10 December 2016

Anglican Studies 2016-2017 (Part Time):
2.2, The Tudor, Stuart
and Caroline Settlements

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation depicted in a window in Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

TH8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context

MTh Part-Time (Years III-IV):

Saturday, 10 December, 2016:

Weekend 1
(Saturday 10 December 2016):

2.1: Early Irish Christianity and the Anglican reformations in the 16th century.

2.2: The Tudor, Stuart and Caroline Settlements.

11.30 a.m.:

2.2: The Tudor, Stuart and Caroline Settlements.


Before our break, we left Mary Tudor on the throne, and began to ask some questions about why the Reformation may have failed in Ireland, compared to the way it eventually succeeded in England.

Mary Tudor’s reign was short if not sweet. In Ireland, although there was no persecution of the reformers, as there had been in England, Mary and her husband, King Philip of Spain, initiated one of the largest-scale plantations, creating the plantations of Queen’s County and King’s County in the Midlands – now Laois and Offaly.

She was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth, and once again an effort was made to introduce the Anglican Reformation in Ireland.

The Elizabethan Settlement

Despite the changes introduced under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary Tudor, the people of Ireland would have noticed little in terms of religious changes until 1560.

In that year, the Elizabethan settlement was promulgated in the form of the parliamentary acts of supremacy and uniformity, laying the foundations for a sustained Reformation.

Queen Elizabeth I was affirmed as the Supreme Governor of the Church of Ireland, which was now the state church, established by and to which all her subjects were required to belong. Elizabeth can be credited with holding together in one Anglican tradition the competing claims within the Church of England and Anglicanism after the death of her half-sister Mary. And it is she who is said to have written of the Eucharist:

His was the Word that spake it:
He tooke the bread and brake it:
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it.

Under the Act of Uniformity, all were enjoined – under penalty of fine – to attend church services according to The Book of Common Prayer, and new bodies for enforcing discipline among the clergy and laity were put in place. But comparatively little attempt was made by church and state officials in Ireland to enforce conformity either to Queen Elizabeth’s supremacy or to Anglican liturgical reforms, creating an atmosphere of leniency in the 1560s and 1570s.

In general, the Anglican Church of Ireland maintained the continuity of Church structures and institutions, in place since time immemorial, or at least since the great reforms of the 12th century.

The Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer of 1559 was moderate in tone. As a concession to, or in recognition, of the situation in Ireland, it was permitted to circulate The Book of Common Prayer in Latin in places where English was not understood. This recognised that Gaelic-Irish was the first language in many places, but also pointed to the gulf between the plans and their effect for the Tudor reformation in Ireland. The survival of Latin as the language of public worship in many places cloaked the religious changes in a familiar medium.

The clergy in the Church of Ireland in 1560 were mixed in terms of background and outlook. The ranged from priests of mainly English descent inter Anglicos to the hereditary erenaghs of the Church inter Hibernicos.

Rathfarnham Castle, the home of Archbishop Adam Loftus … he accused the clergy of the two cathedrals in Dublin of dressing up old liturgical practices in the vestments of the new order (Photograph, Patrick Comerford)

Archbishop Adam Loftus accused the clergy of the two cathedrals in Dublin of dressing up old liturgical practices in the vestments of the new order. Dublin officials such as James Bathe, John Plunket and James Stanihurst are notable members of a coterie of ‘church papists’ who publicly attended divine services in the 1560s and 1570s but who heard mass privately in their own homes, where they retained Catholic priests as their chaplains and as tutors to their children.

For some members of the married hereditary clergy inherited from the pre-Reformation, Gaelic Church, the Anglican Reformation offered legitimacy for their wives and children.

Sir Henry Sidney’s monument in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sir Henry Sidney reported to Queen Elizabeth that in Meath, one of the wealthiest dioceses in Ireland, the incumbents in almost half the parishes were ‘Irish rogues, having very little Latin, less learning and civility,” and that they lived on “the gain of masses, dirges, shrivings and such like trumpery, godly abolished by your majesty.’

But many of the clergy remained attached to the old order, were native Irish speakers, were unreformed and managed to work against the introduction of reforms.

A more rigorous application of the Act of Uniformity was introduced from the 1570s and 1580s onwards, and the differences turned to conflict with major revolts in support of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in Leinster and Munster around 1580. The Catholic cause was given its martyrs with the hanging of Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley of Cashel in Dublin in 1584, the death in the dungeons of Dublin Castle of a wealthy Dublin widow, Margaret Ball, arrested on the orders of her son Walter Ball, Anglican Mayor of Dublin, and the death by poisoning of Archbishop Richard Creagh of Armagh in the Tower of London in 1585.

Front Square in Trinity College Dublin in the dark ... established in 1592 in the hope of training Irish-born Anglican clergy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The chronic under-funding of the majority of benefices with the Church militated against finding an educated and motivated clergy, but also against the establishment of schools and the foundation of a university in which future clergy could be educated and trained. A parliamentary proposal in 1570 for the foundation of diocesan grammar schools fell largely because impoverished bishops in poor dioceses were unwilling to commit scarce resources to these projects. It was not until 1592 that Trinity College Dublin was established in the hope of training Irish-born Anglican clergy.

Only a small number of dioceses could claim to have sufficient well-endowed livings that would attract clergy of a high calibre.

A Gaelic-language printing-press was established in Dublin to produce an Irish version of the Bible, but produced no major work before 1600, and prayer book in Irish was not printed until 1608. These two factors combined to give an essentially English complexion to the Reformation in Ireland.

Even in English-speaking areas, such as Dublin and the neighbouring counties in the Pale, conformity was only skin-deep, and efforts to recruit Irish-speaking clergy for training in English universities lacked success, and those who were recruited were questionable in their loyalty to the state church.

To rectify these failings, especially the chronic shortage of clergy, Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592. Meanwhile, Archbishop Loftus was appointing English graduate clergy to the chapter of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

By the opening decades of the 17th century, the Protestant community in Ireland may have been increasing in numbers but remained small, and was based largely in Dublin. Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh strongly protested that the Church of Ireland’ maintained continuity with the ancient Irish Church. But the Counter-reformation was speaking significant progress among the English-speaking urban populations in Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

The Church of Ireland shaped its own distinctive identity with the adoption of the 104 Irish Articles in 1615, and which we looked at last week. But little attention was being given to the re-endowment or the recovery of alienated Church resources.

It was only after the political turmoils and violence of the mid-17th century – including the Rebellion of 1641, the Confederation of Kilkenny and the Cromwellian wars – had come to an end with the Caroline restoration in 1660 that a more confident Church of Ireland emerged.

Key figures in the Elizabethan and Jacobite church

1, Archbishop Adam Loftus

Archbishop Adam Loftus … his portrait in Trinity College Dublin

Adam Loftus (1533-1605) was Archbishop of Armagh, later Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1581, and the first Provost of Trinity College Dublin.

Loftus was born in the Yorkshire Dales in 1533, the son of a monastery bailiff. While he was a student at Trinity College Cambridge, it is said, he came to the notice of the young Queen Elizabeth on account of his intellect and his oratory.

He came to Ireland in 1560 as chaplain to Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex. He was only 28 when he was consecrated Archbishop of Armagh in 1563, He came to Dublin in 1564 and in 1565, while he was still Archbishop of Armagh, he was offered the Deanery of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, ‘in lieu of better times ahead.’

In 1567 Loftus was made Archbishop of Dublin, where the queen expected him to carry out reforms of the Church. In 1569-1570 the divisions in Irish politics took on a religious tinge with the first Desmond Rebellion in Munster, and the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, issued in 1570, questioned Elizabeth’s authority, so that Roman Catholics were suspected of disloyalty from then on.

Loftus took a leading part in the execution of Dermot O’Hurley in 1584. He was also entangled in clashes with Sir John Perrot over the location of an Irish university. Perrot wanted to use Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as the site of the new university, but Loftus won the argument and Trinity College Dublin was founded at its present location in 1592, with Loftus as named as its first Provost.

Loftus died at his Episcopal Palace in Kevin Street, Dublin, ‘worn out with age’ and in Dublin in 1605 and was buried in his family vault in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

2, Archbishop James Ussher

Archbishop James Ussher … a key figure in shaping the Church of Ireland in the first half of the 17th century

James Ussher (1581-1656) was Archbishop of Armagh (1625–1656). He was a prolific scholar, best known for his chronology that stated the time and date of creation as the night before Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC, although we should know him as the author of the Irish 104 Articles and a key figure in shaping the Church of Ireland in the first half of the 17th century.

Ussher was born in Dublin, the grandson of James Stanihurst, speaker of the Irish Parliament. He studied at Trinity College Dublin, and was ordained in the Chapel of Trinity College by his uncle Henry Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh.

In 1615, he was closely involved in drawing up the 104 Articles of the Church of Ireland. In 1621, King James I nominated him Bishop of Meath, but from 1623 until 1626 he was in England, excused from his episcopal duties, studying church history. He became Archbishop of Armagh in 1625 and was consecrated n 1626.

Ussher was a Calvinist, and opposed any concessions by Charles I to the Catholics of Ireland. He called a secret meeting of the Irish bishops in his house in November of 1626, the result being the Judgement of the Arch-Bishops and Bishops of Ireland, which begins: ‘The religion of the papists is superstitious and idolatrous; their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their church in respect of both, apostatical; to give them therefore a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine, is a grievous sin.’

In 1633, Ussher wrote to Archbishop William laud of Canterbury seeking support for the imposition of recusancy fines on Irish Catholics. He worked closely with the Lord Deputy, Thomas Wentworth, to deflect pressure for conformity by the Church of Ireland to the Church of England, seeking to resource and re-endow his church, and settling the long-running primacy dispute between Armagh and Dublin.

However, the 39 Articles were adopted by the Church of Ireland at a convocation in 1634, and the Irish canons had to be redrafted to conform to the English ones rather than replaced by them. After that convocation in 1634, Ussher left Dublin for his episcopal residence in Drogheda, and there he concentrated on his diocese and his research. By 1635, he had lost de facto control of the church to John Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, in everyday matters, and to Archbishop William Laud of Canterbury in matters of policy.

Ussher also wrote extensively on theology, Patristics and ecclesiastical history, seeking to show that the early Irish Church differed from Rome and was much closer to the Church of the Anglican Reformation. This was to prove highly influential, establishing the idea that the Church of Ireland is the true successor of the early Celtic church.

In 1640, he left Ireland for England for the last time. Despite his royalist loyalties, he was protected by his friends in Parliament. He watched the execution of Charles I in London, but fainted before the axe fell. When he died in 1656, Cromwell insisted on giving him a state funeral, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

3, Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer … his legacy includes The Book of Common Prayer, the Collects and the 39 Articles

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), who began his career as a theologian at Jesus College, Cambridge, was perhaps the key figure in the Anglican Reformation in England as Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI.

He helped build the case for Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, with Thomas Cromwell he supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, and as Archbishop of Canterbury he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England.

During the reign of Henry VIII, Cranmer did not introduce many radical changes, but succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

During the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He as the main author and editor of the first two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, and in consultation with refugee Continental reformers, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist and clerical celibacy, promulgated through The Book of Common Prayer, The Homilies, and other publications.

The Martyrs’ Memorial at the south end of St Giles’ near Baliol College in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy during the reign of Mary I. He was jailed over two years and made several recantations, apparently being reconciled to the old order.

However, on the day of his execution in Oxford, 21 March 1556, he dramatically withdrew his recantations. As the flames drew around him, he placed his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit ... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.’

His legacy lives on through The Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles.

4, John Jewel

John Jewel ... literary apologist of the Elizabethan settlement and the author of Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae

John Jewel (1522-1571), Bishop of Salisbury, first made his mark as a lecturer in Oxford, where he composed a congratulatory message to Mary Tudor on her accession. However, he was forced to seek refuge on the Continent because of his links with Cranmer and Ridley.

