seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Death of Dúnán, First Bishop of Dublin

Dúnán, the first bishop of Dublin, appointed under Dublin‘s Hiberno-Norse kings, dies on May 6, 1074. He is known also as Donatus or Donat. The diocese is put on a regular basis, in 1028, at the request of Sigtrygg Silkbeard. In his obituary in the Annals of Ulster, Dúnán is described as “chief bishop of the foreigners.”

It has been traditionally said that Dúnán was consecrated by Æthelnoth, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is now disputed, with scholars saying that his successor, Gilla Patráic, was the first to be consecrated in this way.

Dúnán is an Easterling or Östman, and the first of the line of prelates who occupy the see. James Ware, who mentions several so-called bishops of Dublin of an earlier date, is supported by the Martyrology of Donegal, but John Lanigan is of opinion that there are no sufficient grounds for so regarding them, except in the case of Siadhal or Sedulius, who appears to have been a bishop. Dúnán is, however, termed abbot of Dublin in the Annals of the Four Masters (AD 785), and from this it would seem he is only a monastic bishop. Diocesan episcopacy has not been established in Ireland in his time. Dúnán, therefore, must be regarded as the first bishop of Dublin in the modern sense of the title.

The Annals of the Four Masters term him “ardeasbog”, which Dr. John O’Donovan translates archbishop, but James Henthorn Todd points out that the correct rendering of the word is “chief or eminent bishop,” and that it includes no idea of jurisdiction. His diocese is comprised within the walls of the city, beyond which the Danish power does not extend.

The chief event of Dúnán’s life appears to be the foundation of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, commonly called Christ Church, or more properly its endowment and reorganisation in accordance with the views of the Danish settlers. For it appears, from an inquisition held in the reign of Richard II, that a church is “founded and endowed there by divers Irishmen whose names were unknown, time out of mind, and long before the conquest of Ireland.” This ancient site is bestowed on Dúnán by Sitric, king of the Danes of Dublin, and with it “sufficient gold and silver” for the erection of the new church, and as an endowment he grants him “the lands Bealduleek, Rechen, and Portrahern, with their villains, corn, and cattle.”

Sitric, according to the annalist Tigernach Ua Braín, had gone over the sea in 1035, probably for the sake of religious retirement, leaving his nephew as king of Dublin in his place. This is three years before Dúnán’s appointment, and as the king dies in 1042, it must be when he becomes a monk, if Tigernach is right, that he makes the grant referred to, and therefore the new foundation of Christ Church appears to have taken place between 1038 and 1042.

The site is described in the Black Book of Christ Church as “the voltæ i.e. arches founded by the Danes before the arrival of Saint Patrick in Ireland, and it is added that Saint Patrick celebrated mass in an arch or vault which has been since known by his name.” This story, as it stands, cannot be accepted as authentic history, for Saint Patrick died according to the usual belief in 490, whereas the earliest mention of Danes in Ireland is in 795. In the recent discovery made at Christ Church of a crypt hitherto unknown, some very ancient work is found, which is probably part of the buildings. If so, they may be the remains of the ecclesiastical structures originally occupied by the abbots of Dublin. The legendary connection of the place with Saint Patrick belongs to the period when, as Dr. O’Donovan observes, “the christian Danes refused to submit to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Armagh, and when it was found useful by the Danish party to have it believed that their ancestors had been settled in Dublin as early as the fifth century, and were converted to christianity by Saint Patrick.”

When the church is built, and the secular canons by whom it is to be served are installed, Dúnán furnishes it with a liberal supply of relics, of which a list is given in the Book of Obits of Christ Church, published by Dr. Todd. Other buildings erected by him are the church of St. Michael (now the Synod House), hard by the cathedral, and a palace for himself and his successors. He enters into a correspondence with Lanfranc on some ecclesiastical questions about which he desires information. Lanfranc’s answer is preserved, and is published by Archbishop James Ussher. It is highly probable that this deference to the Archbishop of Canterbury may have something to do with the claim put forward by the latter in a synod held in 1072, two years before Dúnán’s death, in which, on the supposed authority of Bede, he asserts his supremacy over the church of Ireland – a claim which Dúnán’s successor admits in the most explicit manner at his consecration in Canterbury Cathedral.

