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Reform and Renewal: Ireland and Europe in the Twelfth Century



Martin Holland   Irish Church Reform and the first Synod of Cashel

   Two quite separate events occurred at the synod of Cashel. The first of these is the proclamation of certain statutes. Two of these, sometimes perceived as addressing abuses in the church, are examined - the one relating to marriage laws and the one which forbids laymen becoming airchinnig. It is argued that these two, along with the remainder, restate or develop existing Irish church laws. They do not reform them. The second event is the granting of Cashel to the church. What this was to mean became clear soon afterwards at Raith Breasail. But making the grant would suggest, it is argued, that Muirchertach Ua Briain already had in mind the shape which the church would take when reformed. This becomes clear when one observes the Ua Briain attitude to church reform before and after the synod of Cashel. Beforehand at two Dublin synods and at Mael Isa's dispatch to Canterbury in 1096 the Ua Briain kings are seen to co-operate, wittingly or unwittingly, with Canterbury's aspirations in Ireland. After Cashel that is seen to change. Armagh is soon won for reform due, it is argued, to Muirchertach's explanation of Canterbury's plan for Dublin. Then, Muirchertach's bishop, Gille of Limerick, publishes his tract and Muirchertach calls Raith Breasail. A church structure with no role for Canterbury emerges, a structure prefigured by Muirchertach at Cashel. Cashel, then, is the first indication that Muirchertach has plans for church reform within an Irish context only. It was called to start that process.  

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