Medieval Christianity in Ireland

Saints and Monasteries


I. Early Monasticism


         A. Causes of Monasticism:


                  1. Doctrinal Controversy


                  2. Urbanization of Christianity


                  3. The Imperial Religion


         B. The Early Monastic Life:


                  1. Ascetic


                  2. Two Forms:


                           a. hermit

                           b. communal


C. The Spread of Monasticism:


                  1. Egypt (St. Anthony c. 250-356)


                  2. East:  Palestine, Syria, Greece


                  3. West:  North Africa, Italy, Gaul, Britain


II. Irish Monasticism


         A. Two Sources (Fifth Century):


                  1. Gaul to Scotland (indirect)


                  2. Britain from Wales (direct)


         B. Three Forms of Martyrdom:


                  1. Red killed for the faith


                  2. Green hermits in the wild


                  3. White evangelists/missionaries (self-imposed exile)


         C. Major Early Monasteries:


                  1. Inishmore (c. 454) St. Enda


                  2. Monasterboice (c. 500) St. Buite


                  3. Clonard (c. 520) St. Finnian


                  4. Clonmacnois (c. 545) St. Ciaran


                  5. Durrow (c. 553) St. Column Cille (Columba)


                  6. Clonfert (c. 557) St. Brendan


                  7. Iona (c. 563) St. Column Cille (aka Columba)


NOTE:  It is important not to confuse Column Cille (Columba) with Columbanus who was ordained at Bangor and was a Celtic missionary to France and Italy in the 7th century.


         D. Monastic Life:


                  1. The Irish Political System of the 5th Century:


                           a. King

                           b. Noble (land owning)

                           c. Intellectual (druid/seer/bard)

                           d. free clients

                           e. slave


2. Geography sacred space


                  3. Life ascetic


                           a. prayer/meditation

                           b. worship

                           c. labor

                           d. scholarship


                  4. Power three reasons of success in Ireland:


                           a. Non-Roman (abbots vs. bishops)

                           b. Native kinship (fostering)

                           c. economics (clientship)