When Elizabeth succeeded he returned to England, and became strongly committed to the Elizabethan reforms. We could see him as the literary apologist of the Elizabethan settlement, expressed in Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae (1562).

Richard Hooker speaks of Jewel as the ‘worthiest divine that Christendom bath bred for some hundreds of years.’ Indeed, Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity owes much to Jewel’s thinking.

5, Richard Hooker

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... ‘the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation

Richard Hooker (1554-1600) was perhaps the most influential theologian in the Anglican reformation, and his emphases on reason, tolerance and the value of tradition have had a lasting influence on the development of Anglican theology. Alongside Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, he could be seen as a founder of Anglican theological thought.

Hooker’s Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie is his best-known work, with the first four books being published in 1594. The fifth was published in 1597, while the final three were published posthumously, and some say they may not all be his own work.

Hooker argued for a middle way or via media between the positions held by the Roman Catholics and by the Puritans. He argued that reason and tradition were important when interpreting the Scriptures, and that it was important to recognise that the Bible was written in a particular historical context, in response to specific situations: ‘Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered.’

Hooker’s principal subject is the proper governance of the church, and he sought to work out which methods of organising the Church are best. His Lawes is still respected, not only for its stature as a monumental work of Anglican theology, but for its influence in the development of theology, political theory, and English prose.

6, Lancelot Andrewes

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes in Southwark Cathedral … ‘he who prays for others, labours for himself’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) oversaw and edited the translation of the Authorised Version, or the King James Version of the Bible, published 400 years ago in 1611.

As a theologian, he was typically Anglican, equally removed from the Puritan and the Roman positions. A good summary of his position is found in his First Answer to Cardinal Perron, who had challenged James I’s use of the title ‘Catholic.’ His theology of the Eucharist is more mature than that of the first reformers:

‘As to the Real Presence we are agreed; our controversy is as to the mode of it. As to the mode we define nothing rashly, nor anxiously investigate, any more than in the Incarnation of Christ we ask how the human is united to the divine nature in One Person. There is a real change in the elements—we allow ut panis iam consecratus non sit panis quem natura formavit; sed, quem benedictio consecravit, et consecrando etiam immutavit.’ (Responsio, p. 263).

‘Adoration is permitted, and the use of the terms ‘sacrifice’ and ‘altar’ maintained as being consonant with scripture and antiquity. Christ is ‘a sacrifice – so, to be slain; a propitiatory sacrifice – so, to be eaten.’ (Sermons, vol 2, p. 296).

Andrewes drew on Patristic sources in writing his Latin Devotions; there he wrote that “he who prays for others, labours for himself.”

It was Andrewes who summarised Anglicanism in the dictum: ‘One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period … determine the boundary of our faith.’ In other words, Andrewes is saying the tradition of the Church in Anglicanism finds its foundations in the three creeds – the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed – the decisions of the first four General Councils of the Church (Nicaea, 325; Constantinople, 381; Ephesus, 431; and Chalcedon, 451); the first five centuries of the history of the Church, and the corpus of Patristic writings.

Archbishop John Bramhall ... his portrait in Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In providing this succinct summary of the foundations of tradition, Andrewes was influential for all of Anglicanism. So, for example, after the Caroline restoration in the 17th century, John Bramhall (1594-1663), Archbishop of Armagh, declared that he would admit all to Communion, especially the Lutherans, but also Greeks, Armenians, Abyssinians, Russians, and all who confess the apostolic creed and accept the first four general councils, even Roman Catholics ‘if they did not make their errors to be a condition of their communion.’

Next to Ussher, Andrewes was considered the most learned theologian of his day. He continues to influence religious thinkers to the present day, and influenced TS Eliot, who borrowed, almost word for word and without acknowledgement, the opening of Andrewes’s 1622 Christmas Day sermon for his poem, 'The Journey of the Magi.

The Caroline Settlement

The period 1660-1690 is important for a number of reasons:

Heritage and memory: This period is packed with negative memories for Presbyterians – who were excluded from the Restoration settlement; for Roman Catholics – who recall the martyrdom of Oliver Plunket; and for the Church of Ireland – for this is the age in which we really defined the Church of Ireland and differentiated ourselves from the other traditions arising from the Reformations.

Heritage and culture: Our church architecture owes much to this period. Lisburn Cathedral in the Diocese of Connor is an example of our architectural heritage from this period. But so too are Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Culturally, this too is also the age of baroque, Milton, Bunyan, Rembrandt, Vivaldi and Bach.

Heritage and theology: This is the age of Jeremy Taylor, but also the defining year (1662) for The Book of Common Prayer.

Heritage and politics: This period asks us whether Protestant political culture in Ireland – including the political culture of members of the Church of Ireland – was shaped definitively by the events of the Williamite Revolution.

The setting:

The restoration of Charles II was accompanied by the restoration of episcopacy in both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. It marked the end of a period of great turbulence both in Church and State on these islands, and the introduction of a period of relative calm that would last for the best part of 25 years.

In this sense, these islands were catching up on the state of affairs that was unfolding throughout many parts of Europe. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) had already brought an end to a generation of war and a century of strife, and marked the end, not only of the 30 Years War, but also of religious wars in general.

During the next century and a half, the peace of Europe was often broken. There was warfare between the nations, but religion seldom provided the pretext. From now on, doctrinal disputes were settled within states and not between them. Matters of faith ceased to be an important irritant in international affairs, and the Pope’s influence had dwindled to a point where he could no longer effectively participate in the political affairs of Europe.

René Descartes: the world was beginning to think differently, and it was a different world

But it was also a world that was beginning to think differently. René Descartes (1596-1650), who died in 1650, is best known for his proposition, “I think, therefore I am.” His Cartesian system of thought immediately posed a challenge to the Aristotelian thinking that still held sway in most European countries. And those who opposed the new philosophy included one of the most brilliant figures of the period, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who combined mathematical and scientific gifts with a religious faith of unusual depth and intensity.

In the second half of the 17th century, a new understanding of the physical universe became increasingly available. New discoveries revealed the nature of the universe, and the change that took place in the latter years of the century would profoundly affect religious thought. This change was in large measure promoted by convinced Christians, such as Thomas Spratt, Bishop of Rochester, and Joseph Glanvill, Rector of Bath, who claimed that faith could not be destroyed by knowledge. They saw science as being concerned with God, humanity and nature.

Among the scientists who agreed with them was Robert Boyle, the great chemist, who was born in Lismore, Co Waterford, into a family that provided many of the bishops of the 17th century Church of Ireland. In his will, Boyle endowed a lectureship for the defence of Christian truth.

But the restoration also ushered in a period that saw a greater toleration of libertinism. It is not that in some way we might consider the general level of sin was higher than at any other time. But there was a libertinism in vogue in the court, on the stage, and among the coffee house intelligentsia that challenged the Church in many ways. How could the Church openly criticise the court when it so openly preached the divine rights of kings? When a courageous Vicar of Tewksbury tried to bring Charles II into line with a diatribe against royal adultery and fornication, he was ejected from office.

In this climate, there was a political justification of immorality that was combined with scepticism or atheistic flippancy, so that Thomas Fuller could warn: ‘Take heed, atheism knocks at the door of the hearts of all men, and where luxury is the porter it will be let in.’

Ireland at the restoration

By 1660, the impetus of the Puritan revolution had run its course. It had produced no leader to replace Cromwell, and it had no policy to enable it to continue to hold political power.

In Ireland, at the time of the restoration of the monarchy and the Episcopal model of the Church, the population of the island was about 1.1 million, of whom probably 800,000 were Roman Catholics and 300,000 Protestants.

Of those 300,000 Protestants, more than half were members of the Church of Ireland, with the rest mainly Presbyterians concentrated in Ulster – many of them Covenanters driven from Scotland by persecution.

The population of Dublin was probably 32,000, and the majority were members of the Church of Ireland. So, what was the state of the Church of Ireland in 1660 as it recovered its episcopal structures and reintroduced its defining, Anglican liturgy?

We must remember that under Cromwell, while it suffered gravely, the Church of Ireland had not been disestablished.

Nevertheless, during the Cromwellian era, vacant bishoprics had not been filled; the parish system had been suspended; instead the church was served by 376 ‘ministers of the Gospel.’ They might be Congregationalists (or Independents, probably the majority), Presbyterians (67), Baptists and Anabaptists, and we must remember that at least 65 of those clergy were Episcopalians of the Church of Ireland.

In some instances, the clergy of the Church of Ireland had remained in their parishes, officiating without salary, as was the case of Diggory Holman, Rector of Magheralin and Precentor of Dromore. Others had co-operated openly with and supported the Commonwealth: Henry Jones, Bishop of Clogher, was Scoutmaster-General to Cromwell. But the use of The Book of Common Prayer had been banned; there were no church courts or synods, church laws, &c.

These changes, issues and personalities raised questions not just about law and order within the Church in Ireland, but raised fundamental questions of ecclesiology, the theology of the church:

What was the nature of the Church in Ireland, who had authority, how was that authority to be exercised, and what force did it have, what were the visible symbols and signs of office? Who could hold office in the Church, and how was authority to be shared and delegated?

In those days, those questions could not be resolved without some consideration by the civil powers. But who exercised civil power in Ireland in the aftermath of the Cromwellian Commonwealth before the king had been restored legally? There was a king, at least in theory. But he had not been proclaimed king legally by the beginning of 1660, and there was no parliament to legislate in his name. In January 1660, three people were appointed Commissioners for Government and Management of Affairs in Ireland. Instead of a parliament, a General Convention met and this also had the oversight of ecclesiastical affairs.

At the time, clergy numbers were estimated at about 500. A petition from Church of Ireland clergy from Co Cork for their tithes indicated the Episcopal clergy were ready to return and, slowly, the clergy began to recover their parishes.

The Restoration and the Church of Ireland

A monument to Charles II outside Lichfield Cathedral … the restoration of the monarchy brought with it the restoration of the episcopacy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In May 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne, and he was proclaimed king in Dublin on 14 May. Despite the restoration, in Scotland there was still a debate about the form the new establishment should take: should it be Presbyterian or Episcopalian? Charles II had signed the covenant, the Presbyterians had played an important part in the Restoration, and so Presbyterians felt their hopes were well-founded in both Ireland and Scotland, and they had some hopes for a greater role in church and state affairs in England. A deputation of Presbyterian ministers arrived in Dublin to petition the General Council, only to find the majority were ‘prelatical.’

Lord Charlemont deemed the Presbyterians the ‘most dangerous’ faction, saying they ‘preach up the authority of the kirk to be above that of the crown and our dread sovereign,’ and that ‘the kirk hath power to excommunicate their kings.’

And so, from the beginning, questions of ecclesiology were also questions of politics, and church/state relations were inseparable. Preparations quickly began for the re-establishment of the Episcopal Church of Ireland.

Eight Irish bishops had survived the Cromwellian era: John Bramhall, Derry; Henry Jones, Clogher; Henry Leslie, Down; John Leslie, Raphoe; Robert Maxwell, Kilmore; Griffith Williams, Ossory; Thomas Fulwar, Ardfert; and William Baylie, Clonfert. But there were 16 vacant dioceses in 1660, including the four archbishoprics: Armagh, Meath, Ardagh, Dromore, Tuam, Killala, Elphin, Dublin, Kildare, Ferns, Cashel, Waterford, Cork, Cloyne, Limerick and Killaloe.

Consider the names of those eight remaining bishops: at least four were of Scots birth or descent: Leslie of Down, Leslie of Raphoe, Maxwell of Kilmore and Baylie of Clonfert, and a fifth, Williams of Ossory, was of Welsh descent. This alone challenges the myth that the Ulster-Scots heritage is the preserve of Northern Presbyterians, or the image conveyed by some that the Church of Ireland was merely a transplant of the Church of England.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in the snow … Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh was an undergraduate here in the early 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In August 1660, Bishop John Bramhall of Derry was nominated as Archbishop of Armagh.

