in Ireland at this time that under the year 1145 the Four Masters describe the island as a “trembling sod.” Tordelbach was succeeded by his son Ruadri (Roderick, q.v.), who after some resistance had to acknowledge Muirchertach O’Lochlainn’s supremacy. The latter, however, was slain in 1166 in consequence of having wantonly blinded the king of Dal Araide. Ruadri O’Connor, now without a serious rival, was inaugurated with great pomp at Dublin.
Diarmait MacMurchada (Dermod MacMurrough), great-grandson of Diarmait Mael-na-mBó, as king of Leinster was by descent and position much mixed up with foreigners, and generally in a state of latent if not open hostility to the high-kings of the Hy Neill and Dalcais dynasties. He was a tyrant and a bad character. In 1152 Tigernan O’Rourke, prince of Breifne, had been dispossessed of his territory by Tordelbach O’Connor, aided by Diarmait, and the latter is accused also of carrying off Derbforgaill, wife of O’Rourke. On learning that O’Rourke was leading an army against him with the support of Ruadri, he burnt his castle of Ferns and went to Henry II. to seek assistance. The momentous consequences of this step belong to the next section, and it now remains for us to state the condition of the church and society in the century preceding the Anglo-Norman invasion.
Although the Irish Church conformed to Roman usage in the matter of Easter celebration and tonsure in the 7th century, the bond between Ireland and Rome was only slight until several centuries later. Whatever co-ordination may have existed in the church of the 8th century was doubtless destroyed during the troubled period of the Viking invasions. It is probable that St Patrick established Armagh as a metropolitan see, but the history of the primacy, which during a long period can only have been a shadow, is involved in obscurity. Its supremacy was undoubtedly recognized by Brian Boruma in 1004, when he laid 20 oz. of gold upon the high altar. In the 11th century a competitor arose in the see of Dublin. The Norse rulers were bound to come under the influence of Christianity at an early date. For instance, Amlaib Cuarán was formally converted in England in 942 and was baptized by Wulfhelm of Canterbury. The antithesis between the king of Dublin and the ardrí seems to have had the effect of linking the Dublin Christian community rather with Canterbury than Armagh. King Sigtrygg founded the bishopric of Dublin in 1035, and the early bishops of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick were all consecrated by the English primate. As Lanfranc and Anselm were both anxious to extend their jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, the submission of Dublin opened the way for Norman and Roman influences. At the beginning of the 12th century Gilbert, bishop of Limerick and papal legate, succeeded in winning over Celsus, bishop of Armagh (d. 1129), to the reform movement. Celsus belonged to a family which had held the see for 200 years; he was grandson of a previous primate and is said to have been himself a married man. Yet he became, in the skilful hands of Gilbert and Maelmaedóc O’Morgair, the instrument of overthrowing the hereditary succession to the primatial see. In 1118 the important synod of Rathbressil was held, at which Ireland was divided into dioceses, this being the first formal attempt at getting rid of that anarchical state of church government which had hitherto prevailed. The work begun under Celsus was completed by his successor Maelmaedóc (Malachy). At a national synod held about 1134 Maelmaedóc, in his capacity as bishop of Armagh, was solemnly elected to the primacy; and armed with full power of church and state he was able to overcome all opposition. Under his successor Gelasius, Cardinal Paparo was despatched as supreme papal legate. At the synod of Kells (1152) there was established that diocesan system which has ever since continued without material alteration. Armagh was constituted the seat of the primacy, and Cashel, Tuam and Dublin were raised to the rank of archbishoprics. It was also ordained that tithes should be levied for the support of the clergy.
Social Conditions.—In the middle ages there were considerable forests in Ireland encompassing broad expanses of upland pastures and marshy meadows. It is traditionally stated that fences first came into general use in the 7th century. There were no cities or large towns before the arrival of the Norsemen; no stone bridges spanned the rivers; stepping stones or hurdle bridges at the fords or shallows offered the only mode of crossing the broadest streams, and connecting the unpaved roads or bridle paths which crossed the country over hill and dale from the principal dúns. The forests abounded in game, the red deer and wild boar were common, whilst wolves ravaged the flocks. Scattered over the country were numerous small hamlets, composed mainly of wicker cabins, among which were some which might be called houses; other hamlets were composed of huts of the rudest kind. Here and there were large villages that had grown up about groups of houses surrounded by an earthen mound or rampart; similar groups enclosed in this manner were also to be found without any annexed hamlet. Sometimes there were two or three circumvallations or even more, and where water was plentiful the ditch between was flooded. The simple rampart enclosed a space called lis which contained
- The term rath was perhaps applied to the rampart, but both lis and rath are used to denote the whole structure.