Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 33


If thou desirest to be informed, O reader, why Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, king of Leinster, went to the king of England to France to complain and protest against his expulsion from Ireland, instead of protesting to the king of France or to some other king, know that it was because Donnchadh, son of Brian Boraimhe, and the real nobles of Ireland were at enmity with one another concerning the mastery of Ireland from the time of Brian to that of Donnchadh, and hence they bestowed with one accord the possession of Ireland on Urbanus, the second Pope of that name, in the year of the Lord 1092; and the Pope of Rome had possession of and authority and sovereignty over Ireland from that time to the time when Adrianus, the fourth Pope of that name, assumed the successorship of Peter in the year of the Lord 1154; and this Pope was an Englishman, and his baptismal name was Nicholas Breakespeare; and Stow says in his Chronicle that this Pope bestowed the kingdom of Ireland on Henry II., king of England,


in the first year of the said Henry's reign, in the year of the Lord 1155. And the same author says that the conditions on which the Pope bestowed Ireland on the king of England were that he should build up the Faith which had fallen to the ground in that country, and that he should correct the evil habits of the people, and that he should maintain and protect every privilege and every termon land that was in the country, and that the king should pay Peter's penny every year for every house in Ireland to the Pope. When Henry II received this gift in writing from the Pope he sent John, bishop of Salisbury, with this authorization to Ireland, and he landed at Port Lairge, and when the Irish clergy heard that he had come with the authorization of the Pope they came from all sides to meet him, and when they had come to one place, John, the bishop we have referred to, read the granting of Ireland by the Pope to Henry II and to his descendants, and the conditions laid down in the document; and when the clergy had considered the conditions they all agreed to them, and they gave their assent then with their signatures in writing to this John; and he returned to England to the king, and the king sent him to the Pope with this document, and when the Pope saw the assent of the Irish clergy he sent a ring as a token of the possession of Ireland to Henry II.

Bellarminus agrees with the above in his chronicle where he says: Adrianus, the fourth Pope of that name, a native of England, a wise and pious man, bestowed the island of Ireland on Henry II, king of England, on condition that he would plant virtues in that island and root out vices, that he should see that Peter's penny was paid every year from each house, and that he should preserve the rights of the Church inviolate there. The bull in which these things are is to be seen in the twelfth book of the annals of Cardinal Baronius. {Adrianus Papa quartus natione Anglus vir sapiens et pius Hiberniam insulam Henrico secundo regi Anglorum concessit ea conditione ut in ea insula virtutes plantaret et vitia eradicaret; ut a singulis domibus quottannis denarium Sancto Petro pendi curaret, et iura ecclesiastica illibata servaret. Extat Diploma Tom. 12 Annalium Cardinalis Baronii.}’’


The English chronicle of Stanihurst agrees with this where it says that Henry II procured a bull from Pope Adrianus in which he commanded the clergy and the real nobles of all Ireland, under penalty of excommunication, to pay homage and be obedient to Henry, king of England, under pretext of his reforming the religion of the country and improving the habits of the people; and this bull came from the king to Ireland and was read at a general assembly of genuine nobles and clerics at Cashel. We read also in the same author that Alexander, the third Pope of that name, sent a cardinal called Vivianus to Ireland to make known to the Irish the grant of Ireland to the king of England and to his descendants, which he himself and the Pope who preceded him had made on condition that he and every Pope who should come after him would get out of Ireland each succeeding year Peter's penny for every household in the country.

Judge, O reader, that the reason why Diarmaid Mac Murchadha went to meet the king of England to France instead of going to meet any other king was because of the grant the Pope had previously made of Ireland to the king of England, and for that reason that it was the king of England who had authority over Ireland from the Pope and that it was his duty to demand amends or satisfaction for the injury done to Mac Murchadha.

Here I must express astonishment at a condition in the bull of Pope Adrianus in which he granted Ireland to Henry II. Here is the condition according to Stow's Chronicle, to wit, that Henry II was bound to reform and build up the Catholic Faith which had fallen down in Ireland. For it is not likely that the Pope would put that condition in his bull unless some party had given him to understand that the Faith had lapsed in Ireland. But whatever party told him this told a lie. For it is plain that the faith Patrick brought to Ireland did not lapse up to


this time, and many foreign authors of weight bear testimony to this from age to age. For although, according to Beda in the History of Sacsa, there was a contention between some of the Irish clergy and the clergy of Sacsa concerning Easter, and, moreover, though some of the Irish were stained with the Pelagian heresy, still the greater number of the Irish were free from either stain; and as regards the Faith, from the time of Brian down to the Norman Invasion, it is clear that it was alive unimpaired in Ireland, and hence that those who informed the Pope that it had lapsed in Ireland when he bestowed that country on Henry II. lied. In testimony of this are the examples which we shall set down here.