Declarations and Instructions issued by the King on 30 November 1660 formed the basis for the later Act of Settlement. Lands held by the Church in 1641 were to be restored, a glebe was to be provided for every parish, there were new provisions for the two cathedrals in Dublin, and provision was made for church endowments. But the doctrine and discipline of the church were not yet settled.

On 18 January 1661, Bramhall was formally appointed Archbishop of Armagh. Without waiting for Parliament to sit, he threw himself into reorganising the dioceses: Parker of Elphin became Archbishop of Tuam; Fulwar of Ardfert became Archbishop of Cashel; Henry Leslie moved from Down to Meath, but soon died and was replaced by Jones who moved from Clogher to Meath, and would be replaced in Clogher by John Leslie, who had been consecrated for Raphoe; Robert Leslie moved from Dromore to Raphoe; Maxwell remained in Kilmore, to which Ardagh was united; and Cloyne was united to Cork.

Bramhall also moved ahead to fill the ranks of the depleted episcopate: on 27 January 1661, more than three months before Parliament met, two new archbishops and ten new bishops were consecrated in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The new archbishops were James Margetson of Dublin and Samuel Pullen of Tuam. The new bishops were: Michael Boyle (Cork and Ross); John Parker (Elphin); Robert Price (Ferns and Leighlin); Henry Hall (Killala); George Baker (Waterford and Lismore); Edward Synge (Limerick); Edward Worth (Killaloe); Robert Leslie (Raphoe); George Wild (Derry); and the saintly Jeremy Taylor (Down and Connor). The five consecrating bishops were Bramhall of Armagh, Maxwell of Kilmore, Williams of Ossory, Leslie of Raphoe, and Jones of Clogher. Some weeks later, Thomas Price was consecrated for Kildare, giving the Church of Ireland a complement of four archbishops and 17 bishops. And these diocesan structures were, more or less, retained unchanged for the next 170 years.

The attendance of church, university, state and civic officials at the large consecration in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral provided a striking demonstration of the unity of church and state.

William Fuller, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and later Bishop of Limerick, composed a special anthem, Quam denuo exaltavit Dominus coronam, with the opening lines:

Now that the Lord hath re-advanced the Crown;
Which Thirst of Spoyl, and frantick zeal threw down:
Now that the Lord the Miter restored
Which, with the Crown, lay in the dust abhor’d:
Praise him ye Kings,
Praise him ye Priests.

It was not until 8 May 1661 that Parliament met in Dublin, with one of the newly-consecrated bishops, Jeremy Taylor, preaching at its opening. Taylor argued for a state composed of none but those who accept the Apostles’ Creed, and that ‘tenderness of conscience’ could not be pleaded against the law of the land.

Membership of the new parliament was overwhelmingly Protestant, with only one Roman Catholic MP. Archbishop Bramhall of Armagh presided in the House of Lords, where the bishops would often form the working majority.

By the beginning of June, Bramhall could claim victory: ‘We have established the liturgy, doctrines and disciplines of the Church. We have condemned the Covenant engagement.’

At the same time as Parliament met, the Convocation – the equivalent of a National Synod – met. This consisted of two houses: the archbishops and bishops formed the upper house, and the Lower House was composed of the archdeacons, deans and ‘proctors’ of the clergy. It continued sitting until 1666, but from 1666 to 1692 there was neither Parliament nor Convocation, and although Parliament would meet again in 1692, convocation did not meet again until 1703.

In 1662, the Act of Settlement restored and protected much, though not all, of the property of the Church of Ireland. But in the north-east, particularly in Jeremy Taylor’s diocese, the clergy of the Church of Ireland found it difficult to assert their claims against the Presbyterians, with many Presbyterian ministers remaining in place.

Bramhall also wanted to exclude from the Church of Ireland those clergy who had served during the Commonwealth. He insisted on episcopal ordination and refused to accept Presbyterian ordinations, even when these had been legal in the past.

Prayer Book revision

The 1662 revision of The Book of Common Prayer resulted in:

● The 1611 translation of the Bible being substituted in the prefatory sentences, in the Epistles and the Gospels, and in all other extracts (with the exception of the Psalter, the 10 Commandments, and some portions of the Communion Office);
● The direction to knell at the Holy Communion, which had been in Edward VI’s prayer book, and omitted from Elizabeth I’s, was restored;
● In an explanatory note at the end of the Communion service, the words ‘corporal presence of Christ’s natural flesh and blood’ were substituted for ‘any real or essential presence therein being of Christ’s natural flesh and blood’;
● The word priest was substituted for minister in the description of the person who was to read the absolution;
● Prayers were added for times of dearth and famine, for Ember week, for parliament, for the chief governor or governors of Ireland, and ‘for all sorts and conditions,’ and a thanksgiving for restoring public peace and the general thanksgiving were introduced;
● In the prayer for the church militant, the clause respecting those who have departed this life was added;
● There were forms to be used at sea, and a service of baptism for those of riper years.

Special services were introduced for 30 January, 29 May, 23 October and (later) 5 November.

These four special commemorations cemented the links between Church and State, and reinforced the established nature of the Church of Ireland:

● 30 January: The martyrdom of Charles I (commemorated in the dedication of the chapel at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham);
● 29 May: The anniversary of the Restoration;
● 23 October: The anniversary of the massacre of 1641;
● 5 November: The anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.

There were efforts too to introduce real reforms within the Church: in 1666, an act was passed disabling clergy from simultaneously holding benefices in the Church of England and the Church of Ireland.

Church and State

Meanwhile, many of the bishops also held high office in the state, and this also supplemented their income. In 1668, Primate Margetson had over £3,500 a year, including his fees as Prerogative Judge and King’s Almoner; Archbishop Boyle of Dublin had £1,200 a year, and was Lord Chancellor; Robert Mossom of Derry was the best paid bishop with £1,800 a year; of the rest, 12 had incomes ranging from £1,600 to £1,000, and five between £1,000 and £600. The poorest bishoprics were Clonfert (£400) and Kildare (£200).

The best-paid deanery was Christ Church Cathedral Dublin (£600 a year). The worst paid clergy were those in Connacht, where vicars received from 16 shillings to 40 shillings a year. Hardly one parish in 10 had a glebe. Despite his wealth, Mossom of Derry reported that all the churches in the city and county of L/Derry were ruinous, and that the ‘holy offices of God’s publick worship were, for the most part, administered either in a dirty cabin or in a common alehouse.’

The end of an era

Perhaps the end of an era came in 1671 with the death of John Leslie, Bishop of Clogher: he had been consecrated in Scotland in 1628, and at the time of his death is reputed to have been the oldest bishop in the world. In a way we could say that his death marked not only an end of the personal links that bridged the Jacobite or even the Elizabethan Church with the Church of the restoration, but also symbolised the shift in thinking that was taking place in the Church and throughout Europe.

The restoration era was distinguished by far-reaching intellectual changes. Evidences of a new spirit had started to appear with the Cambridge Platonists, who turned from the way in which religious problems had been conceived and debated. With the Puritans, the prevailing theology had become dogmatic and theoretical; the Cambridge Platonists showed that a broader and simpler system was necessary. They believed that preoccupation with abstruse doctrines did more harm than good. They sought a middle way between the Laudians and the Calvinists, and adopted a mediating position.

Nor should we should be in any doubt that the church was still in need of reform.

In 1678, the new Primate was Michael Boyle, who came from a family that might appear to have been a line of hereditary bishops: his father had been Archbishop of Tuam and his uncle Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. When he was Bishop of Cork he held six other benefices until his kinsman, the Earl of Orrery, as President of Munster, forced him to resign them.

Boyle was the last prelate to fill the office of Lord Chancellor. But as Primate his biggest challenge was the change in religious culture throughout the land with the accession of James II in 1685.

James II was a professed Roman Catholic, and with his succession Anglicanism faced real dilemmas. For 25 years, the Anglican Church – both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England – had long been, effectively, the handmaiden of the state. For long, the concept of non-resistance had been regularly preached from the Anglican pulpit. What role would the Church now have with an antagonistic monarch on the throne? And how could it consider legitimately oppose any measures against its interests that were introduced by the king?

According to the Church historian Murray, with the accession of James II “the Church of Ireland once more fell upon evil days. The Duke of Ormond was replaced as Viceroy by the king’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Clarendon, while Richard Talbot, Earl (and later Duke) of Tyrconnell, and brother of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, became commander-in-chief of Ireland.

Matters become worse for the Church of Ireland in 1687 when Tyrconnell succeeded Clarendon, and the outlawries resulting from the events of 1641 were reversed. Church of Ireland clergy lost their tithes, churches were seized and the Mass said in them, vacant sees, including Cashel, Clonfert, Clogher and Elphin, were not filled, and their revenues were handed over to the Roman Catholic bishops of those dioceses.

John Vesey, Archbishop of Tuam and Richard Tennison, Bishop of Killala, fled to England, and were soon followed by the Archbishop of Dublin and the bishops of Kilmore, Dromore, Kildare, Ferns and Leighlin, Cloyne, Raphoe, and Derry. Those who are unkind would say they abandoned the Church of Ireland at the time, but many of them would return. And, indeed, many of the bishops remained, including the Archbishop of Armagh and the bishops of Meath, Ossory, Limerick, Cork and Ross, Killaloe and Waterford and Lismore.

Dean King, who had been left behind by Archbishop Marsh as his commissary in Dublin, said he knew of 16 or 17 clergymen who were assaulted, imprisoned and threatened with death.

In an effort to recover his throne after the Williamite revolt, James II left his exile in France in 1689, and landed in Ireland. The Irish Parliament was summoned, but few Protestants were in attendance: apart from four bishops, four lay peers and six MPs, the rest of parliament was made up of Roman Catholics. Those who were attainted and had their estates confiscated included Archbishop Marsh and Archbishop Vesey, and Bishop Hopkins, Sheridan, Moreton, Smith, Marsh of Ferns, Jones and Wiseman, and 83 of the clergy of the Church of Ireland.

The vacant sees were to be filled by Roman Catholics, churches were seized, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, was seized and mass was celebrated in it, part of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, was used as military stables, and finally an order was issued, under penalty of death, forbidding more than five Protestants to meet together.

William III landed in Ireland on 1 July 1690. He entered Dublin on 6 July, the same day a solemn service of thanksgiving was held in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the sermon was preached by Dean King. A new era was ushered in, for both the island of Ireland, and the Church of Ireland. But there were problems for the Church of Ireland too, and we shall look at those next week.

Key figures in the Caroline church in Ireland

1, John Bramhall (1594-1663), Archbishop of Armagh:

John Bramhall (1594-1663), Archbishop of Armagh ... portrait in the Old Library in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John Bramhall, who was born in Cheshire, came to Ireland with Wentworth and had survived the Cromwellian era as Bishop of Derry. In August 1660 he was nominated Archbishop of Armagh. He arrived in Dublin on October 1660 to be greeted by Lord Caulfield (later Lord Charlemont), and was formally appointed on 18 January 1661.

His rule as primate from 1661 to 1663 was vigorous and left its mark on the Church of Ireland at a critical period. The Presbyterians called him ‘Bishop Bramble,’ but Cromwell had shown a more shrewd insight when he called him ‘the Irish Canterbury.’

Bramhall was a vigorous defender of the catholicity of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland against claims by Roman Catholics that it was either schismatic or heretical: ‘I make not the least doubt in the world that the Church of England before the Reformation, and the Church of England after the Reformation, are as much the same Church as a garden before it be weeded and after it be weeded is the same garden; or a vine, before it be pruned and after it is pruned and freed from luxurious branches, is one and the same vine.’

He offered a broad interpretation of the 39 Articles, with the Church including both Arminians and Calvinists, ‘walking to the House of God as friends.’ He argued that the Roman Catholics of Ireland suffered no persecution for their religion, but only for their politics. He declared that he would admit all to communion, especially the Lutherans, but also Greeks, Armenians, Abyssinians, Russians, and all who confess the apostolic creed and accept the first four general councils, even the Roman Catholics ‘if they did not make their errors to be a condition of their communion.’