Dunan died on May 6, 1074, and is buried in Christ Church, at the right-hand side of the altar. There is another who also bears the alternative name of Donat (1085), but he is more generally known as Dungus.


Leave a comment

Canonisation of Laurence O’Toole by Pope Honorius III

Lorcán Ua Tuathail, also known as Saint Laurence O’Toole, is canonised by Pope Honorius III on December 11, 1225. It will be 750 years before another Irish person is canonised.

O’Toole is born in Castledermot in what is now County Kildare in 1128. His father is Maurice O’Toole, King of Hy Murray. It is common practice in the day for princes of one clan to be given as hostages to another clan, as a guarantee of peace. When he is ten years old O’Toole is given as hostage to Diarmaid Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, who treats him very badly. He is sent in chains to a remote place, where he gets very little to eat and does not have enough clothes to keep him warm in the winter. For two years, even though he is a king’s son, he learns what it is like to be poor and to be oppressed.

After two years, it is agreed that O’Toole is to be released. He is sent to a monastery at Glendalough, and the monks make him welcome. It is agreed that his father is to come and collect him there. But he soon comes to love Glendalough and likes joining the monks in prayer. After his two years as a hostage, he realises that wealth and power are not important. He feels very close to God in Glendalough. He asks his father’s permission to stay there and become a monk, to which his father agrees. At the age of only 26 years old, he is elected Abbot of Glendalough. As the leader of the community he encourages the monks in their learning. There is always a welcome in the monastery for the poor. When there is a famine in the area, he sells some of the treasures of Glendalough to provide food for those who are hungry.

In 1162 O’Toole becomes the first Irish-born Archbishop of Dublin, then a city ruled by Danes and Norwegians. In those days, many of the people of Dublin do not take their Christian religion very seriously. He encourages them to become real Christians. He brings monks to Dublin from France and they live at Christ Church Cathedral. They help many people to come back to Mass and the Sacraments. O’Toole himself never forgets his own days of poverty. He continues to care for the poor, especially homeless children. He makes room for them in his own house, and they share the food at his table.

The Normans land in Ireland in 1169. The following year they besiege Dublin under their leader, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, also known by the nickname of “Strongbow.” O’Toole meets Strongbow to arrange peace but the Normans attack while the talks are going on. They seize the city and begin killing the citizens and looting their houses. O’Toole saves the lives of many people.

As Archbishop of Dublin, O’Toole participates in the Third Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1179, with some of the other Irish bishops. Pope Alexander III knows that Ireland has been going through a bad time. He knows that many people, including priests, are no longer taking their religion seriously. He entrusts to O’Toole the task of reforming the Church in Ireland.

A new dispute breaks out between Henry II of England and the Irish Kings. In the spring of 1180, O’Toole leaves Ireland to see if he can help settle the dispute. King Henry II does not have much time for bishops. He has already arranged to have the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, murdered. He does not welcome O’Toole. He sees a chance to get rid of O’Toole as Archbishop of Dublin and does not let him return to Ireland. Henry has control of Normandy as well as England. O’Toole follows him there. As long as there is a chance of peace, he would not give up trying.

In 1180, O’Toole becomes seriously ill. The monks at Eu in Normandy look after him in their monastery but on November 14, 1180, at the age of 52, he dies. His tomb is in the crypt under the Collegial Church at Eu. Many people still go there to pray.

Laurence O’Toole is canonized by Pope Honorius III on December 11, 1225.

(From “St. Laurence O’Toole: a spiritual leader for difficult times,” CatholicIreland.net, November 30, 1999)


Leave a comment

Death of Mochta of Louth, Disciple of St. Patrick

st-mochtas-houseMochta of Louth, in Latin sources Maucteus or Mauchteus, the last surviving disciple of St. Patrick, dies on August 20, 535.

