« НазадПродовжити »
donor, the actual possession both of the lands and of the temporal chieftainship generally continued in his family, though in subjection to the spiritual superior or Co-arb, who received therefrom certain returns whether in money, or land, or service, or perhaps in all three. During the confusions of the sixth and following centuries, however, the title and office of Co-arb seem in most cases to have altogether lost their spiritual character, and to have gradually devolved on the hereditary possessor, of the land. Another office connected with these properties was that of Erenach, whose rights or duties are not very clearly described in the old annals, but who appears to have been a kind of steward or manager of the ecclesiastical lands, inferior and subordinate to the Co-arb. This office was likewise for the most part hereditarynot indeed necessarily descending from father to son, but limited to a particular tribe or sept, according to the old Irish custom of tanistry.
13. From this short account of the peculiarities which characterized the discipline and government of the ancient Church of Ireland, it will plainly appear that, while preserving the great and fundamental attributes of a scriptural and apostolic Church, she was in many minor details sui generis—unconnected with, and for a long time uninfluenced by the system elsewhere prevailing. As regards her doctrine also, it is unquestionable that for a lengthened period she was comparatively free from those errors which were gradually creeping into the Christian Church ®—the
This has been unanswerably demonstrated by the celebrated Archbishop Usher in his “Religion of the Ancient Irish,” in which he adduces copious extracts from the Irish ecclesiastical writers of these times, which are altogether at variance with the distincprincipal change observable during the sixth and three following centuries being an increasing austerity in her monastic rules, a higher regard for the state of celibacy, a greater tendency towards superstitious views and practices, and a gradual decline from the spiritual vitality that characterized her founder and his immediate successors.
It was nevertheless a period rich in great names and noble deeds — a period in which, by the many famous schools of sacred literature established at home, and frequented by multitudes from England and the continent, as well as by the no less famous monasteries founded abroad, in Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, and elsewhere, the name of 'Scots' became illustrious throughout Christendom, and their country obtained the appellation of the ‘Island of Saints. But to pursue these topics would draw us away from the history of the Church to individual memoirs. One subject, however, may be briefly adverted to, as having excited much interest about the seventh century, and as bearing on the relations of the Church of Ireland to other Churches, namely the controversy respecting the proper time for the observance of Easter. It is well known that on this point differences arose at a very early period between the Eastern and Western Churches, and in another form between some of the Western Churches themselves, occasioning sometimes an entire month's interval between their respective days of celebrating that festival. In this controversy, the British and Irish Churches took the side opposite to that of Rome
tive doctrines of the Church of Rome. See Summary in Ware, vol. i. p. 24; see also King's “ Primer,” book ii. cap. 11.
and of others under her influence, and upheld their own views with great vivacity and determination. Augustine, who had recently arrived in Britain on his mission to the Saxons, was speedily involved in this dispute with the native British bishops, and his successor Laurentius took much pains to bring them and the Irish bishops and abbots to conformity with what had now become the practice of the rest of Western Christendom. In a letter addressed to the latter, he expresses his surprise and disappointment at their disregard to Catholic unity in this and other particulars, and still more at the hostile spirit which they manifested, insomuch that one of them whom he had met in Britain had refused to eat, not merely in his company, but even in the same house. Some years later, Pope Honorius addressed a letter to them to the same effect, exhorting them not to esteem their own scanty little number as wiser than the Churches of Christ, ancient and modern, throughout the world. But while these exhortations appear to have had some effect in the southern portion of the island, in which intercourse with England was greater, the native mode of observance continued to prevail in the northern parts till the end of the seventh century, while in Wales, the seat of ancient British Christianity, it was not abandoned till nearly the middle of the ninth. The controversy, while it lasted, was conducted with a heat and bitterness greatly disproportioned to the importance of the question at issue, most probably because it was felt to involve the more vital one of supremacy on the one hand, and of liberty on the other. The see of Rome was just at this time beginning to put forward, though as yet but cautiously, that right of interference and dictation which by de
grees developed into the claim of universal supremacy, while the British and Irish Churches were resolved to resist the encroachment, and to defend their liberty in things indifferent; nor was it till a much later period that this sturdy spirit of independence was completely subdued. The compliance, however, which was refused to dictation and assumed authority, was, both in this and on other far more important subjects, gradually yielded to the force of opinion and example. The increased intercourse with foreign Churches to which the missionary spirit of the ancient Irish Church gave rise, reacted on herself with disastrous influence, corrupting by degrees the simplicity of her faith, and introducing by little and little those errors in doctrine and practice which had already begun to characterize Romish Christianity.
14. The close of the eighth century brings us to the fatal period of the Danish invasion of Ireland, fatal to her happiness and prosperity, and eventually to her independence both in Church and State. The first horde of these barbarians (sometimes called Northmen or Ostmen) landed in the island of Rathlin, off the northern coast, A.D. 795, and having pillaged it, again embarked for their own country. Encouraged by the feeble resistance which they had met, they returned in the following year, and so continued their marauding visits in greater numbers, and with increasing barbarity, till they finally made a permanent lodgment, and spread themselves over the whole land,
+ O'Donovan is of opinion that the island mentioned in the Irish Annals was not Rathlin but Lambay, near Dublin, which was anciently known by the same name, and was certainly more in the route of the invaders, who had a year or two earlier made a descent on England.—(" Annals,” vol. i. p. 397, A.D. 790.)
committing the greatest atrocities. The Christians, and especially the monks and clergy, were the peculiar objects of their heathenish malignity. Hundreds of these were slain, and most of the principal churches and monasteries were destroyed, many of them several times, their libraries burnt, and their inmates put to death. For nearly two hundred years did these savage hordes infest the land, sometimes repelled and nearly overpowered by the vigorous efforts of the natives, but continually strengthened by fresh arrivals of their countrymen, which enabled them to renew their depredations. At length, towards the close of the tenth century, the fortune of war beginning to turn decidedly against them, they found it expedient to concentrate themselves in the three cities of Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick, and finally at the decisive battle of Clontarf, fought A.D. 1014, in which they were opposed by the famous Brian Boru, their army was utterly routed, and their authority throughout the country, except in the three cities above named, completely overthrown.
15. It was impossible but that such a relentless and long-continued devastation should have produced effects as lasting as they were deplorable. The land was impoverished, the cities and towns ruined, the churches and other religious establishments either utterly destroyed or at least woefully injured. Still more disastrous were its moral effects. The native kings and chieftains, whether incited by the evil ex. ample of the Danes, or urged by their necessities, became mere marauding leaders, sparing not even the churches or monasteries that came into their power; the people became thieves and bandits, and even the clergy themselves felt the influence of that general