Bramhall believed firmly that Church and State must be one, and that unity could only be obtained under the crown as supreme in all matters both temporal and spiritual.

Overworked, he died in 1663 at the age of 68. His funeral sermon was preached by Jeremy Taylor. He was succeeded by James Margetson (1663-1678), who pursued a policy of conciliation, softened down the asperities of the ministers to Jeremy Taylor, and rebuilt Armagh Cathedral.

2, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667):

Jeremy Taylor … described as “the glory of the whole Anglican Communion”

The saintly and ascetic Jeremy Taylor has been described as ‘The glory of the whole Anglican Communion.’ Coleridge placed him among the four great geniuses of English literature, alongside Shakespeare, Bacon and Milton.

Outside Ireland, his fame rests mainly on his devotional writings, especially The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living (1650) and The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying (1651), which are characteristic expressions of Anglican spirituality in their insistence on a well-ordered piety which stresses temperance and moderation. His Holy Living and Holy Dying had a profound influence spiritually on later generations, including figures as diverse as John Wesley and John Keble. No book other than the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer has had a more profound and lasting influence on the distinctive inwardness of Anglican devotion. No other book so clearly expresses the essence of the classical Anglican understanding of the spiritual life, with its insistence that there is no division between what is religious and what is secular.

Taylor was the preacher at his own consecration in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in January 1661, and preached at the opening of the Irish parliament three months later.

He gave reluctant permission for the use of organs in churches, and although he allowed the use of hymns, it is not known whether he allowed them to be sung in public services.

He stated that if the Irish would not learn English, the sooner he learnt Irish the better.

In 1662, he made the parish church of Lisburn the cathedral for the united dioceses of Down and Connor, which had been without a cathedral since 1538. He also rebuilt the choir of Dromore Cathedral at his own expense.

A major weakness in Taylor was his antipathy towards the Scots, whom he regarded as ‘intolerable.’ However, this was partly due to his experiences of the strong Presbyterian presence in his dioceses, which left him out of sympathy with the majority of people there. He told the Duke of Ormond: ‘Here I am perpetually contending with the worst of the Scottish ministers. I have a most uncomfortable employment, but, I bless God, I have broken their knot, I have overcome the biggest difficulty, and made my charge easy for my successor.’

When he declared 36 of the parishes in his dioceses vacant, seven of the former Commonwealth ministers conformed to the Church of Ireland, and the rest of the vacancies were filled with clergy from the Church of England.

Taylor hoped continually to be promoted out of Ireland, and he pleaded with Archbishop Sheldon of Canterbury not to overlook him. However, he was left in Ireland, and died here in 1667.

3, Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713):

Marsh’s Library, Dublin … a lasting tribute to the achievements of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh

Archbishop Narcissus March should not to be confused with Francis Marsh (1626-1693), whom he succeeded as Archbishop of Dublin.

Narcissus Marsh was born in Wiltshire and educated in Oxford, where he was ordained. He was chaplain to the Earl of Clarendon, who brought him to Ireland, and he was Provost of TCD (1679-1683). There he found that the undergraduates who came to college had little previous education, ‘whereby they are both rude and ignorant, and I was quickly weary of 340 young men and boys in this lewd debauched town.’

Marsh was especially zealous for the development of Celtic studies and for a knowledge of the Irish Bible and The Book of Common Prayer among the students of TCD. Thirty scholars, who were native Irish, had to learn Irish as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and to teach these subjects he employed the Revd Andrew Sall (1612-1693), a former Jesuit, and the Revd Paul Higgins, a former Roman Catholic priest. Sall had been Rector of the Irish College in Salamanca in Spain (1652-1655) and Provincial of the Irish Jesuits (1662). On becoming an Anglican, he became both a canon of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1675-1682), and a domestic chaplain to Charles II, living first in Oxford (1675-1680) and then in Dublin (1680-1682).

Through the efforts of both Marsh and Sall, the Irish sermons and services in the college chapel in TCD were well attended.

Marsh became Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin in 1683, but fled his diocese during the reign of James II. After the Williamite revolution, he became Archbishop of Cashel, then Archbishop of Dublin, and finally Archbishop of Armagh.

Marsh founded, endowed and built Marsh’s Library in Dublin, was one of the founders of the Dublin Philosophical Society, a forerunner of the Royal Irish Academy, and maintained a lifelong interest in translating and printing the Bible in Irish. He is buried in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

4, James Butler, Duke of Ormond (1610-1680):

James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond … strengthened the restored Established Church of Ireland

The Maynooth church historian Ray Gillespie says that ‘the Church of Ireland after the Restoration was caught between a Catholic anvil and a Protestant hammer.’ One of the priorities of James Butler, Duke of Ormond, as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1661-1669), was strengthening the established church.

Ormond supported Bramhall’s demands for a full restoration of Church properties. He thought the Nonconformists of the north the greatest threat to the security of the state. Ulster, in his judgment, was full of ‘the worst Protestants and Papists in the whole kingdom.’

His major building programme in restoration Ireland included the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, where his churchmanship is evident in the dedication of the chapel, used in the 1990s for the Holy Communion at the opening of General Synod, to Charles King and Martyr.

Ormond’s political career was linked to that of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Secretary of State in London, and the fall of Clarendon in 1667 led to Ormond’s dismissal in 1669.

The other churches in Ireland

1, The Presbyterians:

Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Presbyterians were to be found mainly in the north-east, and remain the most lasting of the Crowmellian era traditions, as the Baptists dwindled and the Independents or Congregationalists virtually disappeared.

In doctrine and discipline, the Presbyterians maintained strict conformity with the Church of Scotland. But many of the Ulster Presbyterians were Covenanters, who had been driven from Scotland by the moderating policies of Lauderdale and the subsequent persecutions. Before ordination, a Presbyterian minister in Ulster was required to take the oath to the Solemn League and Covenant.

We find strong correspondence from leading state figures, including Ormond, Orrery and Charlemont, and from the bishops of the day, including Jeremy Taylor, accusing the Presbyterians of preaching seditiously, and the House of Commons condemned the Covenant as ‘schismatical, seditious and treasonable.’

Griffith Williams (Bishop of Ossory, 1641-1672) celebrated the restoration with the publication of his Ho Antichristos, the Great Antichrist Revealed, in which he proved to his own satisfaction that the Antichrist was ‘neither pope nor Turk, but in truth the Westminster Assembly of Divines,’ whom he characterised as a ‘collected pack or multitude of hypocritical, heretical, blasphemous, and most scandalous wicked men, that have fulfilled all the prophecies of the Scriptures, which have forespoken of the coming of the great Antichrist.’

For their part, the Presbyterians feared the restoration of episcopacy was a step towards restoring Papacy.

2, The Huguenots:

Ray Gillespie identifies three major periods of Huguenot immigration into Ireland:

1, The early Ormondite period (1662-1669):

As early as 1663, the first Huguenot refugees who had arrived were provided with the use of a chapel in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

They had been encouraged to come to Ireland for economic reasons, and were offered considerable latitude. But we should not see this situation as unique: similar hospitality was offered to the Huguenots in Canterbury Cathedral.

In return for a certain measure of self-government, the Huguenots for their part accepted the use of a French translation of The Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal ordination, and the ultimate authority of the Archbishop of Dublin.

This first community probably numbered about 500 throughout Ireland.

2, The late Ormondite period (1681-1687):

This second influx followed the Draggonades of 1681. In 1685, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Huguenot refugees fled from France to Ireland in even greater numbers.

3, The Ruvignan period (1692-ca. 1706).

It is interesting to ask why, in the main, they and their descendants found a place within the Church of Ireland and not among Presbyterians. Certainly the Rye House Plot of 1683, which Ormond linked to dissenting Protestants in Ireland, was a clear motivation for Irish Huguenots, who had benefited from Ormond’s hospitality, to avoid too close an identification with Irish Presbyterians.

3, The Roman Catholics:

After the 1641 rebellion, the Roman Catholics had briefly gained the upper hand in Ireland.

An indication of Catholic liberties under Charles II is provided at a later date: When it came to signing the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, the defeated Roman Catholics appealed to ‘the privileges enjoyed under Charles II.’ The appeal was to actual practice rather than the statutes on the book.

But the statute legislation made it a criminal offence for a Roman Catholic priest to say Mass and for a lay person to hear it; there were heavy fines for not attending the services of the Church of Ireland; priests, teachers, tutors and MPs had to take the Oath of Supremacy and to renounce the authority of the Pope in civil matters; no Roman Catholic could become a magistrate (JP), mayor, recorder, alderman, magistrate, or burgess of any corporation.

In 1662, the Papal Nuncio in Brussels, De Vechii, declared that a proposed address by the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland, stating their loyalty to the new monarch, was a violation of their faith. Cardinal Barverini and Cardinal Rospigliosi concurred.

Nevertheless, in 1666 the Roman Catholics held a synod in Dublin at which a loyal remonstrance was framed, expressing loyalty to Charles II, was signed by 69 of the estimated 4,000 priests and friars resident in Ireland.

There appears to have been a great measure of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. This was enhanced by Ormond’s succession as Viceroy by Berkeley, who was openly sympathetic to Roman Catholics, and who was said to once sent a message to Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin that he ‘hoped to see high mass at Christ Church.’

That religious tolerance continued until the fictitious ‘Popish Plot’ of 1678, which led to the execution of Archbishop Oliver Plunket, a saintly prelate who suffered a traitor’s death at Tyburn on 1 July 1681 on a false charge of having conspired towards a French invasion of Ireland. England’s fear of France was rivalled only by the Pope’s loathing of France, where Louis XIV had asserted royal prerogatives in many areas that Pope regarded as his own, and flirted with Gallicanism, whose model of the church stands up to interesting comparison to that of Anglicanism.

However, we should also remember that there was the Rye House Plot of 1683, which Ormond linked to nonconformists in Ireland. But the tide turned again in favour of the Roman Catholic Church with the accession to the throne of James II in 1685.

Two other communities with a strong presence in Ireland at the time and who survived the Cromwellian period with varying degrees of strength numerically and theologically after the restoration were the Baptists and the Quakers. They have been the subject of many scholarly studies and are worth exploring too.

The wider church:

The wider church, beyond Ireland, and beyond Anglicanism, at this time, produced great contributions to our theology, thinking and culture.

We have already referred to Descartes, who shaped and changed the thinking of this age, and to his greatest opponent, Pascal. But this period also saw the rise in France of Gallicanism and Jansenism.

Jansenism owed its origins to Cornelius Otto Jansen (1585-1638), Bishop of Ypres, and the posthumous publication in 1640 of his Augustinus, which was condemned as heretical by Innocent X. Jansen argued that without a special grace from God, the performance of his commands is impossible for us, and the operation of his grace is irresistible. Hence, human beings are the victims of either a natural or a supernatural determinism, limited only by not being coercive.

The most important centre of Jansenism was at the Convent of Port Royal, south-west of Paris, where Antoin Arnauld became the leader of the movement. The Jansenists sought to evade Innocent X’s condemnation by admitting that the propositions condemned were heretical, but declaring them to be unrepresentative of Jansen’s ideas. In 1668, the movement was persuaded into a qualified submission, but continued to gain followers and sympathisers.

The movement eventually led to the formation of the Old Catholics at Utrecht.

The other great movement to mark French Catholicism at this time was Gallicanism. In 1516, the Pope had conceded the right of the French king to appoint bishops. In 1663, the Sorbonne published a declaration, reaffirmed by the French clergy at their assembly in 1682 and known as the Four Gallican Articles. These denied the Pope had dominion over things temporal and affirmed that kings are not subject to the Church in civil matters; reaffirmed the authority of a General Council of the Church over the Pope; insisted that the ancient liberties of the French church were inviolable; and asserted that the judgment of the Pope was not irreformable.

