Irish Scholars

Margaret Anne Cusack
Chapter XIV
Desmond Castle and Rath, Limerick

Desmond Castle and Rath, Limerick

Distinguished Irish Scholars and Religious—Domestic Feuds—O'Brien's Illness caused by Fright—Pestilence and Severe Winters—Contentions between the Northerns and Southerns—Murtough's Circuit of Ireland—The Danes attempt an Invasion—An Irish King sent to the Isle of Man—Destruction of Kincora—St. Celsus makes Peace—The Synod of Fidh Aengussa—Subjects considered by the Synod: (1) The Regulation of the Number of Dioceses, (2) the Sacrament of Matrimony, (3) the Consecration of Bishops, (4) Ceremonies at Baptism—St. Malachy—The Traitor Dermod—Synod at Mellifont Abbey—St. Laurence O'Toole.

[A.D. 1022—1167.]

Letter D

OMESTIC wars were, as usual, productive of the worst consequences, as regards the social state of the country. The schools and colleges, which had been founded and richly endowed by the converted Irish, were now, without exception, plundered of their wealth, and, in many cases, deprived of those who had dispensed that wealth for the common good. It has been already shown that men lived holy lives, and died peaceful deaths, during the two hundred years of Danish oppression; we shall now find that schools were revived, monasteries repeopled, and missionaries sent to convert and instruct in foreign lands. A few monks from Ireland settled in Glastonbury early in the tenth century, where they devoted themselves to the instruction of youth.

St. Dunstan, who was famous for his skill in music, was one of their most illustrious pupils: he was a scholar, an artist, and a musician. But English writers, who give him the credit of having brought "Englishmen to care once more for learning, after they had quite lost the taste for it, and had sunk back into ignorance and barbarism," forget to mention who were his instructors.

St. Maccallin, another Irishman, was teaching in France at the same period; and Duncan, who governed the Monastery of St. Remigius, at Rheims, was writing books of instruction for his students, which are still extant. Marianus Scotus, whose chronicles are considered the most perfect compositions of their times, was teaching at Cologne. St. Fingen, who succeeded St. Cadroe as Abbot of the Monastery of St. Felix at Metz, was invested with the government of the Monastery of St. Symphorian in that city.[4] It was then ordered by the bishop, that none but Irish monks should be received into his house, unless their supply failed. In 975 the Monastery of St. Martin, near Cologne, was made over to the Irish monks in perpetuity. Happily, however, Ireland still retained many of her pious and gifted sons.

We have mentioned elsewhere the Annals of Tighernach, and the remarkable erudition they evince. The name of Cormac Mac Cullinan may also be added to the list of literary men of the period. The poems of Kenneth O'Hartigan are still extant, as well as those of Eochd O'Flynn. The authorship of the Wars of the Gaedhil and the Gall, has been attributed to Brian Boroimhé's secretary, Mac Liag; it is, at least, tolerably certain that it was written by one who witnessed the events described. The obituaries of several saints also occur at the close of the tenth and commencement of the eleventh centuries. Amongst these we find St. Duncheadh, Abbot of Clonmacnois, who is said to have been the last Irish saint who raised the dead. St. Aedh (Hugh) died in the year 1004, "after a good life, at Ard-Macha, with great honour and veneration." And in the year 1018, we have the mortuary record of St. Gormgal, of Ardvilean, "the remains of whose humble oratory and cloghan cell are still to be seen on that rocky island, amid the surges of the Atlantic, off the coast of Connemara."[5]


[4] City.—Some Irish religious are also said to have lived in amity with Greek monks, who were established at Tours, in France; and it is said that the Irish joined them in the performance of the ecclesiastical offices in their own language.

[5] Connemara.—Haverty's History of Ireland, p. 156. See also an interesting note on this subject in the Chronicum Scotorum.