Norman-Irish Christianity - Sarah Woodbury

Norman-Irish Christianity

Is Norman-Irish Christianity different from just plain Norman?

It is different in the sense that the Normans didn’t conquer parts of Ireland until a hundred years after they conquered England.

Dan: I don’t recall talking about the Norman conquest of Ireland last year.

Weirdly, we didn’t really, or at least not very much. So, in a nutshell, in 1169 Richard de Clare, known to history as Strongbow, who was the Earl of Pembroke in Wales, took it upon himself to aid Diarmait, the King of Leinster, against his enemies. In exchange, Diarmait promised to give Richard his daughter in marriage as well as the throne of Leinster upon Diarmait’s death. The glitch in this plan was that King Henry of England did not think that one of his vassals should become a king in his own right. As a result, then, of Richard and Diarmait’s alliance, Henry put together the invasion of Ireland in 1171.

Dan: So this is a classic example, like with the Britons under Vortigern, of inviting in one enemy to defend against other enemies.

Yes, though Diarmait didn’t see the Normans as enemies, even if he should have known better, since, as I said in a previous video, the Normans are descended from the same Danes who founded Dublin. By 1169, Diarmait ruled over them so didn’t realize the threat. It also wasn’t Clare himself he had to be concerned about – he just didn’t have a good sense of the politics of England.

Dan; So Henry invades and in a short amount of time, England has taken over most of Ireland.

Right. So now we get to the issue with the church. Irish Christianity, like the Welsh and Saxon, was a different thing from the Norman church. For starters, the Irish definitely saw themselves as independent of Canterbury and had worked hard over the centuries to remain so. Actually, at one point, the Danes in Dublin had looked to Canterbury for authority, in order to snub the Irish who surrounded them, but by 1152, they’d capitulated and looked to Cashel, and an all-Irish synod, which had been approved by the pope.

The English tried to stop this from happening. In 1155, the Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who happened to be good friends with the recently elected Anglo-Norman Pope Adrian IV, made an “extraordinary intervention” in regards to Norman involvement in Ireland, hoping to reform the “barbaric and impious” people of Ireland. This resulted in giving Henry II Papal authority to intervene in Ireland, by conquest if necessary.
Thus, some of the initiative for Henry’s political and military intervention came from church leaders – especially the Archbishop of Canterbury who wanted to control the Irish church and fully implement certain reforms, many of which were the same ones the Normans had imposed on the Saxons. These included attitudes towards marriage, clerical celibacy, the sacramental system, and control of church lands.

Next week we’ll be talking about an Irish-Norman church and associated village established by the Norman lord William Marshal, Clonmines.


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