Gallicanism persisted well into the 18th century. We see parallels with Anglicanism, and even with some of the assertions in the 39 Articles. But we can also see the beginning of thinking that would lead to the French revolution, and see the debate that would culminate, long after Gallicanism had become a spent force, in the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor by a captive Pope.


Weekend 2 (Friday 13 January 2017):

3.1, Contextual understandings (1): the emergence, role and authority of The Book of Common Prayer, the Homilies, Articles of Religion.

3.2, The Church of Ireland from the Penal Laws to Disestablishment, Independence and Partition.

Weekend 2 (Saturday 14 January 2017):

4.1, The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the emergence of the Anglican Communion; mission, ecumenical engagement and the debates today.

4.2, Is there a way of talking about an ‘Anglican Culture’?

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture was part of the Module TH 8825, Anglican Studies in an Irish context, with part-time MTh students (Years III-IV) on 10 December 2016.

Anglican Studies 2016-2017 (Part Time)
2.1: Early Irish Christianity and the
Anglican reformations in the 16th century

Church history and the sands of time ... learning lessons from the past for today and the future (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context

MTh Part-Time:

Fridays and Saturdays, December and January:

Weekend 1
(Saturday 8 December 2012), 10 a.m to 12.30 p.m.:

2.1: Early Irish Christianity and the Anglican reformations in the 16th century.

2.2: The Tudor, Stuart and Caroline Settlements.

Pentecost (El Greco) … Pentecost is seen as the Birth of the Church

2.1: Early Irish Christianity and the Anglican reformations in the 16th century.

Part 1: Early Christianity and its spread:

As you probably now realise, it is a truism that Jesus preached the Kingdom, and that the Church was founded on his teachings. The early history of the Church is still part of the New Testament story, and the canon of the New Testament and Church doctrines did not take their present forms until long after the Apostolic Age.

Traditionally, Pentecost is seen as the Birth of the Church. But despite the reports in the Acts of the Apostles of early conversions after Pentecost, the followers of Christ remained a small group or sect within Judaism – alongside the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes – until two decisive events turned their faith into a mass movement: the conversion of Paul, and the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Conversion of Saint Paul ... a window in Saint Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray

Saint Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is such a decisive event that in a real sense he can be said to be the founder of the Church. The name Christian was first applied to a group of believers in Antioch, and Christianity spread quickly through Damascus and Antioch, the capital of Syria and the third city of the Empire, and on through Syria, Cilicia and Asia Minor.

Later tradition would associate many churches with the early Apostles: Alexandria with Mark, both Antioch and Rome with Peter, Byzantium and the Scythians with Andrew, and Phrygia in Asia Minor with Philip. Even the Church in Persia and on the Malabar coast in India would claim it was founded by the Apostle Thomas.

Saint Paul preaching in Thessaloniki, a fresco in the Cathedral Church of Saint Gregory Palamas in Thessaloniki … his missionary journeys saw the Church expand throughout the Eastern Mediterranean (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The spread of Early Christianity was due in part to the exodus of Jewish Christians to Asia Minor during the Jewish War in the years AD 66 to 70. But the first real missionary endeavours of the new movement were launched by Paul, whose journeys saw the Church expand throughout the Eastern Mediterranean in what we know today as Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, into Malta, present-day Italy, and (perhaps) as far west as Spain.

The earliest followers of ‘The Way’ were recruited in the synagogues, among the Jews of the Diaspora, and among the ethical, monotheistic Gentiles who worshipped with Jews. For both groups, koine Greek was the common language, and their thoughts were shaped by the thinking of Plato and Aristotle. The sack of Jerusalem in the year AD 70 marked the end of the dominance of Jewish Christians in the Church. Gentiles, who had achieved equality in the Church through Saint Paul’s endeavours, now became the dominant Christians, and the focus switched from Jerusalem to the capital of the Gentile world, Rome.

The bridge between the New Testament story and Church history is provided by the writers known collectively as the Apostolic Fathers, including Justin Martyr and the author of Clement at the end of the first century, and Polycarp of Smyrna and the authors of the Didache at the beginning of the second century.

Justin Martyr, who was born of Greek parents in Palestine, saw continuity between his Christian faith and his Greek philosophical past, and anchored his Christian faith in his Greek heritage. Polycarp, who is said to have known Saint John the Divine, the author of the Book of Revelation, was the last living link between the Apostolic Church of the New Testament and the historic church of the Apostolic Fathers.

With the letter known as ‘I Clement,’ written from Rome to Corinth around the year AD 96, we begin to glimpse common patterns emerging in the liturgy, life and ministry of the Church at the end of the first century. A clearer pattern of Church order and ministry is defined in the early second century by Ignatius of Antioch in his writings. As he was being taken to Rome to be martyred, he write seven letters setting out the threefold pattern of bishop, priest and deacon, with the local bishop as the focus of unity in the face of schism and heresy.

By the beginning of the second century, Christianity was under attack, internally and externally, from a number of diverse, competing sects known collectively as Gnostics, who claimed access to secret knowledge (gnosis). For Gnostics, the spirit was good and the flesh was evil, and they believed in a remote, supreme god, sometimes identified with the God of the Old Testament but who was disengaged from the world.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons ... offered first firm challenge to heresy within the early Church

The first firm challenge to heresy within the early Church came from Saint Irenaeus, the author of Against Heresies. A Greek who had learned at the feet of Saint Polycarp before moving to Lyons, he became the first bishop in Gaul (France).

The challenge from Gnosticism and other heresies also led to the Church agreeing on the canon of Scripture, deciding which books were to be included and which excluded from an accepted Bible. Saint Irenaeus was the first to talk about a New Testament scripture alongside the Old Testament. Apostolic teaching, handed down through successive generations, and apostolic structure, in the agreed books, amounted to the common apostolic tradition shared by an increasingly diffuse and diverse Church, now scattered throughout the Empire and beyond.

The challenge of heresy and schism also marks the beginning of theology, and Tertullian the North African who died in AD 220, is regarded as the father of Latin, western theology, although he later became disillusioned with the mainstream Church. North Africa produced other great theologians at the turn of second and third centuries, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen (also born in Alexandria), and Cyprian, the martyr Bishop of Carthage.

Apart from heresy and schism, the Church also faced regular persecution, often for the refusal of Christians to take part in the emperor cult, to swear oaths or serve in the imperial army, but also because of widespread vulgar charges, originating in Eucharistic practice and the teaching of Christian love, that Christians indulged in cannibalism and incest. During the severe persecution under Marcus Aurelius in AD 177, Tertullian could comment, with sarcasm: ‘If the Tiber rises too high or the Nile too low, the cry is “The Christians to the lion”. All of them, to a single lion?’ Despite persecution and martyrdom, Tertullian observed, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’

The Church was thriving, and missionary, social and intellectual advances were preparing the way that would lead to the conversion of the Emperor Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century, the accommodation of the Church with temporal power, and the consolidation of Church teachings at the great ecumenical councils in the decades that followed.

But the old heresies, schisms and battles would not go away. The theories and beliefs of Gnostics and Arians would continue to resurface in the Church in successive generations, and they continue to appear today. The rift between the Greek East and Latin West would widen throughout the remaining centuries of the first millennium, so that the Church, despite winning the internal battle for orthodoxy, could never succeed in maintaining its unity or a common Church order. The divisions of the 21st century can be traced back to the seeds sown in the first, second and third centuries of Church history.

The rift between East and West:

The Church Fathers … in a Greek Orthodox icon

With the conversion of Constantine in AD 312, and his subsequent victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge near Rome 1,700 years ago, the imperial persecution of Christians came to an end. Christians were guaranteed freedom of religion, Church goods and property were restored, Sunday became a special day, the Church was free to expand its mission work, and there was a rapid growth in Church membership. But the new freedoms also allowed the growth of internal dissensions and heresies, more complex Church structures were demanded to cope with both expansion and dissent, and the new footing for Church-State relations also gave the State more say in Church affairs.

The first major doctrinal controversy arose in the debate over the Trinity and the teachings of a Libyan theologian, Arius, who taught that the Son was not co-equal and co-essential with the Father, but merely the chief of his creations, that the two persons were substantially similar rather than of the same substance. In an attempt to settle the dispute, Constantine used his powers as emperor to call and preside over the first of the great Councils of the Church. The Council of Nicaea, attended by 300 or so bishops, agreed on formulas that later gave us the Nicene Creed.

Meanwhile, as the Church was reaching a new understanding with the state and the world, Anthony of Egypt and other leading Christian intellectuals and writers were leaving the cities and towns to live on their own in the desert. The Greek word monos (alone) gave us the words monk and monastery to describe how these hermits lived, and the monastic tradition would become a mainstay of Church life and mission for centuries to come.

A perfume brazier in the form of a domed building, from Constantinople ... the creed agreed at Constantinople, now known as the Nicene Creed, remains the standard test of orthodox teaching and doctrine (Photograph © Procuratoria di San Marco/Cameraphoto Arte, Venice)

In the Eastern Church, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Basil and Gregory Nazianzus came to be counted as the four Doctors of the Eastern Church or great founding theologians. Athanasius was Bishop of Alexandria, but was forced into exile on a number of occasions by the Arians. Unbowed, he was the biographer of Anthony of Egypt, and so introduced monasticism to the West at a time when the rift between east and West was increasing. For the first time, he listed the contents or canon of the New Testament as we know it. Two years after his death, his supporters and the Cappadocian Fathers, including Basil and Gregory, eventually triumphed in 381 in the doctrinal debate at the Council of Constantine. The creed agreed at Constantinople, now known as the Nicene Creed, remains the standard test of orthodox teaching and doctrine.

The first breach between Rome and the four other patriarchal sees in the East came when John Chrysostom (347-407) was deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople in 403. For eleven years, between 404 and 415, there was no communion between Rome and Constantinople – a foretaste of future, deeper divisions in later centuries.

During that time, the Goths sacked Rome in 410. With the collapse of the Roman Empire at the start of the fifth century, new foundations were needed if Christianity were to be a world force. Jerome (342-420), who moved to Bethlehem, produced a readable Bible translated into the common language, Latin (hence the Vulgate). In North Africa, Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, addressed the doubts of a shaken Church with his Confessions and The City of God, and provided the West with a theology that could survive the centuries. Jerome and Augustine, along with Ambrose and Gregory, would be counted among the Four Doctors of the Church. Later, a rediscovery of Augustine would inspire both the Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus ... the Council of Ephesus finally defined the Creed in 431, a year before Saint Patrick began his mission in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2008)

Having dealt with Arianism at Nicaea and Constantinople, the Church called another great council at Ephesus in 431 to deal with the arguments about the Virgin Mary and her role as Theotokos or ‘Bearer of God’. The deposed Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, was condemned as a heretic. In the face of efforts by the Emperor Theodosius to reverse the decision, the monks of Constantinople marched through the streets to support the bishops of the council, and the decision was endorsed in Rome by the Pope.

Today, the arguments of the four great councils may appear to be obscure philosophy, but they identified the fundamental issues central to the Christian faith: Jesus Christ is not merely a super creature or the last great prophet sent by God, but in his deity is the foundation of all true Christian faith, and he is the one, unique revelation of God.

Amid the gloom prevailing in the middle of the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great (440-461) assumed the imperial title of Pontifex Maximus (Supreme Priest), declared his words to be the word of Peter, influenced the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and set to putting the Church of Rome on a new footing.

Leo the Great was a contemporary of Patrick, who is said to have arrived in Ireland as a missionary bishop in 431 and continued his mission until his death (ca 460). Patrick and the early Celtic Church built on the pre-Patrician Church in Ireland, and then, beginning with the foundation of a monastery by Colmcille (Columba) in Iona in 563, the first Celtic missionaries brought new life first to Scotland and a dwindling Church left behind in Britain after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, and then into northern Europe. The Celtic monks were breathing new life into the Church in northern Europe, while in southern Europe Benedict was drawing up a Rule that would reform monastic life throughout the West.