In the first place it is plain, from the number of genuine Irish nobles who, towards the close of their lives, betook themselves to the principal churches of Ireland to end their days in penance, from the time of Brian to the Norman Invasion, that the Faith was then alive in Ireland. Here follow some of these, to wit, Flaithbheartach O Neill, who was called Flaithbheartach of the Pilgrim's Staff; he first began to do penance in Ireland, and after that he went to Rome on a pilgrimage in the year of the Lord 1073; and Donnchadh, son of Brian Boraimhe, who went on a pilgrimage to Rome and who ended his days in penance in the monastery of St. Stephen; and Tadhg, son of Lorcan, king of Ui Cinnsealaigh, who ended his days in penance in the church of Caomhghin in Gleann da Loch; and Cathal, son of Ruaidhri, king of west Connaught, who closed his days in penance at Ard Macha; and Muircheartach O Briain, king of Leath Mogha, and of the greater part of all Ireland, who went to Ard Macha and spent five years in penance there until his death; and so it was with many others of the true nobles of Ireland who closed their days in piety and as Catholics from the time of Brian to the Norman Invasion. Hence did those persons lie who told


Pope Adrianus IV. that the Catholic Faith was not alive or in a state of preservation in Ireland before the coming hither of the Normans.

The second proof I advance to show that the Catholic Faith was in a state of preservation before the Normans came to Ireland is that there were many abbeys built there shortly before the Normans came, and that the Gaelic nobles built them. In the first place Maoilseachlainn, king of Meath and of all Ireland, built the abbey of St. Mary in the town of Ath Cliath, in the year of the Lord 1139. Donnchadh O Cearbhaill, king of Oirghialla, at the instance of Malachias, bishop of Dun, built the abbey of Meillifont in the county of Lughmhagh in the year of the Lord 1142. St. Malacias, bishop of Dun, built the abbey of Iobhar Cinn Tragha in the county of Dun, the year of the Lord then being 1144. The year of the Lord when the abbey of Buill was built was 1161. Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, king of Leinster, built the abbey of the Bealach alias Baltinglas in the year of the Lord 1151. The descendants of Maoilseachlainn, king of Meath, built the abbey of Bectif alias De Beatitudine in Meath in the year of the Lord 1151. The year of the Lord when the abbey of Maigh in the county of Luimneach was built was 1151. The year of the Lord when the abbey of O Dorna in the county of Ciarraidhe was built was 1154. Domhnall O Briain, king of Luimneach, built the abbey of the Holy Cross in the county of Tiobrad Arann in the year of the Lord 1169; and the said Domhnall O Briain built seventeen other abbeys in Munster. The year of the Lord when the abbey of Feara Muighe in the county of Corcach was built was 1170; and in that period there were built many temples and abbeys in Ireland which we do not mention here. Hence it is plain that the Catholic Faith was alive in Ireland just before the Normans came hither.


The third proof that the Faith was alive in Ireland just before the Normans came hither is that we read in the ancient annals of Ireland that, from the time of Donnchadh, son of Brian, to the coming of the Normans, the prelates and nobles of Ireland organized three national councils in Ireland in which laws pertaining to the clergy and laity were laid down and approved.

The first council was held at Fiadh Mic nAonghusa the first year of the reign of Muircheartach O Briain in the year of the Lord 1105, and in it laws and regulations were laid down, and religion was reformed in Ireland.

Another national council was convened in Ireland the fifth year of the reign of the said Muircheartach, when the nobles and the ecclesiastics of Ireland came together at Raith Breasal, in the year of the Lord 1110, where sees or dioceses and their boundaries were regulated, and a fixed number of bishops placed over them, as we have said.

The third national council held in Ireland by the clergy and the genuine nobles of Ireland was at Ceanannus na Midhe, at which were Christianus, that is Giolla Criost O Conaire, bishop of Lios Mor, the Pope's legate in Ireland at the time, together with a cardinal called John Papiron, for the purpose of presenting four pallia to four archbishops in Ireland and of putting down simony and usury, and enforcing the payment of tithes, and of putting down robbery and rape and bad morals and evils of every kind besides.