Monastic Clergy

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER VI....continued

4. The Second Order: Monastic Clergy.

Rise of Monasticism.—About the middle of the sixth century a great monastic religious movement took its rise, mainly from the monastery and college of Clonard, founded by St. Finnen about the year 527.

Baptismal Font of Clonard

FIG. 37. Ancient baptismal font of Clonard: three feet high; still preserved in the church there. (From Wilde's Boyne and Blackwater). Not a vestige of any old building remains on the site of this great monastery.

Soon after his settlement here, great numbers of disciples, attracted by his learning and holiness, gathered round him. Under him were educated and trained for monastic and missionary work many of the most illustrious fathers of the Irish Church, including the "Twelve Apostles of Erin":* so that St. Finnen, who was a bishop, is called "a doctor of wisdom, and the tutor of the saints of Ireland in his time." These men, going forth from Clonard in all directions, founded, in imitation of their master Finnen, numerous monasteries, schools, and colleges, which subsequently became famous throughout all Europe. And now new life and vigour were infused into the Irish missionary Church; and the work oi Patrick and his companions was carried on with renewed zeal and wonderful success. The influence of the druids was finally broken down, though they still lingered on, but obscurely and feebly, for many generations. Then also arose the zeal for preaching the Gospel in foreign lands, that gave rise to that vast emigration of Irish missionaries and scholars spoken of farther on.

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* For the Twelve Apostles of Erin, see the larger work, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. I., p. 322.