In the East, the Emperor Justinian (527-565) had re-established Byzantium’s territorial control, combated a resurgent Arianism followed by the barbarian kings, and the space of six years built the great church of Aghia Sophia, the supreme expression of Byzantine genius. In the West, a recovering papacy under Gregory the Great sent Augustine as the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597. But Christianity in the East and West was ill-prepared for the newest challenge about to face it: the rise of Islam.

Part 2: The Church of Ireland, Early beginnings

Glendalough, the monastic ‘Valley of the Two Lakes’ ... but where do we find the origins of Irish Christianity? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


The Round Tower in the churchyard in Kells, Co Meath ... the Church of Ireland parish church stands on an early monastic site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Brendan Behan once crudely named which part of the anatomy of Henry VIII he thought the Church of England had been founded on. And many of your neighbours probably persist in the popular misperception that the Church of Ireland, in some way, is none other than a branch of the Church of England on this island.

On the other hand, historians in the Church of Ireland, in a very antiquarian approach, tried to prove that the Church of Ireland was the legitimate heir and successor to the Church of Saint Patrick and the Ancient Celtic Church of Ireland, claiming that in some way that early church had been hijacked during the Anglo-Norman invasion, and had recovered its independence at disestablishment.

The truth, of course, is always more subtle and nuanced than popular myth. Of course the Church on this island owes much to the early Celtic Church. But it is also the Church of the Vikings, who gave us new dioceses centres on cities rather than monasteries, such as Dublin and Christ Church Cathedral.

These city-based dioceses often felt closer to Canterbury than their Celtic neighbours, even before the Anglo-Norman invasion. With the Anglo-Norman invasion came French-speaking bishops and clergy, and the Church benefitted from the closer links created not only with the Church in England but with the Church in Continental Europe. Yet we persisted in insisting on our Celtic inheritance, and the Preamble and Declaration, which we looked at two weeks ago, described the Church of Ireland in 1870 as ‘the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland,’ while also conceding that this same church is ‘a reformed and Protestant Church.’

Pre-Patrician Christianity

Saint Patrick’s Window in Saint Edan’s Cathedral, Ferns, Co Wexford ... but what was his role in early Irish Christianity? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Britain was the most remote province in the Roman Empire. Christianity reached England in the first few centuries AD, and the first recorded martyr in England was Saint Alban, during the reign of Diocletian.

The Roman legions were withdrawn from England in 407 to defend Italy during the attacks by the Visigoths. Rome was sacked in 410, the legions did not return to England, and Roman influence came to an end. In the aftermath, these islands developed distinctively from the rest of Western Europe, and the Irish Sea acted as a centre from which a new culture developed among the ‘Celtic’ peoples.

Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire. But Christianity came here from the former Roman outposts, and a unique Church organisation emerged, focussed on the monasteries, rather than on episcopal sees, with their own traditions and practices.

In romantic tradition, Saint Patrick converted the entire island of Ireland in a short period from 432 to 461. But this is not an article of faith, and we know there were Christians in Ireland before Patrick arrived as a missionary, and we know he laboured and ministered in only part of the island.

Christianity probably first arrived Ireland by the fourth and early fifth centuries, in a slow and gradual process, from Continental Europe – Gaul (France) and perhaps the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and from Britain too.

The sea united rather than divided people. Tacitus (ca 55-120 AD) tells us that British or Gallic merchants knew Ireland’s ‘harbours and approaches.’ Ptolemy, writing about AD 150, speaks of Brigantes in south-east Ireland, similar to the inhabitants in the north of Roman Britain of the same name, and of Menapii on the coast of Wexford, whose name associates them with the Belgic people on the Continent.

Evidence shows Roman traders reached the coastal harbours and points well inland along large rivers like the Nore and the Barrow. Roman coins have been found at Newgrange and all along the northern and eastern coasts of Ireland: at the Giant’s Causeway, Coleraine, Limavady, Rush, and so on.

Irish traders had trading relations with Roman Britain, Gaul, Spain and so on, and Irish coastal raiders were taking captives from the west coasts of England and Wales. From the end of the third century, there were colonies from Ireland in north-west and south-west Wales, Cornwall and west Scotland. We can imagine well-read refugees from continental Europe fleeing the barbarian invasions by the fifth century, bringing Christianity with them to Ireland.

Patrick tells us he was captured in a great raid that netted ‘many thousands of people’ [Confessio 1], some of whom were lukewarm Christians. If so, some of his fellow captives were committed Christians too, perhaps even a small number were priests. Patrick’s account of his flight from slavery as a young 22-year-old suggests an escape network for fugitive slaves run by concerned Christians, presumably in Leinster, more than 20 years before he began his own mission [Confessio 17 and 18]. We can have no doubt about the presence of Christianity in Ireland by the early fifth century, before Patrick began his mission in 432.

The first bishop in Ireland, Palladius, arrived in 431. However, there is a tradition that some Irish saints predated Saint Patrick – including Ciaran of Seirkieran (near Birr, Co Offaly), Declan of Ardmore (Co Waterford), Ibar of Begerin Island (near Wexford), Ailbe of Emly (Co Tipperary), and Multose of Kinsale (Co Cork). But there is no reliable evidence that they were pre-Patrician figures, and claims to their antiquity rather reflect a battle of ancient autonomous parts of the Church against the claims to dominance or primacy in Armagh, bolstered by claims to Patrician foundations.

TF O’Rahilly made a sweeping claim that “Irish Christianity owes its origin to Britain,” that ‘already before 431 no small part of the population of the south-east and south of Ireland must have been converted by British missionaries,’ that British evangelists continued to arrive in Ireland during the next three decades, and that after 461 British influence had the field to itself.

EA Thompson supposes British Christians in Ireland formed the nucleus of his Church in Ireland. Certainly, British Christians, directly or indirectly, influenced the spread of Christianity in Ireland and this influence may have been active before 431.

Pelagius (355-425) caused a great doctrinal controversy in early fifth century, denying the necessity of grace for salvation and emphasising God’s gift of freewill. But was Pelagius Irish? Saint Jerome vilifies him as a ‘most stupid fellow, heavy with Irish porridge,’ and claims that Pelagius, or his companion Coelestius, had ‘his lineage of the Irish race, from the neighbourhood of the Britons.” But perhaps Jerome was merely insulting his opponent, in the way someone might be dismissed as a “Philistine.’

To combat Pelagianism, Rome sent Germanus of Auxerre to Britain in 429, and this was followed in 431 by the mission of the ‘Palladius, ordained by Pope Celestine … to the Scotti who believe in Christ, as their first bishop’ – evidence perhaps that from at least the third decade of the fifth century there were enough Irish Christians to justify the appointment of a bishop for them by Rome.

The late Professor Patrick Corish of Maynooth locates the mission of Palladius in Leinster, and in particular with three ancient churches in Co Wicklow, and that his work was supplemented or continued by missionary figures like Secundinus, Auxilius and Iserninus –who appear to have had little or no contact with Patrick.

It has been argued that the missions of Palladius and Patrick have become confused and conflated, and that much of the work of Palladius has been attributed wrongly to Patrick. Palladius may have laboured in Ireland until 461, but many Patrician scholars agree that his mission in Ireland was short and that he died within a year.

Patrick Corish believes Patrick played no part in framing the document that now bears his name and that it ‘is not hard to see circumstances in which his name came to be added later.’ Whatever its origins, his Confessio [51] shows Patrick is aware of other episcopal activity in Ireland and the independent administration of baptism, confirmation and ordination.

Although the Palladian and Patrician missions may have coincided, Patrick was working in new territory, while Roman missionaries in Leinster consolidated the work of Palladius and other early missionaries.

It is a well-known aphorism that the field of Patrician studies is a field in which no stone has been left unturned.

We can assume that Patrick was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest in a part of Roman Britain that was on the edges of a fraying and disintegrating Roman Empire, but we cannot with certainty even identify his place of birth, Bannavem Taburniae. Indeed, we know little about Patrick’s life or his mission, about the dates for his life – there are at least four different suggested dates for his death – or even how many Patricks there were: The Annals of Ulster speak of the elder Patrick, who died in 457, leading some to suppose there was also a younger Patrick, so that O’Rahilly put forward the idea of two Patricks in 1954. Apart from Patrick’s own writings, his Confessio and his Letter to Coroticus, we have few sources for his life which we can say definitely date back to the fifth century: the earliest lives date from the seventh century or later.

‘Celtic’ Christianity and missionaries’:

A late Celtic high cross at Saint Edan’s Cathedral, Ferns, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Whatever the origins of early Irish Christianity, and no matter how many missionary bishops had been sent from Rome or Auxerre, by the mid-sixth century Irish Christianity was no longer dependent on episcopal structures but was a thorough-going monastic church ruled by abbots from key monastic centres. The Irish church had become one in which bishops had retained their sacerdotal and sacramental functions but were seemingly without any real authority and without any diocesan structures.

In the sixth and seventh centuries, monks from Ireland established monastic settlements in parts of Scotland. They included Saint Columba or Saint Colmcille, who settled on Iona. Ireland became ‘a land of saints and scholars’ and missionaries from Ireland became a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Saxon parts of Britain and central Europe.

As the Anglo-Saxons colonised what is now England, Celtic missionaries from Scotland and Ireland set out to evangelise them. In the year 631, Saint Aidan was sent from Iona to evangelise them from the island of Lindisfarne, on England’s north-east coast. Celtic practice heavily influenced northern England, and the missionaries from Lindisfarne reached as far south as London.

Irish monks were also settling in Continental Europe, particularly in Gaul (France), including Saint Columbanus, exerting a profound influence greater than that of many Continental centres with more ancient traditions.

Meanwhile, in 597, Pope Gregory had sent a mission to the English, led by Augustine. These renewed links with the greater Latin West brought the Celtic-speaking peoples into close contact with other expressions of Christianity.

Some of the customs and traditions that had developed in Celtic Christianity were distinctive or gave rise to disputes with the rest of the Western Church. These included the monastic tradition, fixing the date of Easter, differences on the use of tonsure, and penitential rites.

The achievements of Christianity in the Celtic-speaking world are significant. Irish society had no pre-Christian history of literacy. Yet within a few generations of the arrival of Christianity, the monks and priests had become fully integrated with Latin culture. Apart from their Latin texts, these Irish monks also developed a written form of Old Irish.

Christ enthroned ... the Book of Kells

Some of the greatest achievements of the Celtic tradition were during this period, such as the Book of Kells, and intricately carved high crosses.

The episcopal structures were adapted to an environment wholly different from the one prevailing in the sub-Roman world. Apart from parts of Wales, Devon, and Cornwall, the Celtic world was without developed cities, and so different ecclesiastical structures were needed, especially in Ireland. This ecclesiastical structure developed around monastic communities and their abbots.

Celtic Christianity was often marked by its conservatism, even archaism. One example is the method used to calculate Easter, using a calculation similar to one approved by Saint Jerome. Eventually, most groups, including the southern Irish, accepted the new methods for calculating Easter, but not the monastery of Iona and the houses linked to it.

At the Synod of Whitby in 664, the rules of the Roman mission were accepted by the Church in England, and were extended later throughout Britain and Ireland. But the decrees of Whitby did not immediately change the face of Christianity on these islands. There were pockets of resistance to the Roman mission, especially in Devon, Cornwall and Scotland, and the monks of Iona did not accept the decisions reached at Whitby until 716.

Irish monks kept a distinct tonsure, or method of cutting their hair, to distinguish their identity as monks. The “Celtic” tonsure involved cutting away the hair above one’s forehead. This differed from the prevailing custom, which was to shave the top of the head, leaving a halo of hair – in imitation of Christ’s crown of thorns.

In Ireland, a distinctive form of penance developed, where confession was made privately to a priest, under the seal of secrecy, and where penance was given privately and performed privately as well. Handbooks, called “penitentials,” were designed as a guide for confessors and to regularise the penance given for each particular sin.