Mochta is, like Patrick, a native of Britain. His name is British and Adomnán‘s Life of Columba describes him as “a certain British stranger, a holy man and a disciple of the holy bishop Patrick.” Adomnán presents Mochta as having prophesied the birth of Colm Cille.

According to one account, Mochta is brought to Ireland as a child, along with his parents, by a druid named Hoam. The druid settles in County Louth, where Mochta is brought up as a member of the family. He goes to Rome to continue his studies and there the Pope consecrates him bishop and sends him back to Ireland with twelve companions. The first church he founds is at Kilmore. Departing from Kilmore, he leaves all his possessions to the monks, taking only “the fountain at the door.” He follows a stream, which becomes the River Fane, to Louth.

Mochta founds a monastery in Louth, originally the site of a shrine to the Celtic god Lugh. Mochta’s monastery gains a nationwide reputation. He is an accomplished scholar, especially learned in Sacred Scripture. He writes a rule for monks but no trace of it has survived. He begins a series of annals at Louth, which is continued by his successors, and becomes known as the Book of the Monks. In his old age, Patrick comes and spends some time with Mochta. After Patrick’s death, Mochta takes charge of Armagh for a brief period before turning it over to Benignus.

Both monastery and village are burned and plundered frequently by the Danes in the period 829-968. A round tower built for protection is blown down in 981. There are no physical remains of the early monastery. The ruined buildings at the site today (pictured) are the 13th century church of St. Mary’s Augustinian Priory and the stone roofed oratory known as St. Mochta’s House, which probably dates to the second half of the 12th century.

The Annals of Ulster report Mochta’s death twice, in 535 and 537, which indicates that he is considerably younger than Patrick, whose death the Annals date to 493. Scholars believe that he, the last of Patrick’s disciples then alive, dies at the age of 90. The entry for 535 dates his death to the 13th of the Calends of September, i.e. 20 August, and quotes the opening of a letter written by him: “Mauchteus, a sinner, priest, disciple of St. Patrick, sends greetings in the Lord.” However the remainder of this letter nor any other compositions of Mochta have survived.


2 Comments

Viking Settlement That Becomes Dublin is Founded

founding-of-dublinA Viking settlement that would later become the city of Dublin is founded on the banks of the River Liffey on July 10, 988.

The first documented history of Dublin begins with the Viking raids in the 8th and 9th century. These lead to the establishment of a settlement on the south side of the mouth of the Liffey, named Dubh Linn (Black Pool) after the dark tidal pool where the River Poddle enters the Liffey which is where the Danes first moor their boats.

The Vikings, or Ostmen as they call themselves, rule Dublin for almost three centuries, although they are expelled in 902 only to return in 917 and notwithstanding their defeat by the Irish High King Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. From that date, the Norse are a minor political force in Ireland, firmly opting for a commercial life. Viking rule of Dublin ends completely in 1171 when the city is captured by King Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster, with the aid of Anglo-Norman mercenaries. An attempt is made by the last Norse King of Dublin, Ascall mac Ragnaill, to recapture the city with an army he raises among his relations in the Scottish Highlands, where he is forced to flee after the city is taken, but the attempted reconquest fails and Ascall is killed.

Dublin becomes the centre of English power in Ireland after the Norman invasion of the southern half of Ireland (Munster and Leinster) in 1169-1171, replacing Tara in Meath, seat of the Gaelic High Kings of Ireland, as the focal point of Ireland’s polity. On May 15, 1192 Dublin’s first written Charter of Liberties is granted by John, Lord of Ireland, and is addressed to all his “French, English, Irish and Welsh subjects and friends.” On June 15, 1229, his son Henry grants the citizens the right to elect a Mayor who is to be assisted by two provosts. By 1400, however, many of the Anglo-Norman conquerors are absorbed into the Gaelic culture, adopting the Irish language and customs, leaving only a small area of Leinster around Dublin, known as the Pale, under direct English control.