In the past, penance had been a public ritual. But the Irish penitential practice spread throughout continental Europe, where the form of public penance had fallen into disuse. Saint Columbanus is said to have introduced the “medicines of penance” to Gaul at a time when they had come to be neglected.

By 1215, the Celtic practice had become the European norm, with the Fourth Lateran Council issuing a canonical requirement for confession at least once per year.

So Early Celtic Christianity in Ireland cannot be separated from the beginnings and the development of Christianity in neighbouring Scotland, Wales and England. There was a two-way flow between both islands, and those early forms of Christianity mutually sustained each other and were inter-dependent.

Not just Celts

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... founded in the heart of Viking Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But if the Church in Ireland was not the only expression of Celtic Christianity, then it was not an exclusively Celtic Church either. In 943, the future King of Dublin, Amlaíb (Óláfr) Cúarán was baptised in England. He was king from 945-980, and later after his defeat would retire to Columba’s monastery on Iona.

We know that Vikings in Ireland had converted to Christianity in great numbers by the middle or late tenth century at the latest, for in 1028 King Sitric (Sigtryggr) Silkbeard of Dublin made a pilgrimage to Rome, and by 1030 Dúnán was Bishop of Dublin. The foundation of Christ Church Cathedral must predate both these events, although the traditional date given is 1038. Similar processes were taking place in in the Scandinavian homelands – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – and in other colonial contexts such as north-eastern England, Iceland, Normandy and the Scottish islands.

At the Synod of Ráith Bressail in 1111, when the diocesan boundaries were drawn up, the area of Dublin was subsumed in the Diocese of Glendalough – perhaps Dublin was ignored because of its allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it was not until 1052 that the Bishop of Dublin was acknowledged as having metropolitan status.


The beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel in the Saint Chad Gospel or Lichfield Gospels … Saint Chad was trained in an Irish monastery and the work in this book shows clearly the combination of Celtic and Saxon culture in the eighth century

Christianity came to these islands at early stage, and long before the collapse of the Roman presence in Britain. The mutual trade and commerce between these two islands, including the slave trade, was responsible for the first early presence of Christianity in Ireland, including the arrival of Saint Patrick.

Many of the myths surrounding the life of Saint Patrick may have been created to support the claims of Armagh to primacy. Many of the myths about pre-Patrician Christianity may have been created to challenge that primacy. But while Christianity in Ireland predates Patrick, the Patrician mission, in whatever form it came, consolidated Christian presence in Ireland.

The Staffordshire Hoard, found in a field near Lichfield, shows the intimate links between the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon worlds

Christianity in Ireland – and in Britain – brought new life to Christianity on Continental Europe after the collapse of the Roman Ireland. But Celtic Christianity was not exclusively Irish and Irish Christianity was never exclusively Celtic. An exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral last year of the treasures found in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ shows intricately-worked ecclesiastical and civilian objects that illustrate the inseparable and intimate inter-connection between the Celtic and Saxon worlds.

Our story is the story of Christianity in Ireland, the story of Christianity on these islands, and the shared story of Christianity throughout Europe.

Part 3: State-sponsored reform of the English and Irish churches in the 16th century.

When the Irish missionaries spread across the European continent, they contributed to the revival of Christianity in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire and the onslaught of the Barbarian invasions and the Dark Ages.

Throughout the Middle Ages, there were many movements to reform the Church, including the growth of the monastic orders, beginning in particular with the Benedictine movement, but also spearheaded by reforming popes in Rome, such as Gregory the Great.

But, why, we may ask:

● If the early Middle Ages were marked by revival, reform and mission, did the Church reach the stage that the demand for Reform was unstoppable?
● What happened to the life of the Church?
● And was there a move for Reform in the Church of Ireland?

It would be wrong to see the Reformations of the 16th century as one, single, focussed movement – there were many Reformations, including the Anglican, Lutheran, Calvinist, Zwinglian and Anabaptist Reformations ... and the Tridentine Reformation. And there were major demands for efforts at reform that preceded, that acted as forerunners to, those movements.

Early reforms in the Irish Church

Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome … increasing contact between the Irish Church and Rome was a stimulus for reforms in the 12th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the 12th century, the Church in Ireland experienced a major transformation known to historians as ‘the 12th century reform movement.’ This was a far-ranging, radical reform process, reforming existing practices and structures, and radical in its substitution of new institutions and observances, transforming the institutional structures, the liturgy and the prevailing culture of the Irish Church.

The reforms and changes were inspired and motivated by a number of factors, including:

● Increasing contact between the Irish Church and Rome, expressed in pilgrimages and visits by both kings and bishops, and followed later by pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Canterbury;
● The recognition by church and political leaders of the need for change;
● The development of city-dioceses outside the traditional territorial areas of rule, particularly Dublin, often more closely identified with Canterbury than with the monastic bishops in the provincial, rural hinterland.

Three key figures in the 12th century reform movement were: Saint Malachy, who was successively Bishop of Connor, Archbishop of Armagh, Bishop of Down and Papal Legate; Saint Laurence O’Toole (died 1180), Abbot of Glendalough, who became Archbishop of Dublin in 1162; and Gelasius of Armagh (died 1174). The canonisation of Malachy in 1190 and Laurence in 1225 can be regarded as two indicative illustrations of the Europeanisation of the Irish Church.

One of the most important areas of structural change was in the realm of bishops and dioceses. Until then, bishops did not necessarily have a fixed seat or cathedral church. Instead, they often had territorial, political designations (such as Meath and Ossory), and were an intimate part of monastic life and culture.

The first major attempt at reforming the administrative structures of the Church in Ireland came in 1111 at the Synod of Rathbreasil in Co Tipperary. The primary structural reforms introduced at that synod were new diocesan structures with territorial boundaries and fixed seats or cathedral churches for bishops, 24 dioceses within two provinces (Armagh and Cashel), a new understanding of the canonical responsibilities of bishops, and providing pastoral services for the laity.

The ‘Market Cross’ in Kells, Co Meath … most of the diocesan structures and cathedral sites agreed at the Synod of Kells in 1152 remain to this day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Then in 1152, the Synod of Kells (Co Meath) was called, the first church council that was convened in Ireland at the behest of a papal legate. Two additional provinces, Dublin and Tuam, were formed, and the Archbishop of Armagh was acknowledged as Primate, and structurally the Irish church became more like its European continental counterparts. Most of the diocesan structures and cathedral sites agreed in 1152 remain to this day.

Archbishop Laurence O’Toole called the Synod of Clonfert to condemn the lay domination of the episcopate and the succession of the sons of clergy to their fathers’ benefices.

The new structures and agreement on cathedral locations led to new building programmes, the new cathedrals were endowed with large landholdings, and the election of bishops was freed from the control of local potentates, by-and-large. The dioceses were further divided into networks of local parishes, tithes and the offerings of first fruits became standardised, and the secular clergy, as opposed to the regular clergy or clergy in religious orders, received a new importance in the parochial and diocesan life of the Church.

The Latin language was reinstated as the language of the liturgy and public worship, enabling the liturgy in Ireland to conform to the standard liturgical practices found across Europe.

These reforms were accompanied by the introduction of the great monastic orders from Continental Europe, particularly the Augustinians and the Cistercians.

The first Cistercian monastery was established at Mellifont, Co Louth (Diocese of Armagh) in 1142, and by 1170 there were 13 Cistercian houses in Ireland.

The rule of Saint Augustine was introduced to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in 1162 by Laurence O’Toole when he became Archbishop of Dublin, by 1170 there were 40 Augustinian houses in Ireland, and many Augustinian communities functioned as cathedral chapters, with the prior fulfilling the role of dean. Together, the Cistercians and Augustinians radically transformed Irish monasticism.

Another indication of change is provided by the new dedications of cathedrals and churches – moving away from the native-born Irish saints to dedications such as Holy Trinity, Christ Church and Saint Mary’s, following a European pattern.

There was a transformation of church architecture too, with the introduction first of the Romanesque style and then of Gothic architecture, and Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, could be cited as one of the most visible evidences of the architectural innovations of the 12th century.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin … one of the most visible evidences of the architectural innovations of the 12th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A lasting result of these reforms was that the Church in Ireland, once marked by its regional customs and particularist practices, was brought into closer harmony with western Latin Christianity.

The 12th century was a high point in the Europeanisation of the Irish church in the mediaeval period, so that the Irish Church was no more a regional, outlying expression of Christianity. It is impossible to judge how the Church may have developed after the arrival of the Anglo-Norman and English influences. Certainly, the English presence ensured the Europeanisation of the Irish Church was Anglicisation in many parts of the island, so that in the late Middle Ages we had a church inter Hibernicos and inter Anglicos.

The ‘12th century reform movement’ in Ireland may mark the most important turning point in the history of Christianity in Ireland. It was certainly the most important watershed between the introduction of Christianity in the fifth century and the advent of the Reformation in the 16th century.

Further reform

Saint Nicholas’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Dundalk, is the burial place of Saint Richard FitzRalph (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A subsequent impetus for reform in the Irish Church was created by the arrival of the four mendicant orders – the Dominicans (Blackfriars), Franciscans (Greyfriars), Carmelites (Whitefriars) and the Hermits of Saint Augustine (Austin Friars). They did not fit into the established order of the day, were not monks in the traditional understanding of monasticism and monasteries, and worked parallel to – if not outside – the by-now consolidated diocesan structures.

These orders arrived in Ireland, through England, in the mid to late 13th century, bringing with them a revolutionary religious life.

They could be difficult and truculent, despite their vows of poverty soon amassed properties and fortunes, and as they attracted men of intellect and learning also became associated with the universities. Those later successes then tarnished their ideals, as we can see from the conflicts between one Archbishop of Armagh, Saint Richard FitzRalph of Dundalk, and the mendicant friars in his diocese.

The need for reform

Saint Francis of Assisi before the Sultan in Damietta (Giotto) … why did his movement for reform find a place within the Church?

Successive popes at various stages made brave efforts to reform the Western Church. This is why Innocent III called the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.

Some of the popular movements for reform and their leaders found a place within the Church – notably Francis of Assisi and his friars. But others did not – such as John Wycliffe and the Lollards.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) represent three new forms of monastic life that continue to shape the spirituality of the church: Bernard was instrumental in the spread of the Cistercians, who sought to reform the Benedictine traditions; Thomas was a member of the order of Preachers or Dominicans; Bonaventure was Minister General of the Franciscans. However, not all the great spiritual writers of the day were men: in recent years there has been a renewed interest in the writings of the English mystic Julian of Norwich (ca 1342-after 1413).

Julian of Norwich … All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well … but was she safe as long as she remained ‘outside the walls of the Church’?

Despite the cruelty of the Crusades, and the relentless pursuit of dissent in the shape of the Albigensians and the Waldensians, the spirituality of Julian, and of Thomas à Kempis, the theology of Aquinas and the poverty of Dominic and Francis point to a Christianity that continued to develop new riches and thinking.

Although the integrity of the Western Church was weakened by the Crusades and its claims further weakened by the Avignon captivity of the Papacy (1309-1377), Western Christianity was alive intellectually and spiritually.

The questioning faith of Peter Abelard in France in the 12th century, the Waldensians in Italy and further afield in the 13th century, and of John Wycliffe and the Lollards in England in the 14th century were nurtured in a Church that would soon find itself ripe for the challenges of the Reformations and the Counter-Reformation.

Duns Scotus and the early Cambridge Franciscans commemorated on a plaque in Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... the Irish Franciscans were integrated into the intellectual life of European Christianity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So why were some reformers acceptable, and others not? Despite the efforts of Francis of Assisi and others to call the Church to reform, by the 15th century the Western Church had become totally identified with the interests of the State and power, and the very notion of Christendom made the powers of Church and State inseparable. Those who challenged the status quo faced being marginalised or condemned as heretics.

The 15th century Church could live with a visionary like Julian of Norwich, so long as she lived (symbolically) outside the walls of the Church, but not with a visionary like Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for witchcraft and heresy in 1431.

Among the common people, a popular religion had developed with the veneration of saints (particularly the Virgin Mary), relics, shrines and pilgrimages. But the vast majority of people were excluded from taking part in the central sacramental life of the Church – when they were present at the Mass, they were present as spectators, excluded by and large from the Communion or the Eucharist – and from any role in administering Church affairs.

No longer was the Bible available in the common language, and many received their religious education only through the street plays, the carvings, paintings and stained glass windows in churches, or the popular cycles of folk religion. While the early primitive Church could benefit from Saint Jerome’s translation of the Bible into the common Latin of daily commerce, the Vulgate, the Church in later centuries was unable to accept the demands for translation.

John Wycliffe in a window in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford … initiated a new translation of the Bible into English (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John Wycliffe (ca 1329-1384) initiated a new translation of the Vulgate into English, but was soon deserted by his friends in high places, and his followers, the Lollards, were suppressed. However, the demands to have the Bible translated continued apace in England and on the Continent, and the move to return to the original texts and meanings would become an essential part of the scholarship of the Renaissance.

Unlike Francis and Dominic, later critics, including the Waldenisans and Hussites, were less successful in seeking to reform the Church from within. In France and Italy, the Waldensians were hunted down. In Central Europe, John Hus (1374-1415), a priest and teacher at Charles University in Prague, stressed the authority of scripture and gave greater emphasis to preaching. He criticised with equal vigour the superstitions that had crept into popular folk religion, the corrupt lives of his clerical contemporaries, the authority assumed by cardinals and the papacy, and the withholding of the cup of wine from the people during the Communion.

At the Council of Constance in 1415, Wycliffe was condemned for heresy and an order was made that his body be disinterred from holy ground; Hus too was condemned as a heretic, and without an opportunity to defend his ideas he was burned at the stake. On the other hand, Thomas à Kempis (ca1380-1471) was able to remain within the Church, and influenced many through his preaching, counselling and books, particularly The Imitation of Christ, which opened the hearts and minds of many to receive the teachings of the Reformers.

Certainly, by the beginning of the 16th century there was a widespread understanding, even in Rome, that the Church was need of reform, structurally, liturgically and in the monastic houses.

The quality of leadership provided throughout the Church by the Popes, at diocesan level by the bishops and at parochial level by the clergy was a long-standing source of complaint. The office of the papacy was in disarray in disrepute as two and sometimes even three rival claimants were proclaimed as Pope, the main claimant living not in Rome but in Avignon in France, and other pretenders to the papacy living in Florence and elsewhere. With the deposition of rival popes in 1409, 1415 and 1417, the Councils of Pisa and Constance established an important principle: a council could deprive a pope of his claims to supremacy.

The wealth of the Church was being used for private and personal gain and profit, and the liturgy of the Church was no longer accessible to the vast majority of Church members.

And so, the spread of the Reformation was facilitated by the preconditions for change across northern Europe.

Liturgical reform

During the early centuries of the Church, the central emphases of the Eucharist were on doing what Christ had done, and a fellowship meal. The congregation, together with their president, had together prepared a meal of Thanksgiving; the people brought forward the gifts of bread and wine, and received them again in the sacrament.

By the late Middle Ages, however, these emphases had shifted so the average mediaeval parishioner was removed from the centre of the action, and had become an onlooker or spectator, watching and witnessing the performance of a mysterious rite, a role emphasised in the architecture of mediaeval churches and cathedrals, and their emphasis on sacred space and on what is above.

The emphasis had shifted to from a meal at which God was thanked for the whole of the salvific story, centred on the life of Christ, to merely remembering, commemorating and almost, as it were, re-enacting his sacrifice on the Cross.

Most people in Church no longer understood the miming actions or the words recited by the priests at the Eucharist, which had become known as the Mass – from the words of dismissal at the end: Ita missa est (‘Go, it is sent,’ or ‘Go, the dismissal is made’), to which the response was: Deo Gratias (‘Thanks be to God’).

This ought to have been a weekly celebration and fellowship meal, but by the late Middle Ages, most people communicated once a year or, perhaps even, once in a lifetime. The emphasis had shifted to the priest ‘saying Mass’ and on the laity ‘hearing Mass.’ Only the celebrating priests had the texts for the prayers, readings and liturgy, so the people were reduced not only to the role of spectators, but also to praying their own private prayers rather than praying collectively.

Even the priests found all this too difficult to cope with. So many books were needed, and so many variations had to be taken account of, a priest needed a manual or handbook to pick his way through them skilfully. One such book was known as The Pie and is referred to in the preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:

’Moreover the nombre and hardnes of the rules called the pie, and the manifolde chaunginges of the service, was the cause, yt to turne the boke onlye, was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times, there was more busines to fynd out what should be read, then to read it when it was faunde out.’

In addition, matters were made more intricate and more complicated because from the 12th and 13th centuries onwards – despite the unifying influence of Rome – there were five principle ‘uses’ or variations of the Western liturgy in these islands. The most widespread of these was the Sarum Use, named after Salisbury Cathedral. The other four were: the Use of Hereford, the Use of Bangor (Wales), the Use of York and the Use of Lincoln.

As the preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer notes, there was ‘great diversity in saying and singing.’

And so two of the great impulses for the Anglican Reformation were: a yearning to return to the simplicity in worship of former days; and to overcome the barriers created by diversity so that the people of these islands could truly have a Common Prayer.

The dawn of the Reformations:

The moon dial at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where Erasmus lived while he taught Greek in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The intellectual milieu that preceded the Reformations was created to a degree by the great Christian humanists, intellectuals such as Erasmus, who moved easily between England Continental Europe. The emphasis of the humanists on returning to the foundations of Christianity came as the exodus of scholars from Byzantium following the collapse of Constantinople in 1453 brought fresh knowledge of patristic sources and Greek philosophy through Venice and into the rest of Europe. With the invention of printing, books were more accessible – including the Bible, the great philosophical works, and the writings of the Early Fathers of the Church.

The age of discovery coincided with the Renaissance, which gave the Church great artists, including Michelangelo and Titian, and the wisdom and erudition of scholars such as Erasmus (1467-1536) and Rabelais (1494-1553). This was also a time when national languages were taking identifiable shape: Chaucer’s English developed into the English used by Tyndale, and later by Shakespeare, the compilers of The Book of Common Prayer and the translators of the King James Version (Authorised Version) of the Bible; Dante is seen as the creator of modern Italian; Martin Luther’s Bible would play a similar role in standardising German.

Martin Luther … posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517

A year after Erasmus published his Greek New Testament, the Reformation began on 31 October 1517, when the Professor of Biblical Studies at Wittenberg University nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church. Decay and decline left the Church too weak to accept or to meet the demands for reform.

The reformers had to be dealt with brutally – as the Dominican friar Savonarola had been burned at the stake in Florence – or marginalised and cut off by excommunication.

But the demands for reform were coming from within the Church, and those leading the demands were among the most able and loyal members of the church: the Augustinian friar Martin Luther (1483-1546), the French ecclesiastical lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564); a French Dominican friar Martin Bucer (1491-1551), who tried to mediate between Calvin and Luther; and their English contemporary, Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), a quiet and reluctant scholar from Cambridge who was summoned to become Archbishop of Canterbury as late as 1532, and who would shape the English language through The Book of Common Prayer, the Psalms and his collects.

When it came, the Reformation ought to have been a breath of fresh air through the whole Church; instead, it threatened to bring down the whole edifice.

Martin Luther’s reforms initially attracted widespread popular sympathy, but ultimately his success and the continuation of his ideas were guaranteed because of the support of secular princes and city magistrates.

The Reformation in England:

Henry VIII … initially opposed the reforms championed by Luther

In England, and in English-speaking Ireland, the Church was, by-and-large, in a fairly good condition at the end of the early Middle Ages: ant-clerical attitudes were contained among lawyers and theologians; Christian humanists were generally supportive of the Church; parish life was flourishing and vibrant; and the most cogent critique of Luther came from the king. For his tract, Assertio Septem Sacramentum (A Defence of the Seven Sacraments), written in 1520, Henry VIII was honoured by Pope Leo X with the title Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith, on 11 October 1521.

The unity of Church and State was maintained in England when Henry VIII became entangled in a dispute with Rome after failing to receive papal sanction for his planned divorce. Part of the process of generating support for Henry’s campaign involved creating public anger against the excesses of clerical power and the wealth of the monastic orders.

The excommunicated Henry remained a Catholic in doctrine and in practice until death in 1537, and it was only during the reign of his son Edward VI (1537-1553) that the Reformation was effectively introduced.

The English reformers, led by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury, Bishop Nicholas Ridley (ca1500-1555) and Bishop Hugh Latimer (ca1485-1555), fused Lutheranism and Calvinism in a State Church that retained Catholic order and much of Catholic liturgy.

Introducing the Reformation to Ireland

Thomas Cranmer ... instrumental in producing the Book of Common Prayer

Ireland was largely untouched by the intellectual and cultural upheavals introduced during the Renaissance. Only the Pale kept apace with developments in England, and so the Church in Ireland was effectively divided into two zones of the ecclesia inter Anglicos and the ecclesia inter Hibernicos. In the former, diocesan and parish life was now functioning in a very similar way to its counterpart in England, with very little expressed anti-clericalism or anti-papalism. In the Gaelic Church, Church life was very different, with a largely hereditary clergy presiding over large rural parishes and deaneries.

As in England, the Tudor Reformation was an act of state in Ireland, implemented by parliamentary legislation, so that Ireland experienced the Reformation by extension, and was part of the process of centralising English government control in Dublin in the aftermath of the fall of the Kildare Geraldines in the 1530s.

The Reformation was accepted by most of the bishops in 1536, when papal supremacy was replaced by the supremacy of the State. However, the bishops made no changes in doctrine, liturgical change was minimal and many of the first reforming bishops are counted in the diocesan lists of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland.

The names of the early Reformers in Ireland show they were drawn from the mainstream of Irish life – names such as Browne, Butler, Cullen, Devereux, Nugent, Purcell or Walsh – and the episcopal succession continued uninterrupted.

Many of the monasteries were supressed, but their communities continued living among the people. The Prior and canons of the Augustinian community in Christ Church Cathedral became the dean and chapter, for example, and by and large parish life continued as before.

During the reign of Edward VI (1537-1553), a reformed liturgy was introduced from England and the Book of Common Prayer, first used in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Easter Day 1551, was the first book printed in Ireland.

The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) was authorised for use in Ireland, but the second Book of Common Prayer (1552) was never legislated for in Ireland. John Bale insisted on using the second book when he was consecrated Bishop of Ossory in 1552, but his reception in Kilkenny was so hostile that he was forced to leave his diocese on the death of Edward VI in March 1553.

Under Queen Mary (1553-1558), some Reforming bishops were deposed and married clergy punished, but the Reformation returned under Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603), and was accepted by all but two of the bishops.

In 1560, the Irish Parliament again repudiated the authority of the Pope and passed the Act of Uniformity, making Anglicanism the state religion in Ireland.


Why did the Reformation fail to take hold in Ireland in the same way as it did in England?

Supplemental reading:

John R. Bartlett and Stuart D. Kinsella, Two thousand years of Christianity in Ireland (Dublin: Columba Press, 2006).
Patrick Corish, The Irish Catholic Experience (Dublin, 1985).
Liam de Paor, Saint Patrick’s World (Blackrock, Co Dublin, 1993).
James P. Mackey, An Introduction to Celtic Christianity (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995).
Rowan Williams, Why study the past? The quest for the historical church (2005).


The Tudor, Stuart and Caroline Settlements.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture was part of the Module TH8825, Anglican Studies in an Irish context, with part-time MTh students (Years III-IV) on 8 